4.12 Animal Associations

Animal bones are not unusual occurrences on burial sites. They may have arrived there quite casually as detritus of no significance, brought in unintentionally during the construction of the monument. They may have arrived afterwards as the remains of burrowing animals, or as the result of some other disturbance unconnected with the original disposal rite, such as the remains of an 18th century antiquarian's on-site picnic party. The analysis here attempts to distinguish between such casual animal remains, and animal remains which have been deposited with a disposal or in a position suggesting a close intended association. The judgement can in many instances be subjective, since it is seldom clear whether bones were the remains of joints set down as an offering or accompaniment, or what was left of meat consumed at a meal which may or may not have been part of the burial rite.

The Codes used are 125 for an unarticulated part of an animal, 126 for a whole animal disposal, and 131 for the articulated part of an animal.

The three areas of south west, south and south east have been examined for all five periods from 3500bc-AD43, and the relevant results are set out in Tables 316-330. The section treats animal associations with burials starting from the broadest picture for the whole geographical area over the whole period, and moves from that to individual areas. In considering the results, it should be borne in mind that the next section (4.13) covers the incidence of domestic refuse, and therefore also contains data on animal remains associated with burial or monument, since domestic refuse very frequently contains such material. The current section provides a particular part of the picture, and possibly one with a different focus, hence its separation.

Overall patterns 3500bc-AD43

The summary picture

Over the whole timespan of 3500bc-AD43, animal remains in this association occur (see Table 329) as unarticulated parts on 10% of sites, but as whole animals or articulated parts on just 1% overall. Within these averages the south west and south east areas have a higher incidence of animal parts at 12 and 11% respectively than the south at 8%.

The period pictures

The period analysis in Table 326 highllights the period 14/1300-8/700bc as virtually bereft of incidences, supplying only 11 of the 206 occurrences (Table 325). 3500-2500bc has part animal remains' incidence at nearly three times the average at 28%, and the two periods covering 8/700bc-AD43 are also above the average at 12-13%. Whole animal deposits are low, and highest in 8/700-100bc at 5% incidence. Generally, however, the incidence of whole and articulated part animal deposits are very low, and the percentages have little to offer.

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