Introduction to Zooarchaeology and Osteoarchaeology

25th January 2020 | Inverness Museum

This one-day skills workshop was designed for anyone who would like to learn basic zooarchaeological and osteoarchaeological methods and theory. The workshop consisted of three parts, with a focus on: animal bones, human remains, and scientific methods. The sessions aimed to give participants basic bone identification skills, discuss handling and recording techniques, and provide examples of useful publications and sources of further information. The application of scientific methods were explored – with case studies and exciting up-to-date research illustrating how these approaches are revolutionising our understanding of the everyday lives, economies, and diets of past people. 

Animal Bones | Karen Kennedy | Independent Archaeologist 

Participants take part in an animal bone identification session ©ScARF

During this hands-on session, participants were able to view a variety of animal bones, including an assemblage from the archaeological site at Rosemarkie Caves. A faunal analysis recording task was set to identify species, type of bone, and to look for evidence of modification, for example: signs of butchery, gnawing, burning, and pathology.  


Human Remains | Cat Irving | Human Remains Conservator, Surgeon’s Hall Museums

An engaging presentation and specimens of human remains were used to illustrate how bones form over the course of a life and the visibility of malnourishment and disease ©ScARF

This session gave participants an overview of how the study of human remains from archaeological contexts can give us information about the past. Basic human bone identification was discussed along with a brief overview of how bones can change and develop through a person’s life – from birth to death. Interesting case studies were used to illustrate how bones can become deformed and affected by malnourishment and disease.    


Scientific Methods | Orsoyla Czere | PhD Candidate and Teaching Fellow, University of Aberdeen

Participants viewed remains suitable for analysis and samples extracted by Orsoyla during her research ©ScARF

This session was designed to give participants an overview of the types of archaeological scientific techniques applied to animal and human remains to investigate aspects of demography, diet, disease and the daily life of past people.  Methods discussed included: radiocarbon dating, aDNA analysis, isotope analysis, ZooMS (a technique used on bone fragments to find out species), along with an overview of how samples are extracted and analysed. The highlight was hearing about Orsoyla’s isotopic study to characterise patterns of dietary change from the late Iron Age to High Medieval period and utilising case studies from friaries in Aberdeen, Perth and Edinburgh, to highlight how archaeological context, scientific techniques, and social theory can all work together to recreate the everyday lives of past people. The Pictish Isotope Project also provided an interesting case study to highlight the use of multiple techniques including: radiocarbon dating, isotope analysis, and DNA analysis, from individuals sampled from the Balintore cist burials and Garbeg as part of a major national study.

Watch the short video below!

This event was supported by ARCH and Inverness Museum 






























































Find out more about Archaeological Science – visit the ScARF Science Framework!