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

Worked Bone Archaeology Book Published

The Worked Bone Research Group, part of the International Council for Archaeozoology (ICAZ) has just published the proceedings from the 10th Meeting of the WBRG, held in Belgrade in 2014. The book contains over 40 articles on worked bone from both prehistoric and historical archaeological sites. 

The book, Close to the Bone, is edited by Selena Vitezovic and can be downloaded for free at the WBRG site

Unalaska Animal Bones May Get Dumped

Well, this could turn out badly. Hopefully the zooarchaeologist is using hyperbole to encourage Fish and Wildlife to figure out their own rules.

 

If a “huge” load of scientifically valuable prehistoric animal bones aren’t returned soon to the Museum of the Aleutians, they may end up in the trash in Canada, according to a frustrated scientist in Victoria, British Columbia, who is encountering tax problems while trying to avoid international legal difficulties.

It turns out that the $6,000 set aside for shipping three shrink-wrapped pallets of nearly a half million bones back to Unalaska is causing  financial headaches for the private research firm, Pacific Identifications, according to zoologist and treasurer Susan Crockford.

“We had to pay taxes on these funds to carry them forward to this year. We are unwilling to pay taxes on these funds for yet another year,” Crockford said in an email to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It means that if we cannot get the import permit required to ship the material by August of this year at the latest, we face having to do something unconscionable to professional archaeologists and research scientists: send all 57 boxes to the dump.”

Most likely, no federal permits are needed, according to Andrea Medeiros, a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman in Anchorage, since the bones came from Native corporation land, and not federal property, under the terms of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. However, Fish and Wildlife Service officials were still reviewing the requirements of international treaties involving endangered species and migratory birds.

Read the rest at Alaska Dispatch News

3D Printing of Passenger Pigeon “Artifictions”

Just published and open access is a new article that demonstrates the value and potential of 3D scanning and printing for osteological identification of passenger pigeons and other extinct or rare animals.

Some zooarchaeologists have been producing 3D images of animal bones for a while now. This article describes the next step, the creation of actual physical replicas (which they dub “artifictions”, as opposed to artifacts) using 3D printers. The practical goal is to increase the reliable identification of animal species (especially rare or difficult to distinguish ones)  in archaeological faunal assemblages, which now is dependent on the zooarchaeologist having ready access to a large and varied collection of actual animal skeletons.   Why aren’t digital representations of bones enough?

because the scale of digital models is based on the size of the screen upon which they are viewed, making identifications by direct comparison difficult. Artifictions, however, can be scaled accurately and physically placed alongside actual skeletal elements to enable more direct visual comparison and identifica-tion of specimens, comparable to the use of a reference specimen from a comparative skeletal collection. Additionally, the 3D scanned models can be used for species identification based on selected point-to-point morphometric measurements. (p. 16)

For examples, the authors use the passenger pigeon and the harelip sucker, a freshwater fish that, like the passenger pigeon, went extinct near the beginning of the twentieth century.

While there are still some technical (and budgetary) limitations with the 3D printing process, they argue convincingly that “this is the only non-commercial approach that will make available physical representations of skeletal elements from extinct species for quick distribution to a large number of researchers.” (p. 19) Efforts are underway to make these models available for download. Next, somebody needs to buy me a 3D printer.

Reference:

Manzano, Bruce L., Bernard K. Means, Christopher T. Begley, and Mariana Zechini

2015    Using Digital 3D Scanning to Create “Artifictions” of the Passenger Pigeon and Harelip Sucker, Two Extinct Species in Eastern North America: The Future Examines the Past. Ethnobiology Letters 6(2):15-24.

Nominate a Female Zooarchaeologist for the Dienje Kenyon Memorial Fellowship

Open to female zooarchaeologists currently enrolled in graduate school, the Dienje Kenyon Memorial Fellowship includes a $1,000 award and a plaque. Nominations for the award are due December 15, 2015.

The official description:

In honor of the late Dienje M. E. Kenyon, a fellowship is offered to support a female archaeologist in the early stages of graduate zooarchaeology training, Kenyon’s specialty. An award of $1,000 will be made. To qualify for the award, applicants must be enrolled an M.A. or Ph.D. degree program focusing on archaeology. Strong preference will be given to applicants in the early stage of research project development and/or data collection, under the mentorship of a zooarchaeologist.

Any submission for the Dienje Kenyon Fellowship is required to have 1) a 1500 word statement of proposed zooarchaeology research towards which the award would be applied, 2) a curriculum vita that clearly indicated when graduate studies began. These materials should be sent as an email attachment (Microsoft Word format) to the committee chair. Additional materials are described below.

For more information:

Dienje Kenyon Memorial Fellowship

New Open Access Iowa Zooarchaeology Article

Just published in the new STAR: Science and Technology of Archaeological Research:

‘Brewster site zooarchaeology reinterpreted: understanding levels of animal exploitation and bone fat production at the Initial Middle Missouri type site’

By Landon P. Karr

Download at Maney Online http://www.maneyonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/2054892315Y.0000000003

Abstract:

The Brewster site is a Native American village in Northwest Iowa that was likely occupied between AD 1100 and AD 1200. The villagers at the Brewster site hunted large mammals from the landscape surrounding their village, and practiced some of the earliest agriculture in the region. As a result, large numbers of bison bones are preserved archaeologically at the site. ~140 kg of bone, excavated in 1970, has been analyzed and reported in this article. When fractured and fragmented bones are found in the archaeological record, they are often associated with the exploitation of bone marrow and bone grease, two highly nutritious substances. This article reports on the relative importance of the bones and bone fragments at the Brewster site with regard to their use and utility as sources of bone fats. While there is some evidence to suggest that the bones were intentionally fractured and fragmented, the evidence suggests that the Brewster villagers frequently ignored the dietary potential of bone fats.
Data availability The authors confirm that all data underlying the findings are fully available without restriction. All relevant data are contained within the paper.

Back to the Bones

It’s been a while since we’ve written anything about the actual archaeology of the Lamoka Lake site, but that’s about to change. I’m starting the identification of a large assemblage of animal bones from the site that hasn’t been studied before. The first step is to get out the bone binders with photocopied and hand-drawn reference material. These are in need of some new binders.

Zooarchaeology Binders

The bone identification guides are also getting pulled out of the bookshelves. Yes, I know there are some duplicates.

Zooarchaeology Identification Guides