How much can you learn about animal bones in about 6-months?

Well, a lot it seems…

As part of the project’s objective, a group of us started sorting animal bones in preparation for the expert who has to further analyse them and prepare the specialist report.

The first task was to try to sort the bones into species:  horse, cattle, pig, sheep/goat, and large, medium and small mammals where it is not possible to identify them closer. This is easier said than done when you have no clue about skeletons or bones, never mind knowing the name or where it is in a body.  With hindsight we were pretty awful at the start, but it is very satisfying to correct yourself at a later date.

Training day with Priscilla

Training day with Priscilla

There is an extensive reference collection of the most common bones.   Of course, not all bones are in this collection, but manuals and photographs are available. There were some non-domestic animals to be identified which was rather difficult, but we had visits from the expert, Priscilla Lange, to help us with this task. We also have managed to add to this sample collection.

Part of the fun for me was the experimental archaeology part of it which meant talking to the local butcher, get some unusual part of a skeleton and clean them at home, by boiling them for hours!  There are still some bones buried somewhere in my garden.

It was good fun to go through the whole process and, hopefully the expert will appreciate the trouble we went through to help her out!

The next stage for our group is to do some stratigraphy – a context number list of all the trenches for the experts.  What a challenge!

Roelie Reed – Trendles Project Volunteer