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A very old rabbit skull; a very new rabbit skull.

A funny thing about archaeologists is that many of them seem to share a childhood fascination with dead animals. Not in a morbid way, but simply an interest in the physical remains of once-living creatures. Many of my colleagues admit to having collected animal bones as kids (and still do- useful for teaching!), as well as other discarded faunal treasures like snake skins or feathers. Over the weekend, documentary proof of this childhood activity was discovered while clearing out old stuff from my cellar in advance of moving to France.

Definitive proof that I was always fated for archaeology?
Searching for rabbit skulls among the sand dunes on the beaches of the western Highlands of Scotland, where we had many family holidays, are some of my best childhood memories. Sifting through the coarse white shell sand, warmed by the sun, for the tiniest bones and teeth, I was quite alone in my own world. It was wonderful fun, even if  I might not tell my school friend about it for fear of being seen as weird. What I didn't remember about this was recording them: at some point, probably between ages 6-10, I drew these two skulls. What really makes me grin as an archaeologist now is my careful labelling of the skulls' ages: the browner one clearly looked older, more worn, broken and stained, while the white one was fresh and bleached. It's kind of sweet to find that even as a child I was clearly intrigued by the materiality of the past, and this little drawing suggests something else: I was destined for archaeology, no matter how hard a slog it's been as a career!

I've not stopped picking up intriguing bones, and the few rabbit skulls that survived from those early years have been joined by sheep skulls, jaws and other random bones found on various hills and moors (sometimes the outer pockets of my backpack look a bit macabre). My current faunal prize is this rather fine skull found on holiday in the Vezere valley, France a few years ago: submit your ID suggestions in the comments below, nothing for the winner except feeling smug!

Top: my prize faunal specimen right now. Bottom: rabbit skull for scale.


Philip Leflar said…
Possibly a Myocastor coypus (Nutria) which, according to Wikipedia, have been introduced to Europe. Certainly as hystricomorph rodent.

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