Professor Alan Outram
Central Asian Prehistory and the Domestication of the Horse:
Professor Outram's current fieldwork is in Northern Kazakhstan on a collaborative project investigating the Eneolithic, Botai Culture. With substantial funding from the Natural Environment Research Council he has recently demonstrated that the Botai Culture possesses the earliest currently known domestic horses, which were not only eaten and harnessed for riding, but they were also milked. Professor Outram’s research also involves investigating the development of pastoralism from the Neolithic to Bronze Age in Kazakhstan.
The Archaeology of Fat:
Much of his research has been on the exploitation of bone marrow and grease by people under subsistence stress. In order to study this issue archaeologically, he developed a new methodology for the detailed examination of bone fracture and fragmentation patterns. This research has included the study of bone assemblages from Palaeoeskimo and medieval Norse sites in Greenland, Norse sites in Iceland, a Neolithic site in Sweden, and Mesolithic sites in Britain and Italy. He is now carrying out excavation and analysis of a Plains Indian Village site in South Dakota, where the processing of bison bone for grease appears to be a large-scale activity that may well have involved trade with other, less fat-rich societies further to the south. Professor Outram chaired a session on the Palaeoeconomics of Animal Fats at the International Council for Archaeozoology 2002 conference.
Hunters' Economic Choices:
Professor Outram is interested in the decisions that hunters make when they have killed an animal. How much of it did they use? Which bits did they transport away? Why did they make they choices they did? How much did the choices relate to the environment and dietary needs, to social needs or matters of taste? In order to build up suitable data, he has carried out research, involving experimental butchery, into the food utility and hunting of horses.
Understanding Unusual Treatment of Animal and Human Remains:
At many prehistoric sites animal and human remains are found in mixed deposits and display strange patterns of deposition and treatment. Could these be ritual, cannibalism or just unusual taphonomic circumstances? He has also been employing his bone fracture and fragmentation methodologies to study the unusual treatment of human and animal remains at the Bronze Age ritual site of Velim Skalka, Czech Republic.