Montana Comparative Skeletal Collection (MCSC)

The Montana Comparative Skeletal Collection (MCSC) is a unit of the zoological museum, which is specifically geared toward aiding faunal analysts (particularly zooarchaeologists) with their studies.  MCSC also serves vertebrate osteologists, zoologists, wildlife biologists and all others interested in vertebrate osteological studies. MCSC has strong ties to the UM Department of Anthropology and is relied upon heavily by students conducting faunal-based anthropological research.

MCSC consists of ca. 14,420 skeletal specimens...and counting!


Mammalia (Mammals)

Over 13,000 specimens

beaver skull

Aves (Birds)

Over 400 specimens, representing 180+ species

  • 306 Complete skeletons w/ skulls
  • 46 Individual skulls
  • 37 Partial skeletons w/o skulls
  • 10 Partial skeletons w/ skulls
  • 5 Complete skeletons w/o skulls

raven skull

Herpetiles (Reptiles & Amphibians)

20 complete skeletons,representing 10+ species

  • 11 Complete skeletons w/ skulls
  • 1 Complete skeleton w/o skull

snapping turtle skull

Osteichthyes (Boney Fish)

100 complete skeletons

moyel eel skull

(This image file is smaller than others)

(MCSC skull photos courtesy of Skulls Unlimited International)

What is Zooarchaeology?

Zooarchaeology or Archaeozoology is the analysis of animal remains (e.g.,bone, shell) from archaeological sites to reconstruct the cultural lifeways of people and the interrelationships between people, animals, and the environment. Zooarchaeologists work on archaeofaunal remains from all around the world. Many participate in archaeological excavations. Zooarchaeologists also can be found in the laboratory in universities, museums, or private research firms. Sometimes they work as private consultants out of their own homes.


  • Zooarchaeology Homepage: Virtual Library for the Archaeology of Animals (No longer exists at this URL)
  • Faunmap: An electronic database for the late Quaternary distribution of mammal species in the United States
  • International Council for Archaeozoology (ICAZ): A nonprofit organization devoted to promoting  archaeozoological research of the highest scientific standards and fostering communication among the internationalcommunity of archaeozoologists.

Meet some professional Zooarchaeologists!

Rabbit skull w/ mandible

Forensic Cases

MCSC has also allowed the zoological museum to assist with over 80 forensic cases.  In conjunction with the UM Anthropology Department, bone samples identified as "non-human" (such as the Elk metapodials pictured below) are brought to the museum for further identification.

Metapodials from Forensic Case