Zooarchaeology (ARCM407)

StaffProfessor Alan Outram - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level7
Pre-requisitesNot taken ARC2504, undergraduate Zooarchaeology module
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module will outline the theory and practice of zooarchaeology, giving basic practical competence in the technique and a practical appreciation of observation, recording and interpretation issues. Students will attain basic competence in the identification and recording of bones from some common animal species and will be gain an understanding of how to analyse such data. Students will be acquainted with how bone assemblages can be interpreted to give us a fuller picture of past economies and environments in different archaeological periods

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Critically understand the key theoretical concepts of zooarchaeology
  • 2. Use terms and conventions commonly employed in zooarchaeology
  • 3. Demonstrate competence in the identification of the bones from key mammal species
  • 4. Prepare and interpret primary zooarchaeological data
  • 5. Critically appreciate the ways in which animal bone assemblages can tell us about past economies and environment in different archaeological periods

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Show initiative in interpreting a variety of information forms
  • 7. Assimilate/manage numerical and graphical data
  • 8. Deploy data from technical reports

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Manage data and display it graphically
  • 10. Acquire a range of observational and analytical skills which are applicable in the wider world
  • 11. Ask pertinent questions, contribute to group discussions, and co-operate with and learn from peers.

Syllabus plan

The skeleton, nomenclature, taphonomy

Scapula and humerus; quantification; part abundance

Radius and ulna; seasonality

Pelvis and femur; bone fusion ageing; sexing tibia and tarsals; identifying domestication

The skeleton, nomenclature, taphonomy Metapodia; butchery; sheep/goat separation

Phalanges; bone crafts; urban assemblages

Approaches to assemblage analysis

Identification practice

Class test

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching33Practical sessions with lecture and discussion elements (10x3hrs)
Independent study117Independent study using computer aided learning and reference resources regarding bone identification

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Tutorial discussion.5 hours1,5,11verbal feedback in tutorial

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Bone ID exercise20in class3,10return of marked test sheet
Project One analysing zooarcheological data402000 words1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10mark and written comments and tutorial discussion
Project Two analysing zooarcheological data402000 words1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Project OneProject1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10referred/deferred period
Project TwoProject1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10referred/deferred period
Bone ID exerciseBone ID exercise3,10referred/deferred period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Davis, S.J.M. (1987). The Archaeology of Animals.London: Batsford

Dobney, K.M., Jaques,S.D. and Irving, B.G. (1995). Of Butchers and Breeds: report on the vertebrate remains from the City of Lincoln. Lincoln: Lincoln Archaeological Studies 5.

Driesch A.E. von den (1976). A Guide to the Measurement of Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites.Peabody Museum Bulletin 1.

Legge, A.J. and Rowley-Conwy, P.A. (1988). Star Carr Revisited. London: Centre for Extra Mural Studies.

Lyman, R.L. (1994). Vertebrate Taphonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reitz, E.J. and Wing, E.A. (2008). Zooarchaeology (2nd Ed.).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rowley-Conwy, P.A. Ed. (2000). Animal Bones, Human Societies. Oxford: Oxbow Monographs.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Departmental animal bone reference collection, 

Computer aided learning package for animal bone identification.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date

June 2012

Key words search

Zooarchaeology, Taphonomy, Animals, Zoology