4.13 Domestic Refuse

The term domestic refuse is used to categorise material which appears to have been discarded because it can no longer be used for its original purpose. This material most often includes broken pottery, broken tools, flint debris, and organic waste including material from animals and plants. Some or all of these items may be in association. Some may appear singly (even as a single object) in deliberate deposits. They may be associated with human remains or not.

The occurrence of domestic debris is not always clear from site accounts, but sometimes can be inferred if the detail is sufficiently good. Any barrow mound may include the odd sherd or broken tool dropped or scraped up in the course of its building, but that would not warrant categorising the presence as domestic refuse. On the other hand a description of a monument as having a dark organic layer, or a scattering of sherds, flint and animal bone in its make-up, is suggestive of a deposit of domestic refuse and would be coded as such.

Domestic refuse is recorded as Code 036 for material found in the monument itself, and 127 for material in association with a burial deposit.

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 346-360. The section treats domestic debris 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 section 4.12 covered the incidence of animal bone associations, and therefore also contains data on a particular item of such refuse associated with burial or monument. The current section provides another 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 3500bc-AD43, the burial monuments have higher incidences of domestic refuse than do the disposals in them (Table 359, 13% overall against 9%). While the areas have similar biases, the south east area is above the average, and particularly high in monument incidences, and the south area is below average, and particularly low in disposal associations of domestic refuse.

The period pictures

Table 356 breaks down this very broad picture into the individual periods and shows a very distinct pattern, with a high incidence of domestic refuse in 3500-2500bc, both in monuments (41%) and on disposal sites (36%). There is then a quite dramatic drop in the following two periods to 8% in each for monument domestic refuse, and 8% falling to 2% for such refuse in sites with disposal associations over 2500-8/700bc. The high occurrence of 3500-2500bc then reappears in 8/700-100bc in 33% of monuments and 32% of disposal sites. It falls in the period 100bc-AD43 to 17% and 15% respectively.

The numerical base for these percentage incidences is reasonably strong (Table 355), and the patterns of Table 356 are reflected in Table 357, which traces the proportionate incidence of each of the two types throughout the five periods.

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