Specialist Services

Osteoarchaeology

Context One provides a range of osteoarchaeological specialist services. We are experienced in excavation and analysis of both human remains and animal bone.

Human Remains

Our team of human osteologists are fully qualified and have extensive experience both in the field and in the laboratory. This means that Context One is well placed both to efficiently excavate and record human remains on site, as well as carrying out analysis and reporting. We understand that human remains are a very special class of archaeological evidence, and their appropriate treatment is cause of concern for the public. We endeavour to carry out all our work on human remains in an ethical and sensitive manner.

What can we learn?

The remains of people themselves are the most direct way archaeologists have to understand how people lived their lives in the past. We can look at how a local population was made up, including the age groups and sexes represented in a given place or burial ground. We can also understand the state of health and nutrition of people, what diseases they suffered from, and what accidents befell them.

Depending on the type and date of the site this might include the sort of formal burials which we are all familiar with in a graveyard – inhumations – through less formal burial, which often occurs on prehistoric sites, as well as deposits of cremated human remains.

How do we do it?

Most of the information we collect about human remains is done by a careful visual – macroscopic – examination of the skeleton or cremated bone. Depending on the condition of the bone and the parts of the body preserved, this can enable us to determine the likely sex and age of a person, any inherited traits, and their state of health. We have plenty of experience of dealing with single skeletons, small groups as well as entire cemeteries. When we have larger numbers remains, we are able to look at how the structure of the population of the site  – demography – changed over time or related to the type of site. We can arrange for further specialist work to look at other aspects where necessary.

Our work
Our analysis follows the standards and guidance set out by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteology (BABAO) and Historic England (HE).

We offer a flexible service to meet all your requirements which might range from a brief assessment through to full analysis. Our skeletal analysis and report writing takes place at our offices in South Somerset, where assemblages are carefully monitored and stored.

Reports
Our osteological reports cover clearly the methods used, condition and completeness of skeletons, demographic information and analysis, and description of both dental and skeletal pathological conditions and discussion of the health of the population, before discussing the site as a whole in its context. Our reports always include the primary recording sheets as an appendix, and where applicable photographs of interesting pathologies or traits. The results can also be illustrated on detailed burial site plans produced by our experienced in-house illustrator, as required. Examples of our osteological reports are available on request.

 

Animal bones

Our highly experienced zooarchaeologist can carry out recording and analysis of animal bone assemblages of all sizes and dates. We can advise on the right level of analysis and reporting for the assemblage and site, having had experience of material from the Early Neolithic through to the 19th century, rural and urban sites, including wild and domestic mammals, small vertebrates, birds, and fish remains.

What animal bones can tell us

Animal bones from archaeological sites don’t just tell us about what people were eating and how they cooked meat, but can enable us to consider whether people relied on hunting or husbandry of livestock, how they organised farming animals, the relationship between sites, as well as the roles of pets and animals involved in ritual and religion.

How do we do it?

Careful visual examination of animal bone provides information on the species, part of the body, processes which have affected the bone (for example burning or weathering), butchery and deliberate breaking, age and sex of animals and pathological conditions which can inform us about how they were kept and cared for. Information is recorded into a relational database so that it is available for future reinterpretation.

We can provide advice at the planning stage for projects where faunal remains are expected, and undertake both assessments and full recording and reporting.

Reports

Faunal remains reports cover clearly the methods used, condition of the bone and taphonomic information, as well as description and discussion of species abundance, age profiles, butchery and pathology in terms of the phasing and/or spatial arrangement of the site. Our reports always include tabulated data to support the text, and where applicable photographs of interesting examples of species, modification or pathologies. The results can also be illustrated on site plans produced by our experienced in-house illustrator, as required. Examples of our animal bone reports are available on request.

 

Our service to you
We appreciate the importance of deadlines and will always strive to complete our analysis within the pre-arranged date, as well as providing you with regular updates as to the progress of your report.

We are also pleased to offer a flexible arrangement for the collection and/or delivery of your material anywhere within mainland UK.

All reports will be issued electronically as standard. As part of a premium service, reports can also be presented as bound and full colour hard copies. We can also tailor our reports to meet your chosen formatting styles in order to unify our report within your master document.

Interested?
If this is something we can help you with, then please contact us