Cryptozoology (featuring Archaeological Fantasies) - Ep 05

Zooarchaeology and Animals.jpg

Today's show is a crossover special with archaeology podcast "Archaeological Fantasies"!

Cryptids are creatures from fiction, folklore, and fantasy. There have been many alleged cases of "zooarchaeological evidence" to prove the existence of certain imaginary creatures, but most of these tend to be poorly identified real animal remains. Of course, there are some instances of intentional hoaxes, where creative manipulation and taxidermy have been used to create fake evidence (see: PT Barnum and other roadside attractions).

Further Reading

- https://animalarchaeology.com/2018/11/19/troweling-theme-parks-creating-cryptozoological-remains-in-expedition-everest/

- Loxton, D. and Prothero, D.R. (2013) Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids. Columbia University Press.

- http://www.thecarpetbagger.org/2013/01/straight-out-of-fiji-merman.html

Contact

CLICK HERE TO ADVERTISE ON THIS PODCAST!

Sheep vs Goats - Ep04

Zooarchaeology and Animals.jpg

Sheep are the domesticated form of the mouflon (Ovis orientalis), which was domesticated around 11,000-9,000 BC and represents one of the earliest instances of domestication after dogs. As with all domestications, it is important to keep in mind that this was most likely not a single event, rather several attempts taking place in different locations and time periods.

Sheep husbandry quickly spread across Europe from the Near East. Up until the Iron Age, sheep would have largely been small, short tailed and varied in colour.

Goats were most likely domesticated in South West Asia, possible South East Europe. They are hardy and versatile animals which require relatively little care. Primitive goats would have had coarse hair and large horns. One such example is the present day British Primitive Goat, a rare breed now limited to few feral herds and captive individuals.

Sheep were a staple domesticate and, as such, used for a variety of products. In antiquity, wool was generally one of the most important products deriving from sheep farming. Goats would have also been kept for their hair and skins. Milk and meat would have also been important to different extents, and we can gage such extent based on what we recover archaeologically. Based on the kill off pattern of the specimens recovered within our assemblage, we can in fact argue what products sheep and goats would have been likely kept for. For instance, a high percentage of culled juvenile males suggest a milk-based economy

Sheep and goat are both Caprinae, and as such they will have uncannily similar morphological characteristics. The two can actually hybridise but this will inevitably result in infertile offspring, known as sheep/goat hybrids or geep. Telling the two species apart in the archaeological record is a task that requires outstanding observational skills and plenty of practice, and has been the focus of intensive research in recent years. Separating the two species is important as they will provide different information about the economy and environment they were part of.

A by no means exhaustive list of how to distinguish between sheep and goat bones is provided below:

1) Horns: Sheep horns tend to be parallel while goat horns are more divergent.

2) Teeth: In sheep, the third cusp of the third molar presents a small lip, while the third premolars appears square in sheep and triangular in goat.

3) Other diagnostic postcranial elements include the astragalus, distal humerus, calcaneum and metapodials.

Guest Interview: Albína Hulda Pálsdóttir

Find out more about our guest and her projects

Reference collection: https://www.icelandiczooarch.is/

Project website: https://www.mn.uio.no/cees/english/research/projects/690456/index.html

Follow Albina on twitter: https://twitter.com/AlbinaIcelander

Further Reading

  • Seder, M. , Latham, H. (2010) ‘Assessing the reliability of criteria used to identify postcranial bones in sheep, Ovis, and goats, Capra’

  • Journal of Archaeological Science (2010) 1-19

  • Crabtree, Pam J. 1995 The symbolic role of animals in Anglo-Saxon England: Evidence from burials and cremations. In The Symbolic Role of Animals in Archaeology. K. Ryan and P. J. Crabtree, eds. Pp. 20-6. MASCA Research Papers in Science and Archaeology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, University Museum

  • Russel, N. (2012) Social Zooarchaeology: Humans and Animals in Prehistory

  • Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

  • King, A. (1978) A Comparative Survey of Bone Assemblages from Roman Sites in Britain. Institute of Archaeology - London 15

  • Salvagno, L. And Albarella, U. (2017) ‘A morphometric system to distinguish sheep and goat postcranial bones’. PLoS ONE 12(6): e0178543.

  • https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0178543

  • Fagan, B. (2015) The Intimate Bond: How animals shaped human history

  • London: Bloomsbury Press

Contact

CLICK HERE TO ADVERTISE ON THIS PODCAST!

Who Let The Dogs Out? Ep03

Zooarchaeology and Animals.jpg

The skeletal remains of dogs are simultaneously very distinct in their characteristics, but also very similar to other animals. Compare a dog skull to grey seals or foxes to see what we mean!

Dogs seem to have had a special relationship with humans - this can be observed in some burial and ritual rites involving dog remains. There is currently a lot of interesting research happening that combines aDNA (ancient DNA) analysis with zooarchaeology to better understand human-dog relations and the domestication of the dog over time.

Due to breeding techniques, the skulls of certain modern dogs have been transformed beyond recognition - if you're brave enough, Google some of the breeds we mention in the episode.

And we unfortunately have no idea who let the dogs out still...sorry.

