Archaeozoology is the study of animal bones in archaeology. The term is a relatively recent piece of jargon in archaeology, with a formal organisation associated with it, the International Council of Archaeozoology (ICAZ), which holds regular conferences in various parts of the world.
Archaeozoology has firm origins in the branch of archaeology which focusses on human subsistence economics, but has come to mean a great deal more than that - ranging from taphonomic analysis of faunal assemblages, the study of human/animal and environmental interactions, the effects of human predation on animal populations, isotopes and dietary reconstruction, butchery processes, and so on. There are now several discrete sections of the ICAZ organisation. Two particularly strong ones are the Fish Remains Working Group, and the Bird Remains Working Group.
In New Zealand, the origins of Archaeozoology are traceable to the rise of economic prehistory, brought to New Zealand in the 1960s by students of E. Higgs at Cambridge, such as Wilfred Shawcross to the University of Auckland, and a few years later by Charles Higham to Otago University. Although there had been numerous studies of animal bones in New Zealand archaeology before this, these two scholars had an outspoken attitude towards the study of archaeology which placed subsistence economics high up on the scale of importance. This meant that comparative collections needed to be established at the two Universities at the opposite ends of the country, so that shell, bird, and fish remains, recovered during archaeological excavations could be properly identified and studied.
Subsequent generations of graduates from these two universities strengthened this branch of archaeology in New Zealand. There are now three vigorous laboratories which focus on archaeozoology - the Archaeozoology Laboratory at Te Papa, The Museum of New Zealand, the Archaeological Laboratories at the University of Otago, and the Zooarchaeological Laboratory at the University of Auckland.
The reference collections are designed to facilitate accurate identification and interpretation of archaeological remains, with a particular emphasis on the New Zealand, Pacific and South East Asian regions. The archaeozoological collections include more than 2500 specimens, covering all the main genera and most of the common species of birds, fish, mammals and shellfish found in New Zealand archaeological sites, many of those from the Pacific and some from South East Asia. Frequently utilised items are stored on display boards, with additional boxed specimens of most species.
Any inquiries about Archaeozoology at Otago University should be directed to:
Dr Ian Smith
University of Otago
PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
Tel: (+64-3) 479-8752
Fax: (+64-3) 479-9095
Email: Ian Smith
Home Page: Otago Archaeological Laboratories
The University of Auckland zooarchaeological collections were established in the 1960s under the direction of Drs. Wilfred Shawcross and Roger Green. The faunal comparative collection, currently maintained by Dr. Melinda Allen (Lecturer in Anthropology) and Dr Rod Wallace (Laboratory Manager), consists of more than 800 specimens of fish, birds, mammals, and invertebrates, with an emphasis on native New Zealand taxa. Efforts are underway to expand the representation of central Pacific species. The collections support staff and student research on patterns of faunal exploitation, paleoenvironments, and the biogeography of native, adventive, and exotic species in the Pacific. Current research efforts focus on the Pacific basin, from island Southeast Asia to far corners of East Polynesia (Hawai`i, New Zealand, Marquesas Islands).
Our laboratory facilities include wet and dry processing areas, a microscopy room, 2 collection storage areas, and a drafting room. In early 1998 we upgraded our computer and microscope equipment.
Anthropology's Conservation Laboratory, under the direction of Dilys Johns, specializes in the conservation of wet organic materials, including all types of bone, shell, and plant materials. Conservation projects and research are undertaken for archaeologists, iwi, students, and heritage personnel throughout New Zealand and the Pacific. Dilys is a member of the New Zealand Professional Conservators Group and The International Council of Museums Wet Organic Archaeological Materials Group (see also http:www.auckland.ac.nz/ant/cons.htm). Anthropology's DNA Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith maintains two discrete processing labs, one for modern DNA analysis and a second exclusively for ancient DNA. Currently the labs deal primarily with mammalian material, particularly Pacific commensal species. Our future plans include expanding our molecular studies to cover birds and reptiles.
For information about the zooarchaeological collections or graduate study contact Dr. Melinda Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Rod Wallace at 64-9-373-7599 X8566. For further information on Department of Anthropology or other staff contacts see http://www.auckland.ac.nz/ant/anthro.htm. Current and Recent (1997-) MA, PhD and Other Research Projects (*indicates University of Auckland Staff)
Maori Prehistory: The Genetic Trail of Commensal Animals - John Allen*, Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith*, Thegn Ladefoged*, and David Lambert
Comparative analyses of fish and fishhooks from Marquesan Contexts - Melinda Allen* and Deanne Burt
Vertebrate and invertebrate fauna from Motutapu and Ponui Islands - Geoffrey Irwin*, Thegn Ladefoged*, Michael Taylor; 1998 student analysts include Kathrine Szabo, Greg Walter, Jonathon Carpenter, Jennifer Low, Sarah Phlar (Melinda Allen* staff faunal advisor)
Taphonomic analysis of Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans), a human commensal and food source in Polynesia - Leon Coleman and Melinda Allen*
Faunal exploitation in the Chatham Islands, Lake Huro Site (CH166) - Brent Druskovich, Douglas Sutton*, and Melinda Allen*
Fauna of the Northern Moluccas Archaeological Project - Geoffrey Irwin*, Peter Bellwood (The Australian National University), and Gunadi Nitihaminoto (National Centre for Archaeology of Indonesia)
Exploration of amino acid racemization dating in Pacific contexts - Martin Jones, Douglas Sutton*, and Peter Sheppard*
Molecular studies of living and ancient populations of domesticated pig (Sus scrofa) in the Pacific - Jennifer Laycock, Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith*, Melinda Allen*, and John Allen*
Taphonomic, ecological, and biogeographic study of land snails from Aitutaki, Cook Islands - Blaze O'Connor and Melinda Allen*
Faunal exploitation on Rotuma - Jonathon Wall, Thegn Ladefoged*, and Melinda Allen* with assistance from Foss Leach, Archaeozoology Laboratory, Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand
Fish remains from Wetef Cave, Gebe Island, Indonesia - Greg Walter, Geoffrey Irwin*, and Melinda Allen*
Any inquiries about Archaeozoology at Auckland University should be directed to:
Dr. Melinda Allen
University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
Fax: (+64-9) 373-7441 Email: Melinda Allen
Home Page: Auckland Archaeological Laboratories
The Laboratory and associated storage facility is designed to collect and study collections of fauna from the Pacific and New Zealand region. A particular emphasis is the study of marine food gathering behaviour and issues relating to environmental impact over long periods.
Comparative material consists of boxed and displayed bones from about 400 species of Pacific Island fishes, and also shells, land fauna, and turtle. Multiple specimens (100-200 individuals) are routinely collected for species with special economic significance. Some 40 measurements are made on each specimen and used for estimating live fish length and weight from archaeological bones.
The Laboratory is well equipped with microscopes, computers, reference library, and a 38ft launch with 4 berths is available for fish collecting expeditions.
Faunal collections deriving from Pacific and New Zealand archaeological sites are confined to the last 6,000 years of the prehistoric period. The laboratory offers an identication service to archaeologists working in the Pacific region.
Any inquiries about this service or other matters should be directed to:
Dr Foss Leach
Curator Archaeozoology Laboratory
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
PO Box 467, Wellington, New Zealand
Courier Address: 38 Tacy St, Kilbirnie, New Zealand
Tel: (+64-4) 387-7413
Fax: (+64-4) 387-7419
Email: Foss Leach
Press here to return to Home Page.