Animals and Archaeology

Modern archaeology uses the precision tools of the chemical industry to analyse the tiniest fragments of teeth, bone and organic residues down to the single molecule and atom. Analysis of animal bones, teeth and residues from cooking fish and meat is revealing surprising things about our past.

By the time you have completed this resource you should understand all the diagrams on this page and their significance in revealing aspects of life thousands of years ago.

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Isotope detectives

A fascinating context to illustrate an archaeological application of isotope data (including real research data).

Curriculum link: Atomic structure (isotopes)
Curriculum link (working scientifically): Interpretation of real research data
Uses: Lesson inspiration
Age: Physics 14 to 16



1. Spot the archaeologist!

2. What can animals tell us about humans?

3. Evidence from bones and teeth

4. Isotope detectives

5. Carbon 13 - the fishy isotope

6. Nitrogen 15 - you are what you eat

7. Greasy pots

8. Burial rituals and nitrogen 15

9. Teachers' notes

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