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Today we're going to be talking about

Zooarchaeology, which is the study of

animal bones and the role of animals in
So we have a few specimens to kind of
help us along as we talk about how we
actually go about doing that and looking
at the different roles animals have
played in the past in human-animal
interactions, human environmental
interactions, how we can learn about that
from the bones.
So, I have here, a few skulls.
This is a deer, a white-tail deer, and if
we look at the teeth, we can tell that
it's a plant eater because of the shape
of the teeth, the morphology of the
This is a dog.
And you can see right away, if you look
at his teeth, they're sharp, made for
meat eating.
So, those are the teeth of a carnivore.
And this is a javelina type of wild pig
peccary and it has a varied diet.
It's an omnivore.
So then you can see here the teeth are,
have a different morphology than the
other two because it has a more varied
And humans are omnivorous, hence we also
have very variable shape teeth.
One of the central questions in
zooarchaeology, and that
zooarchaeologists are interested in, is
the origins of domestic animals, and how
human-animal relationships changed very
drastically within a relatively short
period of time.
Going from hunting wild game you know,
wild boar, red deer, large wild horses,
that sort of thing.
To then having our own domestic sheep and
goat and rearing livestock.
So one of the ways we can create these
demographic profiles is by aging and
sexing the animal bones.
And so here I have two humeri, that's the
upper arm, and you can see this one is
fully fused.
It's an adult animal.
This bone is still fusing, so it's a
juvenile, because animals you know, as
the bones grow, they fuse, yours as well.
>> So when we start out with, when we're
born, we start out with more bones,
right, and then when we grow, like.
>> Yeah, so there, the, the kind of
main shaft of the bone is separate from
the epiphyses.
Those are the ends of the bone, and as
the bone grows, it fuses together into
one bone.
We can sometimes sex animals by measuring
So males are generally larger than
females especially in sexually
competitive polygamous species.
And so if the bone is fully fused, we can
measure two different adults.
And usually, they'll separate out and
males will be larger than females.
Other things include antlers.
So this is a male deer.
And there's some morphology on the pelvis
that can sometimes help us distinguish
female animals from male animals.
But it's not necessarily always present.
So aging and sexing.
A lot of times, you'll go down from a
really large sample size.
You know, 2,000 bones, but you may only
be able to age and sex you know, 50 to 60
of them.
Because once fusion is complete at around
five years of age for most mammals you
can only just say that the animal is, is
older than that.
Aging and sexing based on teeth, we can
also tell that this is a male because he
has very nice, big canines.
females do also have canines, but they're
usually smaller than males.
In the pigs in particular.
In terms of aging, we can also age
animals based on tooth eruption and tooth
So the teeth erupt.
Again, like the long bones fused within
distinct periods of time, so do the
So we know for example that the, the you
know, just like you and I had baby teeth
the animals also have milk molars,
they're sometimes called.
And so those teeth fall out, and then
their permanent teeth come in.
And based on the timing of that, we can,
we can often age an animal.
Again, that's usually happening around
the same time that the, the long bones
are fusing.
So before five years of age.
However we can extend the aging a little
bit further by using wear.
So a lot of people, a lot of
zooarchaeologists have put a lot of time
and effort into studies which look at
distinct stages of tooth wear and age
with, you know, with known age animals
and seeing what the teeth look like.
This is called the occlusal surface, so
it's the surface that you bite on.
By looking at the way that changes over
time, you can actually age the animal.
Now this, this poor diseased goat is
definitely an adult animal because I can,
you know, its third molar has erupted.
And then its first molar and second molar
have actually, are actually quite worn,
so I would say that this animal is
between six to eight years of age you
know, based on my experience of using
these techniques.
Another thing we can look at besides
demographics is also pathology, so a lot
of times we start to see pathology or
disease in animal bones once they're
And this is a, a goat.
And you can see here the teeth are sort
of crowded.
which happens with the sort of size
reduction and there's less room in the
mouth for the, all the teeth.
And they're also kind of worn very
funnily, so this one is, this side is
okay, but this you, you can see is not.
And that's because this animal actually
suffered a tooth loss earlier in its
So the, the teeth wore down in sort of an
odd pattern.
And normally if something like this
happened in the wild, the animal had sort
of a, a gum infection or something like
A lot of times they would just die, and
you wouldn't see evidence of healing like
you do in this animal.
But when animals are being kept and cared
for by humans, a lot of times they can
survive those types of, of you know,
those types of trauma.
So a lot of times we see kind of healed
breaks and that sort of thing in domestic
Whereas we wouldn't see that in the wild,
all the time.
>> Can you date like when these animals
were living?
Is that possible?
>> Well, so, most of our dating is done
you know, through relative dating.
>> Yeah.
>> We know the age of the context from
other cultural material that's come out.
Especially, you know, in historic period
sites and, and well-dated ceramic
prehistoric sites.
In cave sites and prehistoric sites, a
lot of times we're relying on radiocarbon
dates which can take us back about, you
know, 40,000 years.
And further back than that, a lot of
times we're using alternative dating
methods or just lithic typologies.
We don't just look at sort of domestic,
you know, domestic animals, wild animals.
We're also have interest in particular
animals, this is a bird bone, so animals like
birds, and small mammals like groundhogs
and amphibians and reptiles can also be
used as really good indicators of local
So of course, a lot of birds migrate
seasonally, and you know, they also
prefer certain habitats.
Like we have waterbirds, shorebirds, that
sort of thing.
So they can oftentimes be indicative of,
of what the environment is like, and we
can, we can often reconstruct on the
basis of what we find.
But these are all, or for the most part,
are modern bones that I've brought to
show to you.
Usually when we're digging up remains, we
get nice pieces like this.
So this is part of a, a cow, a humurus,
and it's from a bronze age site in Italy.
And as you can see it's pretty, it's
pretty beat up and, and dirty.
So that's usually what they're, they look
like when they come out of the ground.
Not nice and clean like these guys.
A lot of times we can tell whether or not
animals have been consumed by people
looking at whether or not there's
butchery and cut marks.
Certain types of breaks, and also
So this is what a burnt, burnt bone looks
It's amazing how the number of fish
remains has dramatically increased since
people started wet sieving and screening.
back in the days when people would just
excavate and just kind of hand-pick you
know, nice big pieces of bone like this
and think to save it, and they wouldn't
sieve the actual dirt.
So, small things like fish bones and
small animals just kind of got discarded.
When we're wondering whether or not an
assemblage, a group of animal bones, has
been generated by humans or whether it's
a natural accumulation, especially when
we're dealing with prehistoric sites or
caves that could be inhabited by animals
like hyenas, for example.
We really want to know whether or not it
was human beings and food waste, you
know, whether the assemblage is a result
of food waste or whether it's from
denning activity.
So we use taphonomy, which is the study
of essentially everything that could
happen from death to burial and beyond
between when we, the animal dies and we
look at it.
So that includes things like weathering.
For example, this is a dog skull that's
been lying out on the Arctic tundra for
quite some time and this is sort of a
prepared specimen, so you can see that
this has been quite weathered and worn
away and was never buried.
But often times, if we imagine in the
past, this sort of thing sitting out on
the, the ground on the surface, and then
being buried.
We would be able to tell that when we
look at the archaeological bone, you
know, if it was sat out on surface for
some time, or whether it was buried right
away, based on the degree of