Zooarchaeology (or archaeozoology) is the study of animal remains from archaeological sites. Through careful analysis, archaeologists can address a variety of questions about human-animal interactions: they can study past environments, hunting strategies, cooking practices, diet, domestication, and other topics. Faunal remains found at archaeological sites are often highly fragmentary. Zooarchaeologists use “comparative specimens”—examples of known recent animals—to aid in identifying archaeological remains. This cranium is a comparative specimen of domestic sheep (Ovis aries) acquired by the Museum’s Zooarchaeology Laboratory in 2003. It is a distant descendant of animals that were first domesticated in the Middle East between 11,000 and 9000 years ago. The Laboratory contains comparative specimens of a broad range of domesticated and wild species. These are used in research and to help train students in faunal identifications.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.