Archaeology and Ancient History

Bone laboratory

bone lab

The bone laboratory is dedicated to the study of animal bones from archaeological sites (zooarchaeology or archaeozoology) and the analysis of human skeletal material. Our facilities consist of a recently-refurbished laboratory, with a continually improving teaching collection and a research reference collection containing over 760 specimens.

Zooarchaeology and human osteology at the University of Leicester are taught as part of our campus-based and distance learning undergraduate programmes. We also have a strong research community that includes academic staff, post-doctoral researchers and postgraduate researchers, and many students undertaking undergraduate dissertations. In addition to formal teaching, we encourage our students to undertake voluntary work within the laboratory.

Our close links with University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) are reflected in the laboratory. Zooarchaeological analyses as part of developer-funded projects are frequently undertaken using our reference collection and facilities.

Animal bone collections

There are two collections of bones in the bone laboratory:

  • A reference collection of complete skeletons based on modern specimens (identified prior to preparation)
  • An index collection for birds and mammals

The reference collection was started in 1982 by Tony Gouldwell as a research and teaching tool for the study of animal bones from archaeological sites, drawing on a few specimens that had previously been collected by Dr Jan Bay-Peterson. Since 2003 the collection has been developed further by Prof. Richard Thomas. The number of specimens is currently in excess of 760 and we are adding new specimens all the time. Systematic groups represented include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, mostly from Britain and Europe, with a small number of exotics.

You can find information about our holdings by browsing our skeletal inventory (Excel file, 145kb). In addition to information repeated in the specimen labels, notes on acquisition, preparation and distinctive observations relating to the age, sex, size, etc. of the original animal are made where appropriate. If you are interested in exchanging specimens with our laboratory or wish to work with our collection, please get in touch.


Through the animal bone laboratory at the University of Leicester, we offer high-quality consultancy services that are delivered through the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS):

  • Animal bone consultancy service
  • Human osteology consultancy service

Please get in touch with ULAS if you would like to find out more.

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