International Council
for Archaeozoology

Archaeozoology, Genetics and Morphometrics

 At the International Committee (IC) meeting in Durham, England, in August 2002, the IC voted to endorse a new ICAZ Working Group called Archaeozoology and Genetics (A&G). The group was proposed by Dan Bradley, Jean-Denis Vigne, and Melinda Zeder. Jean-Denis Vigne (vigne@cimrs1.mnhn.fr) has agreed to serve as the official A&G Liaison to ICAZ. In October 2012, the IC approved a modification of the group's name to the Archaeozoology, Genetics and Morphometrics (AGM) working group.

The organizers of this new Working Group pointed to the growing use of genetic analysis in archaeozoology, especially in the tracing of ancient anthropogenic transfers of wild or domestic animals. Yet they also noted the lack of understanding of both the power and limitations of these techniques among archaeozoologists, as well as the necessarily limited view of historical questions and archaeozoological constraints on the part of molecular biologists involved in this research. Without a means to bring archaeozoologists and molecular biologists closer together there is a real risk of an uncoordinated multiplication of destructive sampling, increased non-validated genetic sequences, mistaken use of DNA data, or mistaken historical or anthropological interpretations.

The AGM Working Group aims to contribute to organize the international scientific community in order to avoid these problems. Taking into account that archaeology, archaeozoology, and genetics also have their own scientific questions, potentialities, and limitations, the group also aims to promote true collaboration between these fields. The group will try to reach these goals by:

  • Organizing scientific meetings in order to encourage exchanges between archaeozoologists and geneticists and to allow them to follow the evolution of their respective questions and techniques.
  • Proposing general recommendations for collaborations between achaeozoologists and geneticists, for sampling protocols, for destructive analysis of museum specimens.
  • Bringing these recommendations to the attention of archaeologists’, archaeozoologists’ and geneticists’ scientific communities, for example by developing binding relationships with world organizations such as UISPP and international ancient DNA conferences.
  • Working toward the creation and the maintenance of a world database of all the molecular analysis of archaeological animal bones in order to centralize information and to avoid multiple sampling of the same geographic areas, chronological period and taxa.

 The 1st AGM Working Group meeting, organised by Jean-Denis Vigne, was held in Paris at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle on June 14-15, 2004. It drew nearly 50 participants from 13 countries representing both the disciplines of archaeozoology and molecular biology. Eleven papers were presented and a lot of of time was devoted to general discussions. The seven papers presented on the first day dealt with recent archaeozoological results drawn from ancient DNA (aDNA). Most of them addressed questions of the origin of domesticates or the genetic diversity of their wild progenitors, but research about the history of the European bear and Roman domestic cattle were also presented. Genetic applications to botanical issues was represented. The four papers presented on the second day tackled more general considerations and proposals.

The 2nd AGM Working Group meeting, organised by Mim Bower, Krish Seetah and their team, was held June 18-19, 2005, in Cambridge at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. Forty-seven scientists from 11 countries gathered together to hear a wide variety of first class presentations. Sixteen papers and two posters were presented, all of a high scientific standard and most of them demonstrating strong collaborative links between archaeo(zoo)logists and geneticists. The first session was devoted to human interactions with wild species, the second one to the genetic history of domestication, and the final one was methodology oriented. Every session was characterised by free flowing and open discussion, with positive and interesting exchanges after every paper.

 Because most of the papers presented at these two meetings were already published or on their way to being published, there was no need to publish the conference proceedings. The programmes and summaries of the conferences can be acquired via e-mail from the respective organizers of the meeting (Jean-Denis Vigne: vigne@mnhn.fr; Mim Bower: mab1004@cam.ac.uk).

The 3rd AGM Working Group meeting was held from 26-28 June 2008, in Tallinn, at the Institute of History of the University of Tallinn, ably organised by Lembi Lougas. Twenty-five scientists, from 8 countries gathered together to hear a variety of first-class presentations which included discussions of the genetics of wild species, domestication and the methodological challenges posed by ancient DNA. Read Jean-Denis Vigne's summary of the meeting.

The 4th AGM Working Group meeting, organized by Eva-Maria Geigl, was held in August 2010 during the 11th ICAZ conference in Paris.

 The 5th AGM Working Group meeting took place in Basel, Switzerland from June 4th to 6th, 2012. The meeting was attended by 60 scientists from 16 countries, with a well-balanced proportion of geneticists and osteo-archaeologists present. Details of the meeting can be found in the report (PDF). A photo of the meeting attendees has also been shared.

The 6th AGM Working Group meeting took place in Lisbon (Portugal) on March 26-28, 2014. The conference was organized by Catarina Ginja, Cleia Detry, Ana Elisabete Pires and Cristina Luis. For more information, see the meeting report.

Registration is now open for the 7th AGM Working Group meeting to be held in Liverpool 13-15 October 2017. The deadline for abstract submission is 28 July 2017, and registration is open until 15 September 2017. You can register through the University of Liverpool here.

This information has been contributed by Jean-Denis Vigne, AGM Working Group Liaison to ICAZ.