The aim of this long-term project is to take forward research into the provision of livestock for medieval towns in northern Europe, the utilisation of those livestock and the products derived from their carcasses, and the deposition of their remains.
Animal bones are a particularly abundant and widespread category of archaeological ‘find’. Excavations in medieval towns commonly accumulate large archives of bones, but much of the published analysis has been at the level of site-by-site ‘bone reports’.
This project sets out to find out more about the animals and their utilisation by medieval people, and to inform future research designs, to make best use of this important material evidence. Zooarchaeology has been preoccupied with animals as dead resources. Important though that is, livestock featured as a part of the everyday life of towns, neighbourhoods and families.
This project has its roots in research that has gone on in York since the early 1980s, much of it reported in The Archaeology of York vol 15. Recent papers include:
O'Connor, T.P. 2010. "Livestock and deadstock in early medieval Europe from the North Sea to the Baltic", Environmental Archaeology 15(1), 1-15. This paper sets out to summarise major regional trends across northern Europe, with the particular aim of demonstrating that work published in the early days of urban zooarchaeology can be made to yield useful information.
O’Connor, T.P. 2010. “Animal Husbandry”, Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology, D. Hinton & H. Hamerow (eds), Oxford; Oxford University Press; 363-378. Self-explanatory, with particular attention paid to two regions for each of which we have a number of sites and so information regarding spatial variation in husbandry and diet.
Hammond, C. and O’Connor, T.P. 2013. Pig diet in medieval York: carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. On-line DOI: 10.1007/s12520-013-0123-x. This paper resulted from a BSc project undertaken by Hammond in which she proved that O'Connor's earlier presumptions regarding the diet of pigs in medieval York were probably wrong.
O’Connor, T. 2013. Livestock and animal husbandry in early medieval England, Quaternary International, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2013.09.019. An overview paper originally written as a conference keynote, emphasising the topics that remains significantly under-researched, and emphasising the contribution that new techniques may be able to make.