Photo overlooking the totem pole in the Pitt Rivers Museum


During the Final Honour School, students delve more deeply into the subject areas which have been introduced to them in the first year. They will also decide on which three options they would like to take from the following list of 30 subjects. One option is studied in the second year, two are studied in the third year.

Biological Techniques in Environmental Archaeology

The aim of the course is to investigate the various lines of non-molecular bioarchaeological evidence for the past environment and human interaction with it. Environmental archaeology is taken to include biological palaeoeconomic evidence (e.g., given by bones of domestic animals).  The course is based around lectures which consider particular lines of evidence, some of which are then demonstrated in practical classes.  Tutorials are used to develop themes which cut across or link the lines of evidence and to provide a theoretical basis for the subject.


For each category of material, the emphasis will be on the biological background, dispersal and incorporation of deposits, preservation, sampling, extraction and identification, presentation of data and interpretation.

  1. Introduction to environmental archaeology – the survival of evidence, ecosystems and past environment
  2. Pollen
  3. Waterlogged macroscopic plant remains
  4. Charred plant remains
  5. Insects
  6. Molluscs
  7. Mammal bones
  8. Bird and fish bones
  9. Minor lines of evidence (including diatoms, Foraminifera, ostracods, Cladocera, phytoliths, mineralized plant remains, etc.)
  10. Integrated studies

Practical classes

The first part of each class will be demonstration of remains from the biological group under consideration, the second part will be a small practical project. 

  1. Waterlogged macroscopic plant remains
  2. Charred plant remains
  3. Molluscs
  4. Insects
  5. Bones

Last update on 09/12/16 by Robyn Mason.

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