Zooarchaeology Method and Practice in Classical Archaeology: Interdisciplinary Pathways Forward



The discipline of classical archaeology provides a fertile environment for the application of a diverse array of methodological and practical tactics from zooarchaeology. Moreover, this dynamic is reciprocal, with contributions from zooarchaeology variously affecting the questions asked and trajectories pursued within classical archaeology. This paper reviews the relationship between these two fields and how contributions garnered from developments in zooarchaeological method and practice are reshaping and refining our knowledge of how animals factored in the world of antiquity. Attention focuses on several key issues: (1) zooarchaeological input to the complicated debate centering upon “sacred” and “secular” reasons behind why meat was consumed in Greek antiquity, with particular focus upon the value of enhanced recovery techniques and greater taphonomic understanding; (2) the interrelationships of ancient textual, iconographic, and zooarchaeological sets of information to our knowledge of livestock “breed” diversity in antiquity; and (3) advancements in zooarchaeological method and practice, including isotopic research, that are refashioning the questions asked and directions pursued in classical archaeology as a whole. Examples are drawn from various sites within the ancient Greek and Roman Mediterranean context to explore themes.


Greco-Roman archaeology Ancient texts Iconography Ritual, diet Livestock Methodology 


Glossary of Works of Classical Authors Referenced in the Text (Following Oxford Classical Dictionary)

Ael., NA.

Aelian, De natura animalium.

Cassiod., Var.

Cassiodorus, Variae.


Columella, De re rustica.


Juvenal, Satires.


Palladius, Opus agriculturae.

Petron., Sat.

Petronius, Satyricon.

Plin., NH.

Pliny (the Elder), Naturalis historia.

Strabo, Geog.

Strabo, Geographica.

Varro, Rust.

Varro, De re rustica.

Verg., G.

Virgil, Georgics.

Acknowledgments I wish to thank the reviewers and editors of this chapter for their insightful comments and critical eye. All errors are solely my own. Funding for my research into the world of animals in antiquity has been variously provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (number 410-2006-0102), The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and The University of Winnipeg.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ClassicsUniversity of WinnipegWinnipegCanada

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