photograph of archaeological animal bones

About this image

Medieval animal bones from Windsor Castle © Historic England


We conduct and commission research in zooarchaeology (also called archaeozoology) related to English sites and to the development of methods and understanding.

These include guidelines for animal bones in archaeology and regional reviews of animal bone evidence. Our research is published in site reports, Research Reports and journals.

We hold resources that can assist best practice in animal bone research, including a vertebrate reference collection. We administer the Professional Zooarchaeology Group.  

photograph of part of the skeleton collection
Domestic mammals section of the zooarchaeology comparative collection at Fort Cumberland © Historic England

The resources we offer

Zooarchaeology regional reviews

The following regional reviews of animal bone data are in preparation or complete. Reviews of the northern and London regions are planned.

The southern region:

  • The Mesolithic period (F Worley) report and dataset in preparation
  • The Neolithic to early Bronze Age (D Serjeantson) report and dataset
  • The middle Bronze Age to late Iron Age (E Hambleton) report and dataset
  • The Roman period (M Allen, P Baker and F Worley) report and dataset in preparation
  • The Anglo-Saxon to Post-medieval (M Holmes) report and dataset. 

The Midlands region:

  • All periods (U Albarella and T Pirnie) report forthcoming and dataset

Zooarchaeology reference collection

The zooarchaeology vertebrate comparative collection includes around 3100 skeletons of mainly British and Continental European species. Most skeletons are complete.

They include approximately 110 species of mammals, 210 species of birds, 50 species of fish, and some reptiles and amphibians.  The reference collection continues to be developed by increasing the range of taxa and the representation of different sexes and age groups.

We are included in Annex B of the Natural England Class License WML-CL01 which allows possession of specimens of wild animals listed in Annex IV of the EC Habitats Directive.

The reference collection can be visited by specialists and students by prior arrangement. If you would like to use the collection for research, please submit a short proposal to zooarchaeologists Polydora Baker or Fay Worley.

Students will require prior approval from their supervisor(s); please note that we cannot provide close supervision of individual projects. Specimens may be borrowed, with requests for loans assessed on an individual basis.

Please download the reference collection list to see if we hold relevant specimens for your query. 

Skeleton preparation facilities

We have a laboratory for the preparation of animal skeletons. It includes induction hobs, an incubator, a degreasing cabinet, fridges and freezers. Arrangements may be made with external organisations for skeleton preparation or use of facilities; we may also prepare skeletons in exchange for others required in our collection. Organisations holding a reference collection should ensure they meet licencing requirements.

Who we are

Historic England zooarchaeologists Polydora Baker and Fay Worley work within the Environmental Studies team. Eva Fairnell is our reference collection preparation technician.

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