9.1.5 Age of Animals at Death

Mandibles and long bones of cattle and sheep/goat were examined for evidence of the ages at which the animals had died. Mandibular evidence at both 12 Martin's Lane and the Green was very scarce, although individual teeth had survived. It should be noted that some mandibles from 12 Martin's Lane had probably lost their teeth in storage, and lacking individually inked context numbers, could not successfully be reassembled.


At the Green, only four cattle mandibles survived in a more or less intact state, and these were all from adult animals; at 12 Martin's Lane no cattle mandibles survