Comparative Studies of Ideas and Cultures (3rd level)

Millenia between the Adriatic and the Danube

Course code: 98

Year of study: without

Course principal:
Assist. Prof. Borut Toškan, Ph. D.


Workload: lectures 60 hours, seminar 30 hours

Course type: modul elective

Languages: Slovene, English

Learning and teaching methods: lectures, e-learning, tutorial


Course syllabus

Content (Syllabus outline):

Archaeozoology is the study of animal remains from archaeological sites to provide information about the importance of animals to humans in the past. The list of most frequently addressed topics includes the role of hunting, fishing, and animal husbandry in the economy of past societies; the importance of individual domestic animals as sources of meat, fats, and secondary products; the development of specific husbandry strategies; aspects of social stratification and functional differentiation of past societies; the non-economic role of animals (pets, animals as elements of the mythological sphere); and the paleoenvironmental picture.


Students will be introduced to the following topics:

1. Basic archaeozoological research methods:

  • sampling of archaeozoological material during fieldwork,
  • taxonomic and anatomical identification,
  • recognition of taphonomic features (cut and chop marks, traces of fire exposure, weathering, etc.),
  • evaluation of age at death,
  • acquisition of metric data,
  • recognition of fractures and pathological features,
  • quantification of the finds,
  • statistical analysis,
  • multidisciplinary research and collaboration with other disciplines.


2. The evolution of the use and understanding of animals by past human societies between the Palaeolithic and the Early Modern Periods in the southeastern Alpine region with reference to the broader European context.


Specific topics will be selected for each student (in collaboration with other lecturers/mentors as appropriate) and adapted to their research interests and thesis topic. They may include:

  • Hunting and fishing: evaluation of the importance of hunting/fishing for the societies studied, identification of the main game species, their ecological and economic potential, evaluation of age and sex structures in relation to hunting techniques, new approaches to taxonomic identification of bone finds, philogenetic studies and paleobiogeography (geometric morphometrics, aDNA studies, ZooMs).
  • Livestock management strategies: evaluating the economic importance of individual domestic animal species, the importance of primary and secondary products, understanding livestock management strategies, and the effort required to adapt to existing environmental conditions based on knowledge of species richness and representation data, age and sex profiles, frequency of pathological features on bones/teeth, and isotope studies.
  • Social stratification and functional differentiation at different levels (i.e., within site, between sites, cross-cultural differences): Dietary habits as an expression of social complexity, analyzes of the spatial distribution of archaeozoological finds, interdisciplinary research approach.
  • Non-economic role of animals: recognizing animal remains in the context of ritual practices, examining the specifics of how these finds were deposited, understanding the cultural aspects of selecting sacrificial animal species/specimens.
  • Taphonomy: understanding the ways in which taphonomic factors can help to understand the manipulations to which osteological material has been subjected, as a prerequisite for a realistic interpretation of the practices that produced the archaeozoological assemblage under study.
  • Paleoenvironment: becoming familiar with the potential of various taxa for paleoenvironmental studies, understanding the importance of indicator species, statistical approaches to paleoenvironmental studies, taphonomy.



  • Andrič M., Tolar T., Toškan B. 2016, Okoljska arheologija in paleoekologija: palinologija, arheobotanika in arheozoologija. Založba ZRC in Inštitut za arheologijo ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana.
  • Bartosiewicz, L. 1999, Recent developments in archaeozoological research in Slovenia. Arheološki vestnik 50, 311–322.
  • Lyman, R.L. 1999, Vertebrate taphonomy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Lyman, R.L. 2008, Quantitative paleozoology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • MacKinnon, M. 2004, Production and consumption of animals in Roman Italy. Integrating the zooarchaeological and textual evidence. Journal of Roman Archaeology, Supplemetary series 54, Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
  • Marti-Grädel, E., S. Deschler-Erb, H. Hüster-Plogmann, J. Schibler 2003, Early evidence of economic specialization or social differentiation: a case study from the Neolithic lake shore settlement ‘Arbon-Bleiche 3’ (Switzerland). V/In: Behaviour behind bones. The zooarchaeology of ritual, religion, status and identity, Proceedings of the 9th conference of the International council of archaeozoology, Durham, avgust 2002, 164–176, Oxbow Books, Oxford.
  • Mlekuž, D., A. Žibrat Gašparič, M. Horvat , M. Budja 2012, Houses, pots and food: the pottery from Maharski prekop in context. Documenta praehistorica 39, 325–338.
  • O’Connor, T. 2000, The archaeology of animal bones. Sutton Publishing, Phoenix Mill.
  • Peres, T.M. 2010, Methodological issues in zooarchaeology. V/In: VanDerwarker, A.M. in T.M Peres 2010, Integrating zooarchaeology and paleoethnobotany: a consideration of issues, methods and cases, 15–36, Springer, New York itd/etc.
  • Rakovec, I. 1973, Razvoj kvartarne sesalske favne v Sloveniji. Arheološki vestnik 24, 225–270.
  • Reitz, E.J., E.S. Wing 2008, Zooarchaeology. Cambridge manuals in archaeology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Schmid, E. 1972, Atlas of animal bones for prehistorians, archaeologists and quaternary geologists. Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, London, New York.
  • Toškan, B. 2013, Domače govedo v romaniziranem jugovzhodnoalpskem prostoru: arheozoološki pogled. Keria 15(1), 35–72.
  • Toškan, B. 2018, Ritual burials of animals in the South-Eastern Alpine region from prehistory to the Middle Ages. Quaderni friulani di archeologia 28(1), 55–71.
  • Toškan, B. 2022, Where are we now? Early Medieval archaeozoology in Slovenia: an overview. Anthropozoologica 57(12), 255–270.
  • Zver, L., Toškan, B., Bužan, E. 2021, Phylogeny of Late Pleistocene and Holocene Bison species in Europe and North America. Quaternary international 595, 30–38.


