The York System is a product of the need for a modern, simple database for recording animal bones. Such a database would reduce inter-analyst variability, thus making inter-site comparisons much easier. It would also facilitate the teaching of animal bone recording. The York System originated in a database application used at the University of York's Environmental Archaeology Unit (EAU, now merged with the Department of Archaeology), and it has been developed and tested over the last two years. It was originally conceived for internal use, but may prove relevant to the wider zooarchaeological community. This possibility is enhanced by the degree to which the York System can be customised and by an agreement with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) to archive and disseminate data sets recorded using it (see below). This article will:
Surprisingly few of the diverse recording protocols used by zooarchaeologists have been published, and then usually only in part (e.g. Dobney and Rielly 1988; Davis 1992; Cohen and Serjeantson 1996). Most zooarchaeologists have developed their own methods of recording and analysis, and although these frequently share features with other systems, they can differ fundamentally over specific details (cf. Lyman 1994a). Early recording methods were sometimes simplified for use in very early computer programs, thus creating a literature on both zooarchaeological recording and archaeological databases (e.g. McArdle 197577; Redding et al. 197577; Gifford and Crader 1977; Armitage 1978; Meadow 1978; Redding et al. 1978; Uerpmann 1978). More sophisticated programs were written and published in the 1980s (e.g. Hardy 1982; Aaris-Sørensen 1983; Klein and Cruz-Uribe 1984; Desse et al. 1986; Desse and Chaix 1986; Campana and Crabtree 1987; Wheeler and Jones 1989, 135). Although a few were published in the 1990s (e.g. Shaffer and Baker 1992), the use of widespread off-the-shelf commercial software led to a general decrease in the number of recording system publications for much of the last decade. More recently still, however, the increasing power and flexibility of such software and the attraction of electronic data sharing have led to renewed interest in disseminating zooarchaeological databases, often over the Internet. Completed examples include The North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation's NABONE (Newton et al. 2001), and the Dutch BoneInfo (Lauwerier n.d.) and unpublished proposals are discussed at most zooarchaeological meetings (at the recent International Council for Archaeozoology congress in Durham, for example). The York System is one response to this international movement. It is not intended to be a definitive or exclusive answer to the challenge of data sharing. It is simply published as a research and teaching tool which we have found useful, and which provides one flexible and partial route to the ideal of inter-analyst comparability. The taxonomic codes and variables included make it immediately relevant to British, Irish and continental European assemblages of Neolithic or later date, but with customisation it could be employed in many other contexts.
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Last updated: Thu Mar 13 2003