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Elizabeth Scharf
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
University of North Dakota
Man's Best Friend?: Using Animal Bones to Solve an Archaeological Mystery

In this case, students learn how archaeology operates as an historical science by collecting and analyzing material evidence to make claims about the past. Assuming the role of zooarchaeologists, they evaluate a hypothetical case in which “Dr. Jasper Eraillure” shocks the world by claiming a canid skull he has found at a Neanderthal site is actually that of a domestic dog. Students analyze modern skulls from wild and domestic canids, and develop a set of criteria for determining whether the “unknown” canid skull belonged to a domestic dog. They further explore the reasons behind the divergence between wild and domestic dog populations and evaluate the potential impact of Dr. Eraillure’s assertions on our understanding of the past. The case was designed for an introductory course in archaeology, but could be adpated for use in an introductory biology course.

What Do We Tell the Sheriff?: Determining Minimum Numbers of Individuals (MNI) for a Scatter of Human Bones

Students explore the issues involved in investigating and reporting on a scatter of skeletal remains to the police in this case study.  In addition, the case teaches students about skeletal identification and the quantification of skeletal elements. The case has been used in an introductory archaeology course as well as an upper-division archaeological lab methods class, a senior zooarchaeology and archaeobotany class, and an introductory level forensic anthropology course.