At the Museum of Natural History in Bern, the study of animal remains (e.g. bones, teeth, antlers, shells) from archaeological sites has a long-standing tradition of 130 years. It all began in 1883 with the purchase of the famous Johann Uhlmann-Collection of animal bones from the Neolithic pile dwellings of Lake Moossee (UNESCO Cultural World Heritage). It contains more than 6.000 bones and is considered to be the world's oldest archaeozoological collection.
Although archaeozoological methods have evolved ever since (e.g. the growing use of molecular genetics and stable isotope analyses), the main goal of the discipline however remained unchanged: the attempt to dip deep into the past of our ancestors and get a more comprehensive insight into their way of life and the environment they lived in. Modern archaeozoology may focus on subjects such as hunting and environmental change (Paleolithic/Mesolithic), domestication and early husbandry (Neolithic) or animals as indicators of social status and their role in beliefs and religion (Roman times/Middle Ages).
Usually the analyses of faunal assemblages from archaeological sites comprise:
- examination of the taphonomic factors influencing the embedding processes and preservation (e.g. weathering, fracturing, burning, butchering, gnawing)
- taxonomic identification (i.e. the determination of genus and species) and/or identification of the raw material of artifacts (e.g. bone, antler, ivory, teeth)
- determination of the skeletal element and body side
- age and sex determination and examination of potential seasonal indicators
- intra-site spatial distribution of the bones
- biometrical studies
As up-to-date archaeozoologists we are collaborating closely with an interdisciplinary team of experts (archaeologists, archaeobotanists, geoarchaeologists, paleo-anthropologists and historians) from the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern, the Institute of Archaeological Sciences and the Institute of Forensic Medicine/Physical Anthropology at the University of Bern.
To maintain the highest possible standard of our scientific work we are supporting the Int. Council for Archaeozoology Protocols for professional conduct.
Fields of interest:
Multidisciplinary (osteometry, genetics, history) studies of size, sex and shape of medieval cattle and sheep/goat from the city of Bern. If you want to learn more about archaeozoology and check out the complete publication list please go to the personal sites of Dr. Marc Nussbaumer and Dr. André Rehazek. A short list of our archaeozoological collections may be found here.