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This document is the first in a series of guides aimed at promoting best practice in different aspects of archaeological science, produced by members of the Science and Technology in Archaeology and Culture Research Centre (STARC) of The Cyprus Institute. The current document was largely developed in the context of two projects: People in Motion and Promised. The implementation of People in Motion involved the study of large skeletal assemblages from Byzantine sites across the Mediterranean. Osteological work on these assemblages was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Republic of Cyprus through the Research and Innovation Foundation (Project: EXCELLENCE/1216/ 0023). In addition, Promised aims at promoting archaeological sciences in the Eastern Mediterranean, with funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 811068.
The aim of this guide is to cover the main aspects of the excavation and macroscopic study of human skeletal remains. The focus is on bioarchaeological/human osteoarchaeological assemblages, rather than forensic anthropological material, though many of the practices described are shared between these disciplines. It cannot be overemphasized that each skeletal assemblage will pose different challenges and any approach to field recovery and laboratory procedures will have to be adapted to these. Therefore, the current guide is meant to serve only as a general outline of best practices and the described field and lab-based methods should be modified depending on individual circumstances, such as the sample size, preservation of the material, research questions and other parameters. References are given throughout the document, but our aim is by no means to provide an exhaustive account of the literature. This document is an open resource and it is anticipated to be updated at regular intervals. We would greatly appreciate any feedback and recommendations for future improvement.