The Analysis of Urban Animal Bone Assemblages: A Handbook for Archaeologists

Item

list of authors
T. P. O'Connor
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
Principles and Methods [Volume]
volume
19
issue
02
Publisher
Council for British Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust
Date Copyrighted
2003
Date Available
Digitally available on 21 July 2023
Abstract
The report describes and discusses the study of animal bones from urban excavations, based on experience gained during the study of material from York. Practical and analytical procedures are set out in detail, with discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of data analysis and presentation. A detailed research design is seen as essential, developed in collaboration with the excavation director. The collaboration continues on site, where the zooarchaeologist can gain additional information about the excavated assemblages by observation of bones whilst they are still in the ground. This close liaison will also enhance the interpretation of site formation. Sampling and sieving procedures are reviewed, and specific recommendations are made on the basis of practical experience. Sample size should be based in part on an assessment of bone concentrations and the overall research aims, and in part on pragmatic logistical considerations, which will differ from site to site. Above all, sampling and sieving procedures must be implemented systematically, and must be fully documented.

Recording methods are reviewed, to show how the rapid development of computer hardware and software has allowed more detailed and flexible recording. Most of the difficulties that were encountered in the early development of bone-recording software during the 1980s can be overcome with off-the-shelf relational database packages. Quantification, age at death estimation and biometrical analysis are each discussed in some detail. Analysis of ancient DNA has played only a small part in the study of York material, and there is only passing discussion of this technique, the value of which is only now becoming apparent. The report reviews the description and diagnosis of pathological specimens, arguing for a more systematic approach to this important topic.

The report next reviews the logistical problems and research opportunities presented by sites that yielded very large assemblages of bones, and the potential of sites that yield only very small assemblages. In the latter case, the value of such small assemblages depends very largely on the detail of the original research design. Lastly, there is a discussion of research directions that urban zooarchaeology might take in the medium term.
Rights Holder
York Archaeological Trust
Rights
CC BY 4.0
Format
Portable Document Format (PDF)
Is Format Of
Paper publication
Identifier
GB2837-PUB-AY-19-2
oclcnum
52298252
isbn10
1902771354
isbn13
9781902771359
Type
Text
Language
English
page start
69
page end
224
number of pages
156

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