The role of zooarchaeology in the interpretation of socioeconomic status: a discussion with reference to Medieval Europe

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Social inequality is ubiquitous in human society, and the concept of social standing has been of fundamental importance throughout time (Price and Feinman 1995). The inference of social status has encountered problems in many areas of archaeology (see Orser 1990; Grenville 1997), and the use of zooarchaeology as part of an integrated approach may contribute to our understanding of important issues (Crabtree 1990). This paper reviews the various criteria used to infer socioeconomic status from faunal assemblages, taking examples from a variety of contexts, but concentrating primarily on medieval Europe, and England in particular. The problems associated with the application of zooarchaeological methods to this sphere of research are discussed, and some possible solutions proposed. It is suggested that zooarchaeology can play an important role in answering questions relating to socioeconomic standing, provided that it forms part of a wider archaeological strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-59
Number of pages22
JournalArchaeological Review from Cambridge
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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