Last week, I found myself travelling through the Pennines to the University of Sheffield. Specifically to the Archaeology department for a short course entitled ‘Understanding Zooarchaeology I’.

The course takes place over 3 days and is designed to give myself and other participants attending an introduction to zooarchaeology, providing basic knowledge of zooarchaeological methods & enable us to understand the results of zooarchaeological study.

Each day was split into 4 sessions, with each session exploring a different aspect. The sessions ranged from the excavation of an assemblage right through to the quantification of the material, with other subjects such as ageing animals and genetics thrown in for good measure. On top of that, we were all given a tour of the departments reference collection of over 1000 specimens. One highlight being the hippo skull below!

Hippo skull

Most sessions also involved some form of practical work. For example, measuring bones from sheep and goats by taking the measurements of the greatest length, smallest breadth and the breadth of the distal end of the bone. Other practical work involved sorting through a box of fish bones and attempting to pick out specific ones against  a check-list. My specimen below, was that of a Common ling (Molva molva).

Common ling bones

I really enjoyed the course and hope to be able to use the skills I have acquired & knowledge gained in the future. Zooarchaeology seems to be a fascinating subject and I found it particularly interesting in the theories and ideas that can be gained about an area in the past from looking at the bones of animals.

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