|Applied Osteology Home||Applied Osteology: Research
I can prepare a wide range of research products to suit the needs of your project. Starting with the basics, I take a conservative approach to identifying skeletal remains obtained from most contexts. I would much rather err on the side of caution and call something "unidentified" than to risk pushing an identification too far. The exception to this rule-of-thumb is when I am dealing with possible human remains in the field: if I cannot rule out any other species in the field, I will take the time to consult reference skeletal material to make a positive identification [see my comments on the analysis of human remains].
Identification: As I mentioned above, identification is the first step in any analysis of skeletal remains. While many people often equate "identification" with "species-level identification," the two don't correspond perfectly. I will make every effort to arrive at a species-level identification. However, in many cases this is not possible. Does everything else simply get categorized as "unidentified"? No. In fact, a wide range of analyses can be performed on bones identified to various levels of taxonomic specificity--even something so seemingly vague as "unidentified fish" vs. "unidentified mammal."
Enumeration: This just refers to how you want to count how many bones are in your sample. Most of the research questions I am interested in addressing can be answered with relative abundance data. Consequently, I almost always rely on the Number of Identified Specimens, or NISP, for my enumerations. Different enumeration methods can be utilized depending on your specific research question.
Age estimates: This includes approximate categories like "juvenile" or "adult" based on degree of skeletal development, as well as high-resolution age estimates from growth curves or sectioned teeth.
Harvest profiles: If your sample sizes are large enough, it might be worthwhile to estimate the harvest profile or age structure of a particular species from your sample.
Stable isotopes: Isotopic analysis of bones is most generally used to gain a general understanding of the dietary habits of the species represented in your sample. However, more detailed analyses designed to understand migratory behavior or specialized foraging strategies can also be designed to suit your needs.
Ancient DNA: Whether you are interested in evaluating the genetic diversity of your sample or if you're only interested in obtaining a species-level identification for a particular bone, I will match your samples with a suitable ancient DNA lab to get the answers your research requires.