Archaeozoology

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Archaeozoology is the study of all faunal remains, recovered during an archaeological excavation. These remains consists in general of animal bones and teeth, but can also include other tissues such as mollusc shells, hair, fish scales and egg shells. Animal traces, such as footprints and coprolites (fossil dung), are studied as well.

The analysis of these faunal remains documents the interactions between man and animal in a given cultural setting. Information about many different aspects of man’s and animal’s life can be obtained in this way, for example hunting and fishing strategies, domestication of mammals and birds, herding and breeding related issues (how were the domestic animals kept, were they bred for their meat, milk products or other purposes ...), processing of meat and fish, dietary preferences of man, trade of foods, etc. Further, animal remains are used as indicators for past environments. Their presence can be used to describe the environment or to document changes in the landscapes, such as deforestation of wooded areas. Finally, archaezoological data can be used as an additional source for pure zoological research, for example (local) extinction of an animal species, overexploitation of animals through time, size changes through time or space within an animal species, etc.

Faunal remains are of all sizes. At Sagalassos, the faunal remains are generally hand-collected in the trench. It has, however, been shown in the past that small bones or bones of small mammals, fish or birds, may get lost using this collecting technique. Therefore, a flotation and sieving device has been installed at the site and sediment samples of important or interesting deposits are screened in order to collect as much as possible. In general the animal bones at Sagalassos are rather well preserved, and do not need special treatment for conservation.

The animal remains are studied at the excavation house. Using morphological characteristics and size, they are identified to skeletal element and animal species. These identifications are made, based on the researchers’ experience and using books and a local reference collection. This collection has been built up through the years and comprises the most common species (cattle, donkey, goat, dog, chicken, tortoise, ...) found today in the region. Whenever possible, sex and age are established and special features such as pathologies, butchery marks and other traces are recorded. In addition, complete bones and the more complete articular ends are measured. The material that cannot be identified without the aid of a more complete comparative collection is brought to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Brussels) for further identification. Bone samples for more specialized studies (ancient DNA-analysis, stable isotope analysis,...) are also exported.

Animal remains from Sagalassos have been studied since the very beginning of the excavations and these data have been used to describe several aspects of daily life in the city from Roman to Middle Byzantine times, while excavations at Tepe Düzen extend this time range backwards to the Iron Age. Several aspects have already been dealt with and include artisanal activities (bone working), butchery practices, the composition of the live stock, the trade of fish from distant areas, the use of cattle power, the presence of several chicken breeds, the herding of goats, sheep and pigs ... Current and future research also focuses on many different topics, such as DNA-analysis of pig, animal remains as an indicator for the social status of the inhabitants, diachronic changes in the trade patterns, stable isotope analysis of the main domestic species,...