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Durham University

Colleges & wider student experience

Student news

Have you received your bone delivery?

(22 March 2021)

animal skull on a table

Our innovative archaeology team has been working hard these last few months, delivering packs of bones to students to facilitate temporary ‘living room labs’.

In a field where practical experience and being able to identify and analyse three-dimensional objects is crucial, the osteoarchaeology module requires a hands-on approach to equip aspiring archaeologists with the skills they need.

The beginning of January saw our Archaeology staff send their custom ‘bone packs’ to students, allowing them to supplement online 2D materials in ample time for their first ‘practical’ sessions.

Sheep teeth and chocolate bars

The bone packs for the zooarchaeological component contained four chocolate bars to demonstrate bone structure and textures, coupled with a sample of bird, fish and mammal bone to keep.

The packs came with a collection of archaeological animal bone, kindly donated by our Archaeological Services team, to study during the module, alongside laminated images of sheep teeth at different ages at death.

Plastic human half-skeletons were also utilised to improve the students understanding of anatomy.

Unexpected benefits

The bone packs allowed our Archaeology Department to teach something extremely tactile and 3D, which had real benefits to the students’ learning experience.

Student feedback has been positive, with one student in particular noting that having the bones to handle had really helped her, and that she couldn't imagine taking the module without the pack.

An unexpected bonus to the approach was the fact that students were no longer restricted by access to materials during scheduled lab sessions. They were able to study the plastic human half-skeleton and animal bones in greater depth at any time they chose.

As a result, they have become more observant and better aware of the subtle differences in shape and texture of the different bones across the course of the module, setting them up in good stead for their archaeological careers.


Find out more

The Department of Archaeology is a leading centre for the study of archaeology and one of the top departments in the world.