Lizzie Dawson

Lizzie moved to York in February 2015 to begin working with the York Archaeological Trust as a Visitor Experience Host across the JORVIK Group attractions. Prior to this, Lizzie studied at the University of Bristol, gaining a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology, and further continued her education at University College London, earning a Master of Arts in Public Archaeology.

Hungate Bone Rationalisation Project

As someone who is passionate about how archaeology and the discoveries made through archaeology can be communicated to the public, beginning to work for York Archaeological Trust (YAT) this February was very exciting. In my role as Visitor Experience Host, I have the opportunity to do this every day across the JORVIK Group attractions. Although I have only been at YAT for roughly eight months, the opportunities within this time for staff to experience the large variety of roles that York Archaeological Trust encompass is fantastic.


One of these took place during June and July 2015; a project to rationalise the animal bone assemblage recovered from the H2 block of the Hungate excavation, was put in place. This provided a great opportunity for staff from across the JORVIK Group Attractions to experience other work done by the Trust “behind the scenes”. Within the JORVIK Group, I frequently work at DIG: An Archaeological Adventure, in which animal bone from Viking Age York is used to demonstrate to the public what information can be gleaned about people from the past from animal bone assemblages. The opportunity to be involved in cataloguing and experiencing this first hand and then be able to translate my experience to communicate the Trust’s activities to the public, as well as improve my knowledge of zoo archaeology, was extremely appealing.

In order to rationalise the animal bone assemblage, and refine the retained materials within the warehouse, the bones first had to be sorted through by context and catalogued. As part of the small team selected to do this rather seemingly daunting task (with over 300 boxes!), we had a day of training to help familiarise ourselves with the cataloguing system, and pertinent things to look out for, such as signs of pathology; gnawing marks from animals such as rats and dogs; and butchery marks. The team was then divided into groups of two individuals who spent four days during June and July working through contexts of animal bone from the Hungate excavation, cataloguing and determining the ratio of animal species found, and analysing each bone for important features.

Much of the animal bone assemblage was formed of cow bone, and other farm animals, such as sheep, pig and goat, but there was also a large variety of other animals such as dog, horse, deer and cat, amongst others. Working as part of a team helped this process, and throughout the four days we gradually became more confident in identifying species. The looming stacks of boxes slowly became less foreboding as we steadily worked through each context. There were, however, a few difficult bones which were placed to one side for further identification; one of which turned out to be hedgehog, and another a raven.

The rationalisation project really helped me become more familiar and confident in identifying animal bone, and gave me a glimpse of not only the scale and sheer amount that was discovered at the Hungate excavation, but also the variety of species and how this can be interpreted. In only the short time that I have worked with York Archaeological Trust, I feel like I have gained experience of the variety of work the Trust does, which I can bring to my role. The knowledge I gained from this opportunity of zoo archaeology has been invaluable, and I look forward to becoming more involved in projects that York Archaeology Trust provide, so I can carrying on improving what I can offer to the public.

David Scott