Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) from a Nineteenth Century Archaeological Site in New Jersey

There are no confirmed historic records of fox squirrel from New Jersey, although it is present in surrounding states. One subspecies, the Delmarva fox squirrel, was recently removed from the endangered species list after a concerted effort was made in Delaware and neighboring states to help it.

While fox squirrel bones are found in zooarchaeological assemblages in other states, there is, only prehistoric archaeological site in New Jersey where fox squirrel has been identified. In this article (with a 2012 date, but only recently published), the first  archaeological  record of fox squirrel bones from a nineteenth century archaeological  site in New Jersey is reported.

Sciurus niger maxilla

Virtual Passenger Pigeon Bones and Digital Zooarchaeology

Digital model of passenger pigeon humerus
Digital model of a passenger pigeon humerus createdfrom an archaeological site. Created by the Virtual Curation Laboratory, Virginia Commonwealth University.

On the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University has just posted the results of a project to create 3D models of passenger pigeon bones. Most of the source bones were excavated from an archaeological site in Virginia. Its a fantastic idea that will make easier for everyone, including scientists trying to identify passenger pigeon at archaeological and paleontological sites.

There are already hundreds of prehistoric sites where this bird has been identified, but it is surprisingly less common to have passenger pigeon identified from historic period archaeological sites.  One factor complicating their identification in historical sites is the challenge of distinguishing passenger pigeon from the similarly sized rock dove, or common pigeon (Columba livia), that  was introduced to North America in the 1600s.  Often when pigeon bones of a certain size are found in historic period sites, they are classified only as Columbidae, or pigeon. It would be nice to see the VCL also produce 3D models of the rock dove, so zooarchaeologists without access to a comprehensive faunal collection might be better able to distinguish these two species.

For more information, see the VCL website.