#2 Archaeological Research at CSU Chico: The Zooarchaeology Lab


Zooarchaeology graduate students Denise Furlong and
Anastasia Leigh examine a bobcat skeleton in the
Zooarchaeology Lab.
A collection of carnivore skulls await scholarly
consideration in the Lab.
(photos courtesy of Greg White)
Faculty and students alike benefit when the time-honored separation of schools, divisions, and departments is replaced by interdisciplinary approaches to training and problem-oriented research. "Zooarchaeology" is a perfect example, a subfield of archaeology that provides a melding between anthropology and the biological sciences centering around the identification and interpretation of animal remains from archaeological sites.

Archaeological sites, ranging from nineteenth century city blocks or Gold Rush camps to prehistoric Native American villages or hunting sites, often contain animal remains, usually in the form of fragmented pieces of bone or shell. The identification and analysis of these materials can help reconstruct past human-environment relationships, such as the economics of animal exploitation, the nature of past environments, or even some very specific kinds of paleoecological connections. Frank Bayham, (Ph.D. Arizona State University, 1982), joined the CSU, Chico Anthropology Department faculty in 1985, introducing an interdisciplinary approach to zooarchaeol-ogy that has developed through the years to become a major centerpiece of the archaeological studies program. Under Bayham's guidance, two major components have been developed: the Zooarchaeology Lab and the Zooarchaeology and Field Ecology Field School at Eagle Lake.

Starting with nothing but good intentions and a California Department of Fish and Game collection permit, the Zooarchae-ology Lab, located in Langdon Hall, has grown to house over 750 comparative specimens, featuring the prepared skeletons of mammals, birds, and fish typical of Northern California and the Western Great Basin, where most of Chico State's archaeological research takes place.

Bayham's doctoral work in Arizona involved the analysis of animal remains from sites used by "Archaic"(nonagricultural) peoples similar to the prehistoric adaptations found in Northern California. Arriving on the local archaeology scene, he also recognized a need in Northern California for greater sophistication in the understanding of animal remains from archaeological sites. Thus, his training and new position made him well-suited to fill this gap and at the same time build a program at CSU, Chico that could deliver these capabilities to the next generation of Northern California archaeologists. Begun in Bayham's first year on campus, the comparative collection has become the anchor of the program, used by students, staff, and faculty from Anthropology and other departments to identify and analyze specimens from both ancient and modern contexts. Bayham is justifiably proud of the heavy student involvement in the collection, preparation, and use of these materials, especially by those enrolled in the Anthropology Department's M.A. programs. Bayham also administers contracts with external parties seeking our unique zooarchaeological expertise. These contracts provide important training and income opportunities for graduate students.

This summer, Bayham celebrated the tenth anniversary of the CSU, Chico Zooarchaeology and Field Ecology Field School at Eagle Lake. The Eagle Lake activities are a joint effort of the Departments of Anthropology and Biology, and the course is taught jointly by Bayham, Raymond Bogiatto of the Department of Biology (director of the Eagle Lake Biological Field Station), and Antionette Martinez, a graduate of the Eagle Lake field program who is about to complete her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley.

The field school is offered through the Center for Regional and Continuing Education. It is attended by students with archaeological interests as well as those with a biological focus, and they come from academic programs throughout the U.S., taking advantage of the field school's vigorous interdisciplinary approach. The three-week course simultaneously introduces students to zooarchaeology, animal osteology, fragmentary bone identification, and animal ecology via an intensive program of lectures, laboratory exercises, and field visits to Eagle Lake habitats and major archaeological sites of Northeastern California and the Great Basin.

Bayham's goal for the future is to further the educational mission of the zooarchaeology program by continuing to build on the Zooarchaeology Lab, expanding interdisciplinary activities, and further assisting students to achieve competence in vertebrate identification and an appreciation of interpretive potential of zooarchaeologi-cal remains.

Greg White

Greg White is the Archaeology Laboratory supervisor, assistant director of the Archaeological Research Program, and a lecturer with the Department of Anthropology. For information about Archaeology Laboratory tours, please call Greg at 898-4360. Elementary and high school groups are welcome!


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