Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 2623–2636 | Cite as

Testing the effectiveness of osteometrics in the identification of North American gallinaceous bird post-cranial elements

  • Jessica E. WatsonEmail author
  • Sarah Heins Ledogar
Original Paper


Galliformes, or game birds, are an order of birds commonly utilized by people and are regularly found in zooarchaeological assemblages. Morphological and size similarities make many galliforms difficult to distinguish from each other, thereby prohibiting specific identification of these taxa. Non-identified bones lead to a decrease in information available about archeological sites, particularly for bird species which provide a wealth of information about the economy and environment of historic and prehistoric sites. In this paper, we test the effectiveness of osteometrics in nine North American gallinaceous species to assess their utility for identifying post-cranial skeletal elements to genus or species. Statistical analysis of measurements successfully separated several Phasianidae subfamilies and identified the largest (turkey) and smallest (quail) species. Measurements driving variation between taxa were primarily long bone length and epiphyseal breadth. Few elements showed statistically significant differences within Tetraoninae and Phasianinae clades. We suggest that zooarchaeologists adopt long bone metrics as a standard, complementary technique to traditional morphological identifications for unknown galliforms.


Avifauna Zooarchaeology Osteometry Galliformes Phasianids 



We owe many thanks to all the institutions and ornithologists who gave us permission to measure their collections, including Lydia Garetano and Paul Sweet (American Museum of Natural History), Jeremy Kirchman (New York State Museum), and Christina Gebhard and Christopher Milensky (Smithsonian National Museum of National History). Helpful comments by Kris Bovy and one anonymous reviewer improved the final version of the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was supported by the NY State Museum Dissertation Research Fellowships and a University at Albany Dissertation Research Fellowship Award (Watson).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity at AlbanyAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.New York State MuseumAlbanyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Archaeology and PalaeoanthropologyUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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