The View from San Rafael

The 12th International Council for Archaeozoology meeting took place just a little over a month ago in San Rafael, Argentina. I submitted a report on the results of the Stable Isotopes in Zooarchaeology Working Group meeting for the Fall 2014 edition of the ICAZ newsletter, due out shortly and reproduced below.

Part of our banquet meal-perfect for a bunch of zooarchaeologists!

The meeting was a great success, with lots of interesting papers combining stable isotope methods with a variety of osteological analyses. One of the sessions I gave a paper in was “Stories Written in Teeth”, organized by Florent Rivals, which had papers ranging from serial and bulk sampling of teeth for stable isotope analysis, meso- and microwear studies, cementochronology, and oral pathology, among others. I also attended “Recent Advances in Biomolecular Archaeology”, which also had some good stable isotope papers in addition to DNA-focused ones, and was organized by Jessica Metcalf and Ross Barnett. The opening reception and banquet dinner were highlights. And of course, no conference would be complete without a stop at the local natural history museum.

A Smilodon specimen at the local San Rafael Museo de Ciencia Natural.

For those who follow the working group but aren’t ICAZ members (recommended!) I’m reproducing that text here:

Members of the Stable Isotopes in Zooarchaeology (SIZ) Working Group came together for the first time since the group’s formation as a result of the “Integrating Zooarchaeology and Stable Isotope Analyses” conference held at Cambridge University in June 2012. We’ve  grown to just about 100 members, and welcomed Catherine West (Department of Archaeology, Boston University) on board as a joint group coordinator. We discussed the development of our existing group website, including the addition of a “Project Page” that will highlight ongoing research projects integrating zooarchaeology and stable isotope analyses and will serve as a resource for students and potential research collaborators. In addition, the website already features a blog, which is always open to new content! [We’re currently looking for submissions, so please do get in touch!]

Another main point of discussion was the date and venue for the upcoming working group meeting, slated for early in 2016. Keep an eye out for an announcement in the Spring newsletter with further details! Finally, the formation of a Faunal Stable Isotope Database, to be integrated with the Neotoma Paleoecology Database (, was discussed. At this point in time the discussion concerns types of data to be included, data format, and protocols surrounding submission to the database.  Interested members of the working group will be involved in these larger issues, while 2-3 data stewards would be directly involved in data management as development progresses.

To stay up to date with the latest goings-on in SIZWG, suggest a conference venue, or become involved with database building, you can join our listserv, visit the website at, or get in touch with Suzanne Pilaar Birch (sepbirch[at] or Catherine West (cfwest[at]

-Suzanne Pilaar Birch (SIZWG Liaison), Department of Anthropology and Department of Geography, University of Georgia, USA

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