Written by Rachelle Epstein, Lost Towns intern.
As a subfield of anthropology, archaeology uses several of the techniques of physical anthropology, the study of the physical development of the human species, to answer its many confounding questions. It is the same here at the Lost Towns Project! This summer, we have worked on the historic site of Rumney’s Tavern at London Town in addition to the prehistoric site at Pig Point, and in both of these sites we have come across fragmentary remains of animals past. If we are able to identify the remains of these animals, we may be able to determine what our ancestors here were hunting and eating. However, this is not quite as simple as it sounds. In an effort to figure out what animals these bones belong to, we must have similar remains to compare them with. So, here at the Lost Towns Project, we are using the methods of Comparative Anatomy to answer our questions.
Comparative anatomy was first established by Georges Cuvier in France in 1800. Today, archaeologists and physical anthropologists alike use this method to study physical features among animal species. These shared or different characteristics among animals are used to reconstruct a fossil species from usually incomplete remains. We have found many of these remains at both of our active sites this summer, and in an effort to figure out who these little mammals are, we are working hard in the lab to assemble the remains of many small mammals for comparison. The picture shown is of a recently deceased raccoon, who we have reassembled and labeled so that we can compare the sizes and shapes of his bones to those we found this summer, and those we find in the future!