David B. Landon, Associate Editor

Comparative Vertebrate Collections at the University of Tennessee

The Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee has recently completed a multi-year, NSF sponsored project to stabilize and reorganize its comparative vertebrate collections. The Department has one of Eastern North America’s preeminent zooarchaeological reference collections, with approximately 10,000 skeletons of over 1,150 species of vertebrates. Series of 20 or more skeletons have been collected for about 100 common species, allowing researchers to make detailed studies of intra-specific size and morphological variation.

Paul W. Parmalee began the collection in 1973, and it has been actively used and expanded ever since. The NSF project supported significant improvements in the storage conditions for the collection. Specimens were cleaned and degreased with five percent hydrogen peroxide or acetone, and fumigated with dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate. The clean skeletons were placed in acid free containers and arranged phylogenetically in airtight cabinets. The specimens have been divided into two groups. An adult male, adult female, and juvenile of each species are stored in the main teaching and basic identification laboratory. Additional specimens are housed in adjacent limited access laboratories, and are used primarily for research and institutional loans.

The cataloging system was also upgraded. The entire card catalog has been computerized using Paradox for DOS. Researchers can now search by a broad array of subjects: taxonomic category, locality, age, sex, etc. Modifications and additions to the data base are password protected while searches, saving files, and printing are available to visitors and occasional users.

The collection serves a variety of teaching, research, and public service functions. The Department of Anthropology offers both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees with concentrations in zooarchaeology, and three graduate classes in zooarchaeology make extensive use of the collections. Over 100 research publications, theses, and dissertations have incorporated work with the collection. A variety of cultural resource management contracting agencies indirectly use the collection through the professional services of the zooarchaeology faculty and students. The Department also has a strong Forensic Anthropology Center, and forensics students and faculty frequently use the collection for the identification of non-human bone as part of forensics cases.

Researchers who would like more information about the collections may contact Dr. Walter Klippel, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, 250 South Stadium Hall, Knoxville, TN 37996.