Objectives and competences:

Students will acquire a basic knowledge of archaeozoological research. The course will provide an overview of the main topics archaeozoology deals with, the most commonly used and some of the innovative analytical approaches, as well as present the most important findings on the relationships between past human societies and the animal world for the territory of present-day Slovenia and adjacent regions between the Palaeolithic to the Early Modern Periods. The emphasis, however, will be on practical work, which will allow students to become directly acquainted with all phases of archaeozoological work, from sampling during field-work and taxonomic identification of finds and interpretation of results.


The selection of topics for individual case-studies will be individualised to meet the research interests and needs of the students. Students majoring in archaeozoology will be equipped to conduct independent archaeozoological research.


Intended learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding:

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to understand the importance of animals in the economy of past human societies as well as their role in ritual practises. At the same time, they will be aware of the most common limitations of archaeozoological research related to both objective factors (e.g., taphonomic losses over time) and subjective factors (errors in sampling, identification, poor field documentation, inadequate interdisciplinary collaboration). Through constant encouragement to participate in discussions, students will learn to critically examine their own archaeozoological work as well as published research.


In addition to the above knowledge/understanding, students specialising in archaeozoological research will be able to independently plan and conduct archaeozoological studies (including sampling, taxonomic identification, quantification, acquisition of metric and taphonomic data, assessment of sex and age at death, selection of appropriate samples for specific biochemical analyses [e.g., aDNA, stable isotopes, ZooMs], statistical analysis of large data sets, and effective interpretation of results). Guidance on publishing results will also be given to provide knowledge of all phases of research necessary for an independent archaeozoologist.


Learning and teaching methods:

Types of learning/teaching:

  • Frontal teaching
  • Work in smaller groups or pair work
  • Independent students work
  • e-learning


Teaching methods:

  • Explanation
  • Conversation/discussion/debate
  • Work with texts
  • Case studies
  • Solving exercises
  • Inviting guests from companies



  • 10 % Presentations
  • 80 % Final examination (written/oral)
  • 10 % Other



Asst. Prof. Tjaša Tolar, Ph. D. ,


Archaeology of Early Medieval Period

Assoc. Prof. Benjamin Štular, Ph.D.,



Assist. Prof. Borut Toškan, Ph. D. ,


Digital archaeology

Assist. Prof. Edisa Lozić, Ph. D. ,


From Small Archaeological Finds to History

Assoc. Prof. Janka Istenič, Ph.D.,


Interdisciplinary Research of Archaeological Sites

Assoc. Prof. Anton Velušček, Ph.D.,


Landscape archaeology

Assoc. Prof. Benjamin Štular, Ph.D.,



Assist. Prof. Maja Andrič, Ph. D. ,


Roman Towns between the Adriatic and the Danube River

Assoc. Prof. Jana Horvat, Ph. D.,



Assoc. Prof. Jana Horvat, Ph. D.,


The Neolithic and Eneolithic Periods in the Northern Adriatic

Assoc. Prof. Anton Velušček, Ph.D.,


The Pile-Dwelling Period in the Southeastern Alpine Region

Assoc. Prof. Anton Velušček, Ph.D.,