Do you know your femur from your metatarsel? How about your sheep radius from your cow ulna? If your answer is no, then you’re in exactly the same position that I was in last week before attending the Zooarchaeology short course at Sheffield University. Thanks to the extremely knowledgeable and approachable departmental members at Sheffield and a veritable feast of animal remains; I am now a whole lot wiser in my identifaction of animal bones and teeth from domesticated animals.
Additionally, we got to experience identifying molluscs and even fish bones (very difficult!). We also learned how to age an animal from its teeth and whether certain bones were fused or not. It was particularly interesting for me to gain an understanding of the practical applications of zooarchaeology in some recent archaeological investigations. These included cattle being brought from across the country for Neolithic feasts at Durrington Walls; changes in domesticated animals brought about by the Romans; and seperating animals based upon their dietary and cultural value in Upper Palaeolithic Italy.
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend the course to anyone with even a smattering of interest in zooarchaeology (and even those who are not!) I hope to be able to use the knowledge and skills picked up in my future experiences with the zoological collection at Manchester later in my traineeship!