International Council
for Archaeozoology

Zooarchaeology of the Roman Period Working Group

 The onset of Roman civilization and the subsequent creation and expansion of the Roman Empire represent major events in the history of the Old World. They signified the introduction of new economic and social systems that rapidly spread - in a diversified way - to a vast area, encompassing most of Europe and large parts of western Asia and North Africa. Zooarchaeology can contribute to many historical questions associated with our understanding of this remarkable phenomenon. How were different local cultures affected by the conquest? How were the economic and social changes reflected on husbandry strategies and food consumption practices? Can we find any common elements that affected the Roman period as a whole, or were the geographic and cultural diversifications so great that each region tells its own independent story?

There is a thriving community of zooarchaeologists working on these issues (more than 200 up-to-date), who can benefit of tighter collaborative links provided by this ICAZ Working Group on the zooarchaeology of the Roman period. The aim of the group is to represent a network of exchange and collaboration across borders, to help the understanding of the interconnections between the research questions associated with this important historical period. The group also encourages participation of researchers investigating geographic areas that were outside the Roman Empire but adjacent and contemporary to it. Zooarchaeologists involved in investigations of the late Iron Age and the early medieval period that are relevant to the understanding of the Roman period are also encouraged to join.

Working Group Meetings

The first working group meeting took place in Sheffield (U.K.) from 20th-22nd November, 2014. Some of the papers presented were published in a special issue of the European Journal of Archaeology (vol. 20, 2017) and are available at archaeology/issue/CD9349A9FD49A21C2BD744D016A6466E

The second working group took place in Basel (Switzerland) from the 1st-4th February 2018, and it was focused on Animals in funerary and ritual contexts in Roman times across the Empire. The proceedings of this meeting have been published in 2021 in Kolloquien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte series (vol. 26). The publication is available at and includes 17 chapters and a preface. The contributions cover different ritual practices in a range of Roman provinces, from the Mediterranean to Britannia.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainties about the possibility of travelling, we decided to turn our third meeting Animals in the Roman economy: production, supply, and trade within and beyond the Empire’s frontiers organised by Fabienne Pigière (UCD-Dublin, 11th-13th March 2021) into a virtual conference. The publication of this meeting is also in progress. Papers will be published in a special issue of Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

The fourth working group meeting will take place in Belgrade in 2024 on the topic of social archaeozoology and will be organised by Sonja Vuković and her team.

In the practical plane, please, remember that thanks to Barbara Stopp (U. of Basel) we now have an online biometric dataset that we can all use to calculate log ratios for the main domesticates. The dataset is now available through the IPNA webpage: .

Please, do not hesitate in contacting us (svalenzuela AT / sabine.deschler AT if you have inquiries or would like to join this Working Group.

Last update: July 2022