Faunal Analysis

Faunal analysis identifies the kinds of animal remains (bones, shells, antler) found at a site. From this information, archaeologists can tell the environment around the site, what the people ate, and where and sometimes how they obtained their food.

From the kinds of animals found, and sometimes from the age or size of the animals, they can decide during what seasons a site was occupied. For example, by looking at the pattern of tooth eruption in young deer, archaeologists can tell during what season a deer was killed. Deer are usually born in April. If a deer has the tooth eruption sequence typical of a 7-8 month old animal, then it was killed sometime around October or November.

The sizes of fish bones provide an indication of the size and age of the fish and can suggest what methods might have been used for taking the fish, such as netting, spearing, or using fishhooks.

Fish of this size could have been caught in nets.
Bones of different sizes of modern black bullhead catfish are shown on left. The archaeological specimens can be compared to the modern specimens and the size and age of the fish determined. A 25 gm fish (third from bottom) would be about 4 inches long, similar to the fish seen on the right.

Sometimes animal remains can be used as tools. Antlers were used in flintknapping for making stone tools, and the tines were made into projectile points. Shells were used for spoons and probably for other decorative purposes. Bones were made into pendants, ornaments, and perhaps basket handles.

This strip of antler was polished and bent into shape, perhaps as a strap, armband, or ornament. There are holes drilled in each end
During the Oneota period, antler tines were removed and hollowed to fit onto an arrow shaft
These pieces of antler were being used by the Oneota as raw material for tools. The piece on top has had the tips of the tines removed to make into arrowpoints. The bottom piece has several long grooves carved into the antler, isolating a segment that would have been snapped out and made into an ornament or tool.