Author: Ariel Taivalkoski, MA, Zooarchaeology Lab Manager
*This avifauna analysis project is supported by the NSF Polar Programs award “Archaeological and Paleoenvironmental Perspectives of Climate Change in the Aleutian Islands” (PLR-1522972: C. West PI, C. Funk UB subaward PI)*
Our reference skeletons have arrived from the Smithsonian Institution. We spent the past couple of weeks rearranging the lab in preparation for our family level analysis, developing the family analysis procedure, and finishing pulling all the elements we will be analyzing from the archaeological assemblage.
We have two archaeological sites that are being analyzed. There were ~55,000 bird bones found at these two sites. Since it would takes us YEARS to analyze this many bones to the lowest taxonomic level, even with the great team we have, we selected the most diagnostic elements to analyze. We determined that the humerus (arm bone), coracoid (what would be a human collar bone), tarsometatarsus (what would be a human ankle bone) and the skull would be the elements easiest to take to the species level. This narrowed our elements that need to be identified to a total of 14,660.
Now the real fun begins. We will be using the reference skeletons from the Smithsonian to identify the archaeological bones to the family level, if possible. After the family level analysis is complete, Dr. Funk and I will be traveling to the Smithsonian with the archaeological specimens. We will use the extensive Smithsonian collections to identify the bones to the species level. Since the bones will already be identified to family, the species level analysis will be easier and quicker.