Further Reading

  • Fagan, B. (2015) The Intimate Bond: How animals shaped human history

  • London: Bloomsbury Press

  • Toynbee, J.M.C. (2013) Animals in Roman Life & Art

  • Barnsley: Pen & Sword

  • Merrifield, R. (1987) The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic

  • London: Guild Publishing London

  • Van Grouw, K. (2018) Unnatural Selection

  • Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press

  • Houlbrook, C. and Armitage, N. (2015) The Materiality of Magic. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Links

Contact

CLICK HERE TO ADVERTISE ON THIS PODCAST!

Old McDonald Had A Farm - Episode 02

Zooarchaeology and Animals.jpg

The distinction between domestic and wild animals is sometimes difficult, especially if the domesticated species is still morphological very similar to its wild counterpart. Cat being a notorious example. Size is usually a good indicator (wild counterparts often being bigger). Differentiation is usually achieved by means of biometry, which consists of set measurements taken from the bones. Previous research has established standards for measurements taken from individuals of known ID (wild and domestic), to compare your assemblage to. However one needs to bear in mind that modern animals may not look exactly like they used to, and things become even complicated when a species also presents several different breeds bearing distinct morphological differences (e.g. domestic dogs)

Further Reading

Contact

CLICK HERE TO ADVERTISE ON THIS PODCAST!

Zooarchaeology 101 - Episode 01

Zooarchaeology and Animals.jpg

Zooarchaeology is, as the word suggests, the study of animal remains from archaeological sites. It is a relatively new discipline that has been steadily  gaining popularity since the 1970s. Zooarchaeology can provide inference on past people’s economy, dietary habits, society and culture. 

Faunal remains recovered from archaeological sites are initially processed, identified to element and species whenever possible and finally used in quantitative and qualitative analyses to further our understanding of a given archaeological site. Zooarchaeologists will frequently attempt to gather information on the animals’ age, sex and season of death as well as looking out for bone modification (either pathological or taphonomical i.e. signs of disease and butchery/burning/gnawing). This data will then be analysed within the regional and historical context of the site.

When carrying out the analysis of a faunal assemblage, the first step is to identify as many bone fragments as possible to element and species. It is important for this process to be as accurate as possible, thus if in doubt it is best to label the specimen as unidentifiable rather than risking biasing your sample). As not all recovered fragments will not have retained enough diagnostic characteristic for confident ID, the whole sample is somewhat biased from the very beginning, hence it’d be best not to add to that with potential misidentifications. Identification of skeletal remains is largely carried out by morphological analysis, though species which present a similar anatomy may require additional tools such as biometry (which relies on measurements): this is the case for sheep/goat, to mention a few. Morphological ID is a skill that takes a lot of practice to refine, and reference collections represent an invaluable asset in order to learn and maintain your knowledge of comparative skeletal anatomy. These will be mostly comprised of modern specimens of known ID. It is important to bear in mind, however, that the morphology of a given species is unlikely to have remained static throughout time and your archaeological material may thus slightly differ to the modern reference specimen. Some species also present remarkable morphological and size variations (dogs, for instance), so these are all factors to be mindful of when analysing an archaeological assemblage.

The age at death of an animal is frequently determined based on epiphyseal fusion. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, most bone is comprised of two parts: the central diaphysis (commonly known as the shaft) and the two epiphysis, which stand at the periphery of the bone. In several bones, these three parts are not fused together at birth, and research has been carried out to determine fusion age stages for different elements and species. 

Another frequently used method for ageing is tooth eruption and wear. 
Assigning age at death is useful in order to determine kill off patterns, which ultimately provide inference on animal exploitation. For instance, a sample mostly comprised by adult/elderly cattle indicates that they may have been used as working animals. Similarly, if the sample is comprised by numerous juveniles as well as adults, dairy production is a likely candidate. 

Further inference on exploitation is provided by sexing the animals, which is usually carried out by looking for sexually dimorphic traits (i.e. morphological traits which will differ between males and female - e.g. antler in male cervids, with the exception of reindeer). 

Pathology is the study of disease. It can provide information on animal exploitation and sometimes pet keeping. The latter hypothesis is for instance argued when an individual presents numerous pathologies which required constant human care and that would render the animal economically unviable to keep, yet it was still looked after. 

A common marker of animal exploitation which is not uncommon in cattle remains is a bone growth within the metatarsal/tarsal articulation, known as spavin. The latter is caused by chronic inflammation, most likely induced by traction. 

Taphonomy is a huge subject and an academic discipline in its own right. Within zooarchaeology, the aspects of taphonomy which are mostly looked at are man/animal induced bone modification. This can take the form of butcher marks, scorching caused by cooking, and gnawing from domestic animals and scavengers alike. 

Further Reading

  • "Identifying and Interpreting Animal Bones: A Manual" - April M. Beisaw (2013)
  • "The Archaeology of Animal Bones" - Terry O'Connor (2000)
  • "On the Average Day of a Zooarchaeologist, or Like, So What Do You Even Do?" - Alex Fitzpatrick https://animalarchaeology.com/2017/11/09/

Contact

CLICK HERE TO ADVERTISE ON THIS PODCAST!

Introducing ArchaeoAnimals - Episode 0

Zooarchaeology and Animals.jpg

Welcome to a brand new podcast from the Archaeology Podcast Network - ArchaeoAnimals! Our hosts, Alex Fitzpatrick and Simona Falanga, will guide you through the world of animals, humans, and archaeology. This first episode will tell you what the show's about and a little about Alex and Simona.

Links

  • Follow #archaeoanimals on Twitter.

Contact

CLICK HERE TO ADVERTISE ON THIS PODCAST!