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Zooarchaeology II: Exploring the Assemblage - ARC00053M

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

Module summary

This module provides a grounding in the zooarchaeologist's basic toolkit: the main types of analysis that one expects to see in a typical bone report. As such, it will be useful for anyone who needs to read and interpret zooarchaeological reports, as well as those planning to study animal bones directly. You will work hands-on with both ancient and modern bone collections, record and analyse data, and discuss issues of interpretation with the group.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

  • To introduce students to the main forms of data routinely gathered from animal remains: age, sex, size, and pathology; and explain their relevance.

  • To provide practical experience of gathering these data.

  • To outline the main approaches to quantification of animal remains, and their implications for data analysis.

  • To demonstrate the process of primary zooarchaeological analysis, from desk to database.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should:

  • Understand the basic techniques for recording age/sex data, biometric variation, and palaeopathology from animal remains.

  • Be able to apply those techniques and perform basic analysis of the resulting data.

  • Understand the complexities of zooarchaeological quantification, and have a basic grasp of the most appropriate statistical approaches to zooarchaeological data.

Module content

The module is designed to lead students through the main forms of analysis that make up any zooarchaeological study, paying equal attention to the practical business of recording and the subsequent data analysis and interpretation. We start from the fundamentals of counting and comparing frequencies of different species and representation of different anatomical parts, before moving on to look at evidence for bone modifications related to butchery and palaeopathology. Age-at-death analysis and sex assessment are covered using both teeth and postcranial elements. Finally, we consider the use of bone measurements to explore size variation in past animals, and review the practicalities and pitfalls of statistical applications within zooarchaeology.


Task Length % of module mark
Practical worksheets
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Practical worksheets
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be available within 4 weeks

Indicative reading

O’Connor, T.P. 2003. The Analysis of Urban Animal Bone Assemblages. York: York Archaeological Trust.

Reitz, E. & W. Wing, 2008. Zooarchaeology. 2nd edn. 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.