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Laboratory of Archaeozoology

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Ark 1The Laboratory of Archaeozoology at Zinman Institute of Archaeology studies animal bone remains from a wide range of prehistoric and historic sites from Israel. The study of animal bones from archaeological sites serves to enhance the understanding of past environment and human life-ways and whether our ancestors relied on the hunting of wild game or on domesticated animals. Bone remains also represent the local environment around a site and contribute to our knowledge of the fauna of a particular era and our understanding of climatic and ecological changes through time.
Bone remains also represent the local environment and contribute to our knowledge about the fauna of thatcover picture for JT copy1 era and our understanding of climatic and ecological changes through time.
Archaeological assemblages of animal remains commonly contain numerous bone fragments and isolated teeth - the result either from cooking and bone processing activities or from natural disintegration processes, all of which leave typical signatures on bones.
The analysis of these signatures serves as a powerful tool for assessing the impact of both natural and cultural factors on the formation of bone assemblages in archaeological sites. Additional information retrieved from animal bone modifications include butchering mark patterning, disease presence, age at death estimates, and animal body-size ranges. Interpretations of archaeozoological data contribute significantly to the advance of archaeological, zoological, and ecological research in Israel.

Reference collection
Skulls in cupboardThe Reference Collection at the Department of Archaeology, University of Haifa. The collection maintains an expanding sample of vertebrate specimens including mammal, bird, ZooLab 1reptile, and amphibian species from Israel. Domestic species are well represented and include a variety of specimens of both sexes and different ages. We already hold more than 150 specimens, including articulated skeletons of different animals. The reference collection is used for archaeological and zoological research and aims to serve a wide array of educational purposes for broad audiences. Among this we are currently preparing an exhibition of the large mammals of Israel to Stekelis Museum of Prehistory, Haifa.




The lab is currently involved in the following projects:

  • The Negev (Southern Levant) Desert Kites: A multi-Disciplinary study of past large-scale game traps
'Desert kites' are ancient large triangular-shaped structures built of two long diagonal stone walls with a circular apex. First discovered in the Middle East in the early 20th century, their date and function remain controversial. Many scholars claim that kites served mainly as large-scale game traps. This hypothesis is supported by early travel accounts and ethnographic parallels. Others suggest that kites were intended to corral herds of semi-domesticated or livestock animals. Kites were used, probably continuously, ZooLab 3from the Neolithic period until the 19th century.

Several of the surviving large Syrian and Jordanian desert kites have been studied, but not much is known about the small Negev kites and what function they served. A recent reconnaissance survey pointed up at least a dozen small kites in the Negev, all poorly documented. The "Negev Desert Kites" project is a multi-disciplinary endeavor that seeks to shed new light on past human adaptations to arid conditions while focusing on large-scale hunting and trapping techniques. Our aim is to meticulously survey and document all the Negev kites in their topographical and geological landscape settings, using advanced 3-D models. Similarly, we will excavate three apices of the best-preserved kites, where evidence of their past function is expected to be found. Combining the results of fieldwork, microscopic analyses, radiometric dating and 3-D modeling, we expect to reconstruct past lifeways in a harsh environment where survival depended on resources that were scarce, unstable and unpredictable.

  • The Archaeozoological digitized database of Israel The project aims to establish a full archaeozoological digitized database of the southern LeZooLab 4vant (Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jordan) in GIS format. This database enables to track faunal changes through time and space and highlight domestic and wild faunal turnovers.
  • Exploitation and hunting patterns of mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) and Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) during the Late Pleistocene - Early Holocene of the southern Levant: The research is a collaborative effort with Tamar Dayan from Tel-Aviv University and Natalie Munro from the Gazelle skeleton University of Connecticut. The project uses refined methods of age and sex determination, new taphonomic studies, high-resolution morphometric analyses of body-size changes, and demographic information from numerous prehistoric sites to improve the understanding of human hunting practices in the southern Levant. The goal of the research is to carry out a comprehensive study of the evolution of ungulate hunting strategies and herd control in the zooarchaeological sequence of Israel. The significance of this research lies in its scope which will enable us to consider many aspects of the relationships between past human hunters and their prey, such as hunting strategies, hunting pressure and intensity, and seasonal selection. This will help to resolve open questions about the evolution of human hunting and incipient cultural control and may be fundamental for our understanding of ancient human hunting behaviors and the origins of animal domestication.

The Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 199 Aba-Hushi Avenue, Haifa, Israel 3498838
Tel: +972-4-8249392 | Fax: +972-4-8249876 | E-mail: arch@research.haifa.ac.il | Department of Archaeology
Web site designed by: Eden Orion and Shani Zylberman, Computing and System Information Division

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