A Review of Animal Bone Evidence from Central England

Author(s): Umberto Albarella

The evolution of humananimal relationships in central England is reviewed. In the Mesolithic, the main focus was on the hunting of large game. The earliest phase of a productive economy is poorly documented but the more mature Neolithic sees a strong focus on husbandry, with hunting playing a subsidiary role. Although milk was already consumed in the early Neolithic, other secondary products and services, such as wool and traction, only began to be used in later prehistory. The early Bronze Age also witnessed the introduction of the horse, transforming human mobility. In the late Iron Age, the influence of the Roman Empire becomes apparent through animal improvement and the importation of exotic species. More substantial changes occur within the Roman period, characterised by an emphasis on cattle husbandry and the introduction of new butchery styles. Abrupt changes occurred at the end of the Roman period, such as a return to a more rural, small-scale animal economy and a greater predominance of sheep. Towards the end of the Saxon period, fisheries come to rely heavily on marine species. After the Norman invasion, high-status sites assume greater predominance and wild game becomes an ever more powerful symbol of rank. The medieval period also sees the increased use of different animal parts in industry, with tanning gradually gaining importance, while horning declines. Improvement in meat yield is apparent towards the end of the medieval and in the post-medieval periods. The size of domestic animals gradually increases, to approach that of contemporary breeds.

Report Number:
Research Report
Animal Bone Environmental Studies Zooarchaeology Research


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