Zooarchaeology is the study of animal remains including shells, bones, hides, scales, DNA, chitin, and hair. Shells and bones are most frequently studied because these do not decay at a fast rate, but most remains do not survive because they break or decompose. In eastern areas of North America, Zooarchaeology developed over three periods. The first, known as the Formative period, occurred in the 1860s and was not a specific area of study at that time. The second period, known as the Systematization period, began in the 1950s and was the first time Zooarchaeology was considered a specific area of scientific study. The third period is known as the Integration period. This field was created, in part, because of the idea of processual archaeology, which places more emphasis on understanding why things occurred instead of what occurred.
Those who practice Zooarchaeology ask a number of questions, including if the animal was eaten and what types of food it was used for, and if the animal was used for other purposes. It can also be used to identify the environment in which the animal lived and can help conservations understand living species and how they may relate to their current or future environments. Zooarchaeologists use many methods including lab analysis, which can allow the animals to be compared with other specimens in order to be identified, and quantification, which calculates the number and size of bones. Zooarchaeology can be associated with many other fields including paleozoology and biology and it can address many themes including animal husbandry and food processing.
Image Caption: Egyptian mummy of a dog front and profile views. Credit: Unknown/Wikipedia