Zooarchaeology Laboratory - Current Research Projects


Current PhD projects

Ethnoarchaeology of arable and pastoral farming in the Mediterranean

Oral history is being used by Paul Halstead to explore the decision-making and practices of recent farmers and herders, in rural Greece, southern France and northern Spain. Topics explored include management of livestock for milk, ploughing with draught cattle, pastoralism and household herding, and `share-cropping´ in both arable and pastoral farming.

Ethnoarchaeology of pig husbandry in Sardinia and Corsica

This is the study of traditional practices of pig husbandry in the central Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Corsica as a tool to understand possible past activities. The project is funded by The British Academy and is co-directed by Umberto Albarella and Filippo Manconi. The Ethnoarchaeological work on pig husbandry was expanded in Spain by Angelos Hadjikoumis during his PhD programme (2006-2010).

Animal Domestication

This project investigates the origins of pig domestication and its subsequent developments by integrating different lines of evidence, ranging from biometry to ageing and from genetics to isotopic analysis and microwear. The project was originally based at the University of Durham as a collaboration between Umberto AlbarellaKeith Dobney and Peter Rowley-Conwy and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Research into the same topic was expanded in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) by Angelos Hadjikoumis as part of his PhD programme (2006-2010).

Matteo Bormetti: Investigating the life of farming communities between the Middle and Late Iron Age in Central England: a zooarchaeological approach

Jane Ford: Hyenas and Neanderthals in the British Middle Palaeolithic

Lucy Lawrence: Diet & Management of Ancient Cattle: the Potential of Dental Microwear

Mikolaj Lisowski: The Identification of Jewish Patterns of Food Preparation and Consumption: a Zooarchaeological Approach to the Medieval and Early Modern Evidence from Central-Eastern Europe

Angela Maccarinelli: The social and economic role of freshwater fish in medieval England: a zooarchaeological approach

Veronica Aniceti: Animal husbandry in Sicily during the Islamic-Christian transition, 8th–12th C AD

Evelyne Browaeys: Birds of prey in the Bronze Age Near East: their role and identification

Sofia Tecce: The origins and evolution of pig domestication in Italy: a regional and diachronic study of husbandry practices

Tamsyn Fraser: Livestock and landscape: changing husbandry, livestock improvement and landscape enclosure in late and post-medieval England

Mauro Rizzetto: Developments in the exploitation of animal resources between the late Roman period and the early Middle Ages: a comparative study of the evidence from Britain and the lower Rhine region

Nasia Makarouna: Animals, People & Gods: Domestic, Civic & Sacred Consumption of Livestock in Hellenistic-Late Antique Messenia, Greece

Yasha Hourani: Animal exploitation in ancient Beirut from the Persian to the Umayyad period (5th century BC – 8th century AD): an archaeozoological approach

Aegean Zooarchaeology

Neolithic Paliambela-Kolindrou

Paul Halstead is working with Prof Kostas Kotsakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) on excavation of this Neolithic site that comprises both compact `tell´ and `flat-extended´ forms of settlement. Zooarchaeological analysis focuses on exploring patterns of carcass consumption and discard. Excavation at Paliambela is funded by INSTAP, local and regional government, the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace, and the Universities of Thessaloniki and Sheffield.

Neolithic Makrigialos

One of the largest prehistoric excavations in Greece for nearly a century at this 50 hectare site yielded some of the richest ceramic, faunal and lithic assemblages known from the Neolithic of this region. Paul Halstead has been involved in the synthesis of stratigraphic, ceramic and faunal evidence, with other Sheffield staff and students whose work includes: the study of bone tools (Dr Valasia Isaakidou); human bone (Dr Sevi Triantaphyllou); plant remains (Dr Tania Valamoti); ceramics (Dr Elli Hitsiou, Dimitris Vlachos) and geomorphology (Dr Nancy Krahtopoulou). Study of the faunal assemblage aims to provide an ecological perspective on conspicuous consumption in early farming.

Animal management and consumption at the Late Bronze Age `Palace of Nestor´

Paul Halstead and Dr Valasia Isaakidou (University of Nottingham) are examining faunal remains from Pylos as part of a larger post-excavation project by Sharon Stocker and Prof Jack Davis of the University of Cincinnati. The species and age composition of these deposits has been examined in conjunction with the written Linear B records of animal exploitation and farming.

Mycenaean rituals

This project, undertaken by Umberto Albarella, involves the study of the animal bones from the Cult Centre at Mycenae (Greece) and is funded by the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP).

Zooarchaeology in Britain

Ware, Hertfordshire

This project, undertaken by Lizzie Wright, Sofia Tecce and Umberto Albarella, involves the study of faunal remains from the Roman roadside settlement at Ware, Hertfordshire.

The faunal assemblage from this site is one of the largest from a roadside settlement in the UK and is greatly expanding our knowledge of the role of animals at these small settlement sites. 

Welland Bank Quarry, Lincolnshire

Sarah Viner-Daniels and Umberto Albrella studied the faunal material from this Bronze Age settlement site in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Genoa, Italy (Daniela Marrazzo and Alessandra Spinetti). A full study of the material has been carried out but comprehensive data analysis is waiting for funding.

