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The University of Southampton

ARCH6127 Analysis of archaeological faunal remains

Module Overview

This module will cover the practical skills necessary to identify, record and interpret animal bones from archaeological sites as well as the techniques used for the study of animals in human life in the past. You will learn methods of identification of mammals, birds and fish, and how to age and sex skeletal remains. The module will also cover bone modification, taphonomy, quantification, metrical study and the recognition and interpretation of pathology. Special emphasis will be placed on interpreting assemblages within the context of diverse archaeological aims.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The mammalian, avian and fish skeletons
  • varying approaches to the analysis of animal bone remains
  • the use of animal bone remains as a resource for studying aspects of diet, hunting strategies, use and management of the main domestic animals, and socio-economic status.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • select appropriate means for recording and analysing data
  • evaluate and critique arguments and material
  • write clear and concise reports
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify skeletal elements of the main European domestic animals and key wild species
  • recognise the principal modifications to bone by humans and other agencies
  • integrate theoretical issues and archaeological questions with empirical zooarchaeological data
  • pose and tackle archaeological questions using zooarchaeological data
  • write zooarchaeological reports suitable for publication
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • observe and visually identify mammalian, avian and fish bones
  • evaluate results of zooarchaeological analyses and studies
  • critique zooarchaeological data and interpretations derived from it
  • demonstrate command of literature and critical thinking
  • present information clearly and concisely


The module syllabus will typically include the following components: - The mammal skeleton: anatomy and evolution - Properties and growth of bones: epiphyseal fusion - Taphonomy: the formation of archaeological bone assemblages - The measurement of animal bones: methods and purposes - Animal bone quantification: a critical review of the main methods - The ageing of animals through tooth eruption and wear - The avian skeleton and the analysis of bird bones - The ‘animal bone report’: aims and methods - The fish skeleton - Ancient DNA studies in Osteoarchaeology - Social issues in Zooarchaeology (socio-economic status, ritual, ethnicity)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Laboratory study: practical work developing identification and analysis skills - Lectures detailing aspects of skeletal identification or methodology - Seminars Learning activities include - Laboratory study (practical work) - Seminars - Portfolio preparation - Summative bone identification tests

Practical classes and workshops32
Wider reading or practice50
Completion of assessment task52
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Reitz, E. J. and E. S. Wing (2008). Zooarchaeology. 

Lyman, R. L. (1994). Vertebrate taphonomy. 

Davis S. J. M. (1987). The Archaeology of Animals. 

O'Connor, T.P (2000). The archaeology of animal bones. 

O'Connor, T.P (2000). The archaeology of animal bones. 

Brain, C. K (1981). Hunters or the Hunted? An introduction to African cave taphonomy. 

Driesch A. von den (1976). A guide to the measurement of animal bones from archaeological sites. 

Baker, J. and Brothwell, D. (1980). Animal Diseases in Archaeology. 

Wilson, B., C. Grigson and S. Payne (Eds.) (1982). Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites. 

Binford L. R. (1981). Bones : Ancient Men and Modern Myths. 

O’Connor, T.P. (2003). The Analysis of Urban Animal Bone Assemblages. 

Serjeantson, D. (2009). Birds. 

Wheeler, A. and A. K. G. Jones (1989). Fishes. 


Assessment Strategy

Bones test = For each quiz, students will be asked to identify 12-15 animal bone specimens; they will have 1.5 mins per specimen and will be required to identify skeletal element, taxonomic species, side of the body, proximal and distal epiphyseal fusion and – in quizzes carried out after learning the topic – any taphonomical modifications. Quizzes will be carried out in the Mammal Osteology laboratory Bone Report = Each students will write a report on a faunal assemblage that he/she - together with other students - has worked on during practical sessions and during independent work sessions. This report will require handling of data, selection of appropriate methods to analyse it, knowledge of theoretical issues and critical thinking. Word limit: 1500 words. This written assignment comprises 40% of the module mark, and is used to assess the understanding of the main methodological and theoretical issues in the study of faunal remains, as well as the ability to present issues clearly and concisely. Portfolio = Students will collect, organise and present items that will help them in the identification, ageing, sexing and recording of zooarchaeological remains; these should include images (e.g. annotated photos / drawings), notes, tables, etc).


MethodPercentage contribution
Bone tests 50%
Report 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


There are no specific student costs associated with this module.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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