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9.1.10 Conclusions

The animal bone assemblage from the Carmelite Friary has provided a body of evidence dating to the pre-Reformation period (in this case from the 13th-14th centuries and the 15th century). It is probable that these bones are an indicator of the diet of the inhabitants of the Friary, presumably the Carmelites themselves, as well as the lay people employed by them. There is no evidence from medieval rental books that rents due to the Carmelite Friary were ever paid in kind (that is, in agricultural produce), but were instead paid in cash; however this may be due to a gap in the documentary record (Spearman 1989, 30). Other religious houses in Scotland, such as the Cistercian Abbey of Coupar Angus in Perthshire or the establishment of the Bishopric of Dunkeld, for which records are still extant, show clearly that rentals were frequently demanded in the form of poultry, salmon, cereals and larger livestock such as 'wedders' (sheep) (Rogers 1880; Hannay 1915). Whether the bones of animals found at the Carmelite Friary of Aberdeen came from livestock paid as rental dues cannot be known but it is likely that they were raised and killed locally in the agricultural hinterland of the burgh.

The bones show that meat, chiefly from cattle and sheep, more rarely from pigs and goats, was eaten at the Friary. Lambs and kids were eaten, as well as older mutton. Beef tended to come from more mature animals, perhaps as a result of buying in the end products of the thriving burgh hide trade, which was based on older beasts. Horse flesh also appears to have been eaten occasionally. The diet at the Friary was varied by meat from domestic poultry and presumably during the Lenten fast period, fish (see Bird and Fish Report). Occasionally a hare or venison from red and roe deer was available. Wild birds such as partridge, black grouse and curlew also made their contribution to the diet.

The bones also provided evidence of activities other than food preparation. Horses, cats, and foxes were skinned for their hides and fur. A single bone of weasel is another indicator that skinning or the production of pelts took place nearby. This may have been a small-scale cottage industry, as appears to have been the case in other Scottish medieval towns, for example Perth. There the focus of skinning of small animals, mainly cats, seems to have been located at the upper (easterly) end of the High Street (Smith 1997, 773). Skinning of larger animals such as horses may also have occurred at or near 12 Martin's Lane, and may have been associated with the tanning industry of which evidence has been found at various sites in Aberdeen's Gallowgate (Cameron and Stones 2001).

Bones from the later phases of the site provided further indications that the size of Scottish domestic livestock did not increase noticeably from the medieval to the post-medieval period. Even in the later phases of the site, the new breeding methods instigated by the 18th century agricultural Improvers seem not to have left traces, in the form of increased bone sizes, on the archaeological assemblage from the Carmelite Friary.


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