Animal Bones and Archaeology - Recovery to archive

By Polydora Baker, Fay Worley, additional specialist contributors

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This handbook provides advice on best practice for the recovery, publication and archiving of animal bones and teeth from Holocene archaeological sites (ie from approximately the last 10,000 years). It has been written for local authority archaeology advisors, consultants, museum curators, project managers, excavators and zooarchaeologists, with the aim of ensuring that approaches are suitable and cost-effective. The objectives are to

  • highlight zooarchaeological considerations in project planning;
  • provide recommendations for zooarchaeological recovery, assessment, analysis, reporting and archiving;
  • provide guidance on minimum standards in zooarchaeological methods and their requirements.

This handbook builds on the information provided in the Historic England guidelines for environmental archaeology (Campbell et al 2011) but focuses on bones and teeth, as these are by far the more commonly preserved animal remains in Britain. They occur primarily in disarticulated form, as part of the waste of daily life and industrial processes, or less commonly as articulated animal burials and carcass parts. Other animal remains, for example skin, hair, feathers, soft tissues and eggshell, are excluded as they require separate specialist expertise. Worked bone objects require input from finds specialists and are also excluded.

It updates and replaces 'Animal Bones and Archaeology: Guidelines for Best Practice'.

The handbook is supported by three supplements which can be downloaded from this page:

  • Supplement 1: Key reference resources (reference list)
  • Supplement 2: Excavating animal bones (poster)
  • Supplement 3: Processing animal bone assemblages (poster)

These documents have been written by Polydora Baker and Fay Worley, with specialist contributions. They are intended as working documents. Comments and new information are welcomed and should be addressed to [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected].


  • 1: Introduction to animal bones from archaeological sites
  • 2: Planning for animal bones in archaeology
  • 3: Best practice for implementing excavation and post-excavation procedures
  • 4: Practitioner's guide to good practice
  • Case Studies
  • Appendix 1: Scientific names for species mentioned in text
  • Appendix 2: Assessment and analysis information checklist
  • Appendix 3: Anatomical location of bones commonly cited in zooarchaeological reports
  • Glossary (procedural and specialist terms)

Additional Information

  • Series: Guidance
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 97pp (Main Handbook) 24pp (Supplement 1)
  • Product Code: HE0003 (Supplement 1) HE0001 (Supplement 2) HE0002 (Supplement 3)
  • ISBN: 9781848025554


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