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9.1.4 Relative Frequencies of Species

At both 12 Martin's Lane and the Green, the total number of sheep/goat fragments was slightly greater than that of cattle. In particular, at the Green, in Areas A, B and C, sheep/goat fragments were more numerous than those of cattle in Phase 2a (13th-14th century), Phase 5 (15th century), Phase 6 (?17th century) and Phase 8 (20th century) (see Table 42, Table 43, Table 44). Minimum numbers of individuals, calculated on the basis of the most frequently occurring bones in each phase, also reflect the dominance of sheep. Both the numbers of fragments and minimum numbers of animals in Area H are less for each phase than in Areas A, B and C, but in general more sheep/goats than cattle appear to be present. However it is worth noting that if it is assumed that most of the large ungulate fragments came from cattle, while small ungulate fragments came from sheep/goats, the numbers of cattle bones are increased with respect to sheep/goats (more bones of large ungulate having been counted relative to small ungulate). The reason for the lower rate of recognition of bones of large mammals is probably that, since sheep bones are much smaller than those of cattle, they are less likely to be broken into a large number of unrecognisable shaft fragments.

The high proportion of sheep/goats with respect to cattle at both sites is interesting. Comparisons with other sites in Aberdeen indicate a much higher uptake of mutton at the Carmelite Friary than elsewhere in the burgh (Table 46, Table 47, Table 48). Thus the assemblages from the Carmelite Friary may reflect a dietary preference for mutton rather than beef, although it has to be remembered that the meat from one cow is roughly equivalent in weight to that from 12 sheep (Chaplin 1971, 134). The Carmelite Friary bone assemblage is also less likely to contain the waste from commercial processes than sites elsewhere in the burgh.

As regards consumption of goat meat, only one bone was positively identified as goat at 12 Martin's Lane and five at the Green. At most of the Aberdeen sites, with the exception of Gallowgate Middle School, where goat numbers may have been inflated by the detritus from horn working, the number of bones which definitely came from goats is similarly low.

It is notable that pigs were found infrequently at both the Green and at 12 Martin's Lane. Pig bones are generally found in low numbers at urban medieval sites in the north-east of Scotland, when compared with those of cattle and sheep (Smith 2000). Various factors may be responsible for this apparent low uptake of pork; however it is likely that any pig bones have been swamped, as it were, by the sheer volume of cattle and sheep bones produced as an end result of the hide and woolfell industries which were a mainstay of the Scottish medieval economy. Pigs were never of great economic importance in Scotland in the medieval period, but were raised mainly for home consumption and for their use as rental payments in kind. At Whitefriars in Perth, the site of another Carmelite house, it was noted that pig numbers were particularly low, accounting for only 0.5% of food forming mammals over a date range of 12th-16th centuries (Smith 1989). This compares with an average of 4.2% over the 12th-15th centuries at the Aberdeen Carmelite Friary (Areas A, B and C at the Green). The pig has tended to suffer from a rather poor reputation for 'uncleanliness', particularly in the north-east of Scotland and in parts of Highland Perthshire, and it may be that a quasi-biblical bias may also be partly responsible for its relatively poor showing at sites of religious houses.

Evidence of game animals was scanty at the Carmelite Friary. Neither red nor roe deer was present at 12 Martin's Lane excavation, although their bones occurred in small numbers at the Green. While adherents to the religious way of life often enjoyed hunting, in the 13th century at least, it was not always seen as a suitable pastime for devout churchmen (Gilbert 1979, 72-3). Since concrete evidence of hunting in the form of bones of wild mammals such as red and roe deer was slight, the Friars may have eschewed the pleasures of the chase enjoyed by contemporary clerics. In fact, as reference to Table 48 shows, relatively few deer bones were found at the Carmelite Friary compared with other medieval sites in Aberdeen. At Perth's Carmelite Friary, a similarly low uptake of venison was also observed, although this is in accord with other medieval sites in Perth.

Lesser game was represented at Aberdeen Carmelite Friary by the bones of hare, which were found consistently, although in small numbers, throughout the life of the site. Rabbit bones were found in several 15th century contexts at the Green (Area A, Phase 5), but there is no proof (for example, from butchery cuts) that these bones did not come from animals of a more recent origin which had burrowed into the site.

The weasel bone recovered from 12 Martin's Lane is of interest. It may have originated from an animal that was deliberately killed for its pelt.

Both wild and domesticated birds were present at 12 Martin's Lane, although not numerous. Bones of the domestic fowl (Gallus gallus) were present in all phases except Phase 1 and 4a. Goose bones, from either the wild greylag or its domesticated descendant (Anser anser), were found in Phases 2a, 3 and 5. A single duck bone, possibly from the mallard or a small domesticated bird (Anas platyrhynchos), was present in Phase 5. Wild galliforms, related to the domestic fowl, were black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix; Phase 5) and grey partridge (Perdix perdix; Phase 3); both of these would have been a welcome addition to the diet. Other edible species found at the site were curlew (Numenius arquata; Phase 3 and 3a) and an unidentified wader (Phase 5). The single bone from a feral pigeon (rock dove; Columbia livia) could have come from a bird which was eaten, although it may represent a bird which had been living in the remains of the post-Reformation building (Phase 5). The range and distribution of bird species for the Carmelite Friary is similar to that recovered from urban sites in Aberdeen, where it is considered that poultry were of more importance to the domestic economy than wild fowl (Hamilton-Dyer et al. 2001, 279-80).


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