I help teach an undergraduate zooarchaeology class on a Tuesday morning. They learn basic zooarchaeology, and I largely help with the identification sections when they have a set of bones (usually two or three different elements, the ‘bones of the week’) and identify them to species. This week, however, is the session when the students are taught how to determine age-at-death from sheep and goat jaws, based on tooth eruption and wear. I made a flow chart to help students with this, which I’ve shared below. I had real trouble with this when I was an undergrad and making and following this flowchart helped me immensely!
One of my jobs for this week is to catalogue some new dog skeletons that we’ve acquired for our zooarchaeology reference collection. The dogs are archaeological, all buried in the ‘modern’ period around the ruins of Haverfordwest Priory in West Wales. They were donated by Cadw to the University of Exeter to use for academic purposes after I did the analysis of the faunal assemblage. The level of preservation is really good, but that doesn’t stop the odd three-tibia individual popping up occasionally, so I wanted to catalogue the burials properly so people could see at a glance which bones were present.
A few months ago I created a skeletal comparison of Dog, Fox, Badger and Cat bones, and in a similar vein I’ve been recently been working on a skeletal comparison of small mammals. When I was working on a site in Wales that probably had an owl nesting there during its disuse I realised how useful it would be to have a digital guide for quick reference when a small mammal bone needed identifying. Many mostly-fruitless hours of searching on the internet later I decided to put aside all the small mammal bones and take them back to Exeter to use the zooarchaeological reference collection there. During the identification process I made this guide for personal use and, considering how well-received my other comparative skeletal study was, I thought I would disseminate it for anyone to use!
The comparison can be found in pdf form here:
I took some time creating the above digital comparison of key skeletal elements from dog (canis familiaris), fox (vulpes vulpes), badger (meles meles) and cat (felis catus). I was working on an assemblage recently which had quite a few dog/fox elements in and I didn’t have the benefit of the lovely comparative reference collection at the University of Exeter to help me, and searches on the internet for bone comparisons were pretty fruitless! So I decided to photograph some key elements from dogs and foxes and identify morphological characteristics to differentiate between them. I added in cats and badgers too as they were of a similar size.
I hope other zooarchaeologists will find the above PDF useful! The aim was to create a digital, accessible comparison that could be downloaded for analysis where a reference collection was unavailable.