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The raw, the cooked and the burnt: Interpretations of food and animals in the Hebridean Iron Age1


The iron age settlement at Sollas, North Uist, Scotland, provides an unusually varied set of data relating to food and the role of animals in society. By comparing the evidence of food residues on pottery with animal remains from middens, foundation burials and cremations, structural patterns emerge which throw light on the relative status of domestic species. Sheep and cows are treated differently, with sheep being mainly buried, and cattle cremated. This patterning enables a speculative world view of the inhabitants to be constructed, and further analysis shows that mature cattle were classified differently from younger animals. It is suggested that these normally hidden structuring principles cause difficulties for the conventional interpretation of animal remains on other iron age sites.

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I. Armit , 1996: The archaeology of Skye and the western Isles, Edinburgh.

H. Fairhurst , 1971: The wheelhouse site at A' Cheardach Bheag on Drimore machair, south Uist, Glasgow archaeology journal 2, 72106.

J. Z. Holt , 1996: Beyond optimisation. Alternative ways of examining animal exploitation, World archaeology 28(1), 89109.

F. McCormick , 1992: Early faunal evidence for dairying, Oxford journal of archaeology 11, 201209.

C. Richards , 1996: Henges and water, Journal of material culture 1, 313336.

K. D. Thomas , (ed.), 1996: Zooarchaeology. New approaches and theory, World archaeology 28(1), London.

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Archaeological Dialogues
  • ISSN: 1380-2038
  • EISSN: 1478-2294
  • URL: /core/journals/archaeological-dialogues
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