Favourable burial conditions have led to a very well preserved faunal assemblage, which is relatively rare for a site of this date. 

Zooarchaeology of Central England

This project has produced a review of the animal bone evidence for Central England from Mesolithic to Modern times. The resulting publication will be available shortly. The dataset for this project is now available online through the Archaeology Data Service. The project is funded by English Heritage, and has been undertaken by Umberto Albarella with Tessa Pirnie and Sarah Viner-Daniels.

Norton Priory, Cheshire

We have now begun a collaboration with the Norton Priory Museum Trust in order to study the faunal remains from this large ecclesiastic site, with the aim of feeding our results into a new exhibition at the priory. Work has started on the bird bones, which Chiara Corbino is studying as part of her Marie Curie Fellowship (2014-2016), and Lizzie Wright and Umberto Albarella have won a University of Sheffield IIKE Collaborative R&D Award to study the rest of the material during 2016.

The study of animal bones from late Neolithic Henge monuments

This began as part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project directed by Mike Parker Pearson and initially involved the study, by Umberto Albarella, of the recently excavated animal bones from the famous site of Durrington Walls, and a re-analysis of material from similar sites in southern Britain. Sarah Viner-Daniels then incorporated this material into a study of Neolithic and Bronze Age pig and cattle populations, the subject of her PhD dissertation (2006-2010).

The team then successfully won a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for the Feeding Stonehenge project which allowed Umberto Albarella and Sarah Viner-Daniels to study the remainder of the faunal remains from Durringtion Walls, alongside Lizzie Wright, who conducted a study of pig seasonality at the site using a newly designed method for recording tooth wear on pig jaws and teeth (2011-2014).


Iron Age and Roman Archaeology

The role of animal husbandry in late Iron Age and Roman societies: cultural identity and relationships between Italy, Iberia and Britain

The project is designed to study animal bone assemblages from Italy, Iberia and Britain dating to the pre- and Roman periods. Archaeological evidence has indicated that major cultural changes occurred in Europe between the Late Iron Age and Early Roman periods, although these were neither homogeneous nor universal. Questions related to the change and/or improvement of husbandry techniques, the contribution of local breeding, the introduction of livestock, use of land and the role of the market, the influence of local culture and the permanence of the Iron Age ideology will be investigated. The project builds on previous work carried out at a national level, but provides a pan-European perspective by comparing the evidence from the origin of Roman influence - Italy – with that of two of the colonies – Iberia and Britain. The project is interdisciplinary as it benefits from several methodological approaches, including taxonomy, demography, biometry and biochemistry. Cattle tooth enamel from selected sites are being subjected to strontium and oxygen isotopic analysis to investigate the relative diversity/homogeneity of livestock supply in collaboration with Jane Evans from the NERC Isotope Geosciences Lab. The project will be conducted by Claudia MinnitiSilvia Valenzuela  and Umberto Albarella and is funded by two Marie Curie Intra-European fellowships (Minniti and Valenzuela).

Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology

The Archaeology of the birth of capitalism: the Zooarchaeology of the Agricultural Revolution (15th-18th centuries)

Idoia Grau-Sologestoa and Umberto Albarella are investigating the changes that occurred in animal husbandry during the transition between the Late Middle Ages and the early post-medieval period, through the study of faunal remains from several English and Basque sites. This three year post-doctoral project earned by Idoia Grau-Sologestoa is funded by the Government of the Basque Country.

Human-bird interactions from the Roman period to the end of the Middle Ages: Italy and England in their European context

The project applies new zooarchaeological methods, in conjunction with the written sources and historical components, to the study of bird remains from Italian and British archaeological sites dated to the Roman-Middle Ages transition. Questions such as the development of bird husbandry techniques, the relative importance of different species, their use in ritual activities and the association between birds, social status and environmental changes will be investigated. The project is being undertaken by Chiara Corbino (Marie Curie Intra-European fellowship - FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IEF), and Umberto Albarella.

Oxford Handbook of Zooarchaeology - Oxford University Press

Umberto Albarella, Mauro RizzettoHannah Russ, Kim Vickers and Sarah Viner-Daniels have edited the Oxford Handbook of Zooarchaeology to be published by Oxford University Press. This covers world zooarchaeology with 48 chapters from across the globe. The book will be published in 2016.

The volume is wide-ranging but has a number of interconnected aims:

• To provide zooarchaeologists with the opportunity to reflect on the state of their own discipline by consulting a single source that will provide comprehensive – though inevitably not completely exhaustive – coverage of its approaches, methods, research questions and international trends and interests.

• To provide archaeologists, anthropologists, researchers and enthusiasts of numerous related disciplines with a snapshot of the potential of zooarchaeology to address research questions that can be of interest beyond the boundaries of any single discipline.

• To provide a compact reference tool regarding zooarchaeological research activities in different parts of the world, in different periods and on different themes.

• To provide a valuable and unique bibliographic tool for higher education teaching in many countries.