Teaching Bones from my Garden

Author(s): John Whittaker

Year: 2016


Few of my students have much experience with hunting, farming, anatomy, or even eating meat these days, so teaching faunal analysis labs in an Archaeological Field Methods class can be difficult.

Faunal assemblages from archaeological sites are often small, fragile, and too valuable for class use. They require good comparative collections, and it may be difficult for students to relate to unfamiliar animals and cultures.

A faunal teaching assemblage can be produced from home meat consumption. For over 20 years I have composted all organics from my kitchen, and subsequently collected bone from my garden. A useful assemblage can be created in a much shorter time if the bones are prepared by maceration or dermestids instead of composting. With simple instructional materials, the students can recognize the bones, collect the data, and perform simple quantification like MNI and NISP. The assemblage is then interpretable in terms of preparation techniques, meat preferences, formation processes, socio-economic status, and so on. My classes always find it engaging to analyze their professor’s garbage and interpret his life from it.

Cite this Record

Teaching Bones from my Garden. John Whittaker. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404257)