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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