Building a National Zooarchaeological Reference Resource
A team from the University of York are leading a Historic England-funded project to create a central online database of zooarchaeology reference collections.
Why do we need a national database?
The study of animal remains in relation to human societies - zooarchaeology - is often key in the analysis of archaeological data, whether from a Mesolithic landscape or a post-Medieval stately home. Animal bones and teeth are often amongst the most common finds on archaeological sites, but their analysis depends on both specialist expertise and good-quality, accessible reference collections to achieve accurate and reliable identifications.
Reference collections of skeletons are held by many organisations and individuals, but most contain a restricted range of animals and there is currently no straightforward way to coordinate these resources or locate particular species of animals.
This project will create a central online database of British reference collections. Designed in consultation with zooarchaeologists from all sectors, this resource will allow users to find suitable specimens along with location, contact and access policy details.
First steps and an open workshop
A core team has been formed with representatives from the universities of York, Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham and Central Lancashire, and from Historic England, York Archaeological Trust, Oxford Archaeology South, the Grant Museum of Zoology (UCL), the Archaeology Data Service and Hull York Medical School, as well as freelance zooarchaeologists.
In order to ensure that this new resource is designed in consultation with zooarchaeologists from all sectors, an open, free workshop was held on 16 May 2016 at the University of York. A report summarising the workshop, and a list of the proposed data fields, are now available.
Next steps for the project
Building upon the national database, the project will consult on the needs and priorities for digital reference material, with a view to supporting and guiding future digitisation projects.