By the same authors

Bones as evidence of meat production and distribution in York

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter



Publication details

Title of host publicationFeeding a city: York. The provision of food from Roman times to the beginning of the twentieth century
DatePublished - 2000
Number of pages17
PublisherProspect Books
Place of PublicationDevon, UK
Original languageEnglish
ISBN (Print)1903018 021


[First Paragraphs] Many books and papers have been written on the general principles and minutiae of using the animal bones recovered from archaeological deposits as a source of information on past diet.A full discussion of methodological issues is beyond the remit of this chapter, but it is worth reminding ourselves that there are many stages between an animal being killed and used for food, and a pile of bones arriving on the bench. There is the initial stage of decision-making on the part of the human population, and of individuals within it, and possibly on the part of the animals as well. Those decisions bring people and animaIs together ar the point of the animals' death, and may well be what we are seeking to infer from the archaeological record. After slaughter, animals of any size will be butchered in various ways, and parts of one carcass may be traded or redistributed to several locations, at each of which different people will take further decisions as to recipe and utilization. Some bones will have been separared from the carcass during initial butchering, and will be disposed of fairly immediately. After consumption (and different individuals will have different ideas as to what is worth eating), the remaining bones and other waste might be used in some orher way (soup, glue, toothpicks), before being destroyed or deposited in some dump or refuse pit. Micro-organisms and geochemical agents then set to work, modifying and destroying some or all bone fragments through the centuries, until a residue reaches a tenuous equilibrium with the sediment around it, and survives until the archaeologists arrive on site.

Bibliographical note

Reproduced with permission.

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