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Zooarchaeology I: Identifying Animal Bones - ARC00041M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Mik Lisowski
  • Credit value: 5 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

This module is intended for anyone who would like to be able to identify animal remains from archaeological sites - whether as training for research in zooarchaeology; or to help with sampling for specialist analyses; or simply as a useful skill in the field. We start from the most common birds, fish, and mammals on European sites, but also introduce rarer species and provide the tools to start narrowing down identifications of animals elsewhere in the world.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

  • To train students to identify the most common mammal, bird, and fish species found on European archaeological sites.

  • To provide students with the tools to narrow down identification of rarer species and those found elsewhere in the world.

  • To provide students with experience of handling and recording fragmentary animal remains.

Module learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students should:

  • Be able to make informed identifications of a wide range of zooarchaeological specimens

  • Be familiar with the principles of identification and the range of available reference resources

  • Be familiar with approaches to recording fragmentary animal remains.

Module content

We start from the basics of the mammalian skeleton but quickly progress to consider a wide range of animals, including birds, fish, and microvertebrates (e.g. amphibians and rodents) as well as the main domesticates and hunted species. Rarer ‘mystery’ species are introduced in exercises to encourage students to think beyond the obvious and to develop their ability to narrow down identifications with the use of the available reference resources. Alongside practical training, we consider the principles of identification, reference collections/resources, and recording protocols.


Task Length % of module mark
YOZS spreadsheet
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
YOZS spreadsheet
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be available within 4 weeks

Indicative reading

Hillson, S. 1992. Mammal Bones and Teeth: An Introductory Guide to Methods of Identification. London: UCL Institute of Archaeology

O’Connor, T.P. 2000. The Archaeology of Animal Bones. Stroud: Sutton.

Wheeler, A. & A.J.G. Jones. 1989. Fishes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.