- See a full list of publications
- Browse activities and projects
- Explore connections, collaborators, related work and more
David Orton is a zooarchaeologist with wide-ranging geographical and temporal interests. At present his research focuses on medieval fishing and urban fauna, particularly rats (see the rat project Twitter account), but he also has interests in the Neolithic of the Balkans and Anatolia. He currently coordinates the SeaChanges ITN, a major international PhD training network bridging archaeology and marine biology.
Following a BA in Archaeology & Anthropology from Cambridge, David took the MSc in Zooarchaeology at York — a programme he now directs — before returning to Cambridge for his PhD. His thesis, completed in 2008, focused on the links between herding practices and the gradual development of large, settled communities in the central Balkan Neolithic.
Since then he has worked as a researcher on a number of projects, ranging from Halaf-period zooarchaeology in south-east Turkey to (post)medieval fish trade in north-west Europe, and returning to Neolithic research in the former Yugoslavia with a role on the ERC-funded EUROFARM project. David became a Teaching Fellow in Zooarchaeology at UCL in 2013, before taking up the position of Lecturer in Zooarchaeology at York in early 2015. Throughout all this he has maintainted a variety of side-projects, most notably a long-standing role as zooarchaeologist for the West Mound Project at Çatalhöyük.
David lived in Belgrade for several years while working as a post-doctoral researcher at Cambridge, eventually giving up the Anglo-Serbian commute and returning to the UK full-time in 2012. This experience profoundly influenced his outlook on subjects as diverse as politics and budget airline food, but particularly on academia and the practice of archaeology.
Based primarily around zooarchaeology, David's research is very broad in terms of geographical regions and time periods. Whether working on the emergence of settled communities in the Balkan Neolithic or the provisioning of urban settlements in medieval Europe, however, a running theme in his work is the long-term co-development of human communities and their resource bases.
David's original background is in prehistory, specifically the Neolithic, with a PhD focusing on Serbian faunal material and considerable experience working in the field and/or on museum collections in most of the former Yugoslav republics. In this context he is interested in the relationships between herding practices, wild resource use, and the development of large village communities into the late Neolithic — not to mention their subsequent disappearance in the early Copper Age. He has also worked at the UNESCO world heritage site of Çatalhöyük, Turkey, for over a decade, analysing animal remains and co-ordinating radiocarbon dating from the Chalcolithic West Mound as well as contributing to faunal publications from the famous Neolithic East Mound.
In recent years David has taken a particular interest in fish bones as a source both for economic history and for historical ecology. Apart from drawing him into ever more recent periods, this has also prompted an interest in the potential of the zooarchaeological record to inform contemporary biodiversity conservation and management efforts.
Methodologically, David is currently very interested firstly in integrating conventional zooarchaeology with biomolecular methods — for which reason he is very happy to be part of BioArCh — and secondly in pushing the boundaries of (zoo)archaeological data synthesis and meta-analysis. How can we unlock the vast amount of environmental data currently locked up in obscure publications and grey literature — particularly from urban settlements — and bring it to bear on key questions in archaeology, environmental history, and biogeography? Is it possible to move beyond the relative importance of different species, to start to estimate changes in the absolute scale of their exploitation?
David is keen to supervise PhD projects linked to any of the above interests, particularly:
MA/MSc essential research skills (classes on data management and quantitative methods)