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Food, Status and Complexity in Saxon and Scandinavian England: An Archaeozoological Approach

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posted on 24.02.2012, 16:03 by Matilda Anne Holmes
The period between the decline of Roman influence and the Norman Conquest in England (AD 450-1066) is recognised as a time of great change, from a largely subsistence-based economy to one more urban-oriented with growing political and social complexity. Little is understood of the human-animal interactions that existed in Saxon and Scandinavian England, and this thesis will use archaeozoological data with the aim of furthering the knowledge of social, political and economic hierarchies, cultural differences and debates regarding the nature of the urban context through the presence and spatial organisation of status, craft production and trade. To this end, both primary and secondary data were recorded from animal bone assemblages from English Saxon sites, and the subsequent relative species quantities, mortality profiles, carcass part representation, butchery and metrical data analysed. The resultant trends have illustrated the increasing social complexity and widening gap between the farming and elite classes, and evidence for cultural distinctions between the Danelaw and Saxon areas of England in the late Saxon phase. Combined with this is the demonstration of evolving economic pathways using the provisioning networks apparent between producer and consumer sites. This is core to the major changes that take place throughout the Saxon phase, from the largely self-sufficient population of the early phase, through the redistribution of animals and animal products in the middle Saxon phase, towards a fully commoditised market system by the time of the Norman Conquest.


Arts and Humanities Research Council (Wallingford Burh to Borough Research Project)



Thomas, Richard; Christie, Neil

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University of Leicester

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