From Animal Bones to Zooarchaeology

P1000602On Wednesday 23rd January, Year 6 students from Chantry  Primary Academy and Year 9 students from Hartismere School came to Cambridge University to find out about Animals in Archaeology at one of ACA’s Discovery Days. We kicked off with a quick quiz, which soon got pupils from both schools sharing knowledge and guesses with each other. After the final scores were totted up (the pupils of Chantry Primary will never view their headmaster in the same light again) it was the group with three Year 6 students and one Year 9 who got the winning score of 28.

The aim of the day was to teach the students how to identify some common animal bones and for them to use their knowledge on some real archaeological artifacts. But first they were confounded with a mystery skeleton – someone suggested it was a dragon, someone else a jaguar. This activity focussed the students’ minds on what the size of the bones suggests about the size of the animal but it was soon realised that without more information it was difficult to tell the class of animal, let alone the species.

All students proved themselves to be adept at learning how to identify common animal bones and were able to use their knowledge to good effect in the afternoon when faced with the partial bones from archaeological excavations.

The highlights of the day were the Zoology Museum (where two Year 6 students were very pleased to find the skeleton of a flying fish and Mr Luxton appeared to be attacked by a giant sloth) and the “Ark” debate. The latter involved arguing the case for a domesticated animal as to why it should be saved in a crisis. There were several strong arguments but in a blind vote bacon sandwiches took the majority.

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