Introducing #ClassicalZooarchaeology
This is my 1st thread highlighting how animal bones can answer important questions in the ancient Mediterranean
#Zooarchaeology is often thought of as a niche study, but it relates to traditional forms of evidence
#scicomm #humanities
When we think of #Classics, ancient texts are often prioritized. Animals were an important topic for ancient authors
For example, according to the TLG the lemma hippos (horse) is the 13th most common term in Homer’s Iliad (417 mentions). Horses were important to epic warfare
It’s no surprise that animals – especially plow oxen – are important to Hesiod’s agricultural poem Works and Days
But texts don’t tell the whole picture about #AncientAnimals
Pigs are only mentioned once in Hesiod: boars should be castrated on the 8th day of the month (WD 790)
Dogs are frequently mentioned in texts and depicted in iconography as pets or hunting dogs, but I know of no references that mention eating dogs
Yet, every major faunal assemblage I’ve studied has at least one example of a butchered dog
The butchered jawbone here is from Crete
From hunting and battle scenes to stand alone paintings or figurines of domestic and exotic animals, animals are commonly displayed in ancient art too
We should not read these as photographs depicting the literal past
After all, #BlueMonkeys and mythical species are not real!
The iconography of animals or animal products is usually conventional, with details frequently depicted in shorthand or rapidly. The images below are not strips of meat
Notice the hooves, identifying them as legs?
Their floppy nature might make them deboned thighs
#AncientSacrifice involves the burning of animals, their body parts, or their bones
Most texts specify the burning of fat-wrapped thigh bones, but most images depict a curling tail on an altar
The curl is a sign of good luck
Experiments show the tail (almost) always curls…
Yet as G. Ekroth & others have noted, the bones show more complexity within #AncientSacrifice
Thighs & tails are commonly burned but so are other elements From heads or horns to lower legs to jawbones and forelimbs
Different sites at different times show different patterns
Animal bones and horn were also an important raw material, fashioned into ornaments and implements
Not only do we find finished products but also workshop refuse, adding to our understanding of ancient crafts
#Boneworking is similar to woodworking but bone survives more often
Animals were sometimes buried in cemeteries. These individuals provide a level of detail that most zooarchaeological assemblages do not. Most of the bones I see are a mixed jumble of broken up trash
Example: the recently discovered horse burials from the cemetery at Phaleron
Most animal remains we find are refuse from meals and feasts. Alongside dirt and coarseware pottery, animal bones are one of the most common finds in the ancient world
They aren’t pretty, but are really interesting
They tell a lot about food and even trash disposal
We need a large assemblage of bones to say something interesting about animal husbandry or butchery or feasting Very few broken specimens display a cutmark or a slaughtering age But those more specific details are what lead us to important conclusions
All bones and no play...
Stay tuned for more #ClassicalZooarchaeology
I’ll delve deeper into many topics, including my research & Postdoc project on zooarch of #Azoria at the #WienerLab of @ASCSAthens
If you have questions, ask!
And please share!
#scicomm #humanities #ClassicsTwitter #ZooarchTwitter
/1 Goat skulls from the #WienerLab @ASCSAthens
/2 Iliad word cloud from the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae
/3 Pigs from a French sanglier farm
/4 For more on butchered dog see L Snyder & W Klippel “From Lerna to Kastro: Further Thoughts on Dogs as Food in Ancient Greece”
/5 Blue monkey fresco from Akrotiri, Thira Museum
/6 Deboned hindlimbs from V. Tsoukala “Honorary Shares of Sacrificial Meat in Attic Vase Painting” @ascsapubs
/7 Curling tail from G. Ekroth “Thighs or Tails? The Osteological Evidence as a Source for Greek Ritual Norms”
Refs (cont)
/8 Burned & articulating goat ankle
/9 Worked bone ornament & refuse
/10 For more on Phaleron cemetery see
/11 Lots o’ bones in this bag
/12 Cleaver chopped shoulder and hip joints
*All unattributed photos by Joni Martini (my wife) or me
I should have tagged @victsoukala in these images (citation to her Hesperia article is in references to this thread)

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More from @FlintDibble

Oct 1, 2018
This #archaeology thread describes the “Agora Bone Well” published today by Maria Liston, Susan Rotroff & Lynn Snyder

Over 460 humans (mostly infants) & 150 dogs were thrown in the well. They tell a heartbreakingly vivid tale of all-too-ordinary life & death in ancient Athens
The well was excavated 80 yrs ago by Dorothy Burr Thompson and was located downtown in Hellenistic Athens. After the building on this plot of land was abandoned, the well became a convenient dumping spot

The bones & artifacts were thrown in the well between 175-150 BC
The well was cut thru bedrock & lined w/ clay tiles. Thompson wrote that bones first started appearing 13 meters down (42 feet). Skulls & bones became so common that at one point she simply wrote “more vile bones of dogs, etc.” Digging bones in a deep well wasn’t an easy job!
Read 33 tweets
Aug 23, 2018
A few thoughts about this Humanities article making the rounds

1) if declining humanities enrollments are due to misperception of low value, then WE need to do better job selling ourselves... #humcomm needs to be the new #scicomm…
2) Humanities (and social sciences) departments need to reward public engagement that highlights the value and relevancy of our disciplines to modern society. We need to highlight to everyone what they can learn from our rigorous methods and nuanced approaches into humanity
3) Humanities departments need to adapt. The article points out that newer, identity related fields have been successful during this crisis (ethnic, gender, and cultural studies). These are still minor components of most traditional humanities departments' course offerings
Read 5 tweets
Aug 22, 2018
This #ClassicalZooarchaeology thread is about ancient Greek sacrificial feasting. I want to focus on what the animal bones can add to our understanding of this important topic. While there are several good overviews of sacrifice in texts & art, bones offer new perspectives
Sacrificial ritual was associated with Greek polytheism, which was extremely diverse & constantly changing. So, sacrificial ritual was pretty diverse across time and space

If you want an intro to Greek polytheism, you can also check out the thread below
Instead of going into exceptional sacrifices (next month, I’ll do a thread on dog sacrifice when @ASCSAPubs publishes the Agora Bone Well), this thread focuses on the canonical bones burned for the gods. The advantage w/ this focus is it’s easy to combine texts, art, and bones
Read 24 tweets
Jul 26, 2018
This thread is about archaeological artifacts and how we think about them. Heck the first step is to even figure out what to name them. I’m gonna pull out two examples: Athenian ceramic vessels and Paleolithic stone tools to think about “what’s in a name?”
Archaeologists have to deal with all kinds of artifacts. Usually they’re even just fragments of an artifact.

To be honest, a lot of times we can’t really identify these artifacts or how they were used. But, we’ve gotta call them something
Sometimes it seems easy. Take a look at the ceramic objects in the image below. What would you call these objects? And unless you’re already familiar with Greek ceramics, I bet there’s one that you aren’t sure what to call it.
Read 24 tweets
Jul 2, 2018
@sportzak OK time for a Greek religion 101 thread! B/c it's complicated

Greek religion was polytheistic. And in practice it included a far wider range of deities than our popular imagination would suggest

Probably no two Greeks followed the exact same cults
@sportzak Let’s tackle the traditional Greek deities first. In practice, it’s better to think of them as cult figures than deities.

There were many Athenas! And even many Poseidons, Zeuses, Heras, and more.
@sportzak The Athena in the Odyssey was a literary/mythical figure

She is not Athena Parthenos (the virgin), worshiped at the Parthenon, who was different from that of Athena Nike (victory), both in Athens, who different from Athena Alea who was worshiped in Arcadia (temple at Tegea)
Read 16 tweets
Apr 17, 2018
A #ClassicalZooarchaeology flamingo thread (in 20 tweets)

Over lunch I checked out depictions of dancing flamingos from 5000+ yrs ago. h/t @ArchaicAnimals for drawing my attention to the super-cool image below

The research-hole didn’t take me where I thought it would…
If you google around, these rows of dancing flamingos are depicted on vessels from Upper (southern) Egypt. They come from the cultural group labeled Naqada from predynastic Egypt, before the country was unified under a Pharaoh (we’re talking approx 4000-3000 BC)
The research was made easy because the @metmuseum has many beautiful Naqada artifacts available online

Of course, I’m gonna show you all the best ones, like this vessel with feet or this figurine made of hippo-tusk ivory
Read 25 tweets

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