Animal bone identification begins

P1020069 copyToday was our first full training session on animal bone with Priscilla, an animal bone specialist from Oxford University.    Last week Paula showed us what animal bones from archaeological sites look like and explained about taphonomy – the various processes that might happen to an animal from its time of death, to when it is rediscovered by archaeologists, and why animal bone specialists often have only fragments of bones to work with.

First animal bone sessionBags of jumbled animal bones soon began to make sense as we sorted them into large, medium and small animals, and teeth of different shapes and sizes.  Then, with the help of Priscilla, we learnt which part of the body the bone came from and from what animal.  So far we have found bones of sheep, cow, horse, pig, deer, dog, and birds, and several small rodents.

We also found evidence that a small number had been used as tools or  worked in some way, and these have been bagged separately.  One or two had patches of green staining showing that they had lay in close contact to a copper alloy object, possibly a coin, brooch or pin, when they were in the ground. Others had cut marks which provides insights into how they had been butchered for food.

It was a good start for the animal bone team, with four boxes of bones sorted into species by the end of the day.