Archive of HOPE stories

OBAH hosts introductory short course into Human Osteology

Isabele informing

Enjoyment and learning was had at the recent human osteology short course, held at Oxford Brookes University on 11 April 2014. The course was developed and taught by Dr Lauren McIntyre and Isabelle Heyerdahl-King, and supported by Dr Simon Underdown (Principal Lecturer in Biological Anthropology, Oxford Brookes University), Dr Hannah Russ (Consultant and Research Fellow, OBAH) and Nikki Lamb (PhD candidate, Oxford Brookes University).

The intensive one-day course was designed for anyone interested in acquiring a working knowledge of human skeletal anatomy, and for those working in associated fields who wish to broaden or refresh their knowledge. Both archaeological human remains and casts of human skeletal material were used to give participants an overview of human skeletal remains from an evolutionary perspective. The course covered the basics of anatomy and identification of individual bones. A summative identification quiz at the end of the day enabled participants to test their newly acquired knowledge!

Participants from across the UK travelled to Oxford to attend the course, which introduced human skeletal remains using lectures, discussion sessions and practical hands-on activities.

Based on the success of the day, and feedback from course participants a more intensive, 5-day course is now being planned for the summer.

‘Thank you so much for a great day, and for all the hard work by everyone that I know must have gone into making it such a success!’

‘Thanks so much for a very informative and interesting day’

‘Thanks – I very much enjoyed the day!’

‘I thoroughly enjoyed the course and I look forward to the 5-day one!’

‘We both had a wonderful day, we learnt so much and I was genuinely surprised how I could start from nothing and know so much by the end of the day!’

‘I really enjoyed the day – exactly what I was after!’

‘I was nicely surprised having scored 30 on the quiz – I learnt so much!’

The course was run by Oxford Brookes Archaeology and Heritage (OBAH) and the Department of Social Sciences at Oxford Brookes University.

Dr Wes Fraser publishes article on changes in spore chemistry and appearance with increasing maturity

816832681Dr Wes Fraser leads a team investigating the chemical changes and alteration in physical appearance of plant spores under increasing thermal maturity conditions. The article is now available in Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology as an unedited online-first proof format for rapid access.

Citation: Fraser et al. (2014) Rev. Pal. Pal. 201, 41-46.

Establishing a chronology for Late Holocene climate and environmental change from Mleiha, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

The aim of this research is to develop a detailed understanding of climate and landscape change during the mid- to late-Holocene period (5000 years ago until the present) from southeast Arabia.  To date no detailed climatic and environmental records exist from this region even though it is situated at the interface between two of the Earth’s most dynamic climate systems, namely the Indian Ocean Monsoon and the mid-latitude Westerlies.  Multi-proxy records of climate and landscape change will be constructed using chemical, physical and biological analyses of lake, fluvial and aeolian sediments from Mleiha, Sharjah, UAE.  From this a timeline framework of climate and environmental change will be pieced together against which the archaeology of the region can be set.

Zooarchaeological research at Rubayqa and Ruwaydah, northern Qatar

March 2013 saw me return to Al-Shamal, northern Qatar for a second season, continuing work on faunal remains recovered during excavation of two Islamic Period sites; Rubayqa and Ruwaydah. Directed by Dr. Andrew Petersen, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, excavations at Rubayqa and Ruwaydah have yielded substantial animal remains including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, marine molluscs, and crustaceans.

Rubayqa is a Late Islamic period settlement site located on the west side of the Ras Ushayriq peninsula in northern Qatar. Rescue excavations were carried out at this site prior to its expected destruction through the construction of the Bahrain-Qatar Friendship Causeway. The faunal assemblage contained a diverse range of mammalian fauna, including camel, horse, donkey, cattle, gazelle, sheep, goat, dog, cat, lagomorphs and rat. The bird assemblage was much less diverse, with the majority of remains representing cormorant (both great and Socotra appear to be present). The fish remains included taxa from fifteen families, including both cartilaginous and bony fish. The final report on the faunal remains from Rubayqa is currently being prepared for publication in a site monograph.

Ruwaydah is a much larger scale settlement, located on the north east coast of Qatar. Ruwaydah was occupied for a much longer period of time then Rubayqa, with evidence for occupation extending back into earlier the part of the Islamic period. (Petersen & Grey 2012). Excavations at Ruwaydah began in 2009 and are on-going. The excavation of midden deposits and a well in the 2013 season have yielded substantial faunal remains, dominated by fish remains. Although analysis of the faunal remains from Ruwaydah is not yet complete, it is already clear that it is quite different from that recovered from the excavations at Rubayqa, with comparatively fewer examples of wild animal use, and so far, an absence of horse, donkey and camel. The fish bone assemblage appears to be even more diverse than the one from Rubayqa. Remains of fishes from the families Teraponidae (Terapon sp. – various terapon species occurring in the region), Rachycentridae (Rachycentron canadum – cobia), Echeneidae (Echeneis naucrates – sharksucker), Gerreidae (Gerres sp. – silver-biddy), Pomacanthidae (Pomacantus maculosus – yellowbar angelfish) and Scombridae (including, Euthynnus affinis – little tuna/kawakawa, Thunnus sp. (most likely Thunnus tonggol – Longtail tuna, but possibly Thunnus albacores – Yellowfin tuna), and Scomberomorus sp. – narrowbarred Spanish/Indo-Pacific king mackerel) are all new additions.

A highlight of the 2013 season for me was the opportunity to go to Abu Dhabi and stay with Dr. Mark Beech to use his extensive library and impressive fish bone reference collection. Amongst other specimens, we managed to identify a caudal vertebra from a sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates), a mystery bone appearing in the Ruwaydah assemblage. Sharksuckers are certainly not targeted as a dietary resource, and potentially came to the site attached to a shark. Interestingly in some cultures shark suckers are collected and used to fish for sharks and other large fish (up to 10kg) by being tied to a line and allowed out to sea until they attach themselves to a larger fish then they are pulled back so that the larger fish can be retrieved (Hornell 1950).

Collaborators on this project: Andrew Petersen (University of Wales), Faisal Abdulla Al Naimi and Saif Alnuaimi (Qatar Museum Authority), Mark Beech (Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority), Jake Callaghan, Ifan Edwards, Paul Fingleton, Tom Jamison, Ciaran Lavelle, Jessica Tibber, Dee Williams, Lisa Yeomans, and Sheila Hamilton Dyer.

Dr Hannah Russ to present findings at 46th Seminar for Arabian Studies in London

7981117Dr Hannah Russ is due to present her research entitled Turtles as a dietary resource? Evidence from Rubayqa, northern Qatar, and a review of turtle exploitation in Eastern Arabia at the 46th Seminar for Arabian Studies, to be held at the British Museum, London, 26-28 July 2013.

Professor Adrian Parker awarded two research grants for work in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Professor Adrian Parker has been awarded two research grants to establish a chronology for late Holocene climate and environmental change in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Funding has been provided by the British Foundation for the study of Arabia, and the Emirates Natural History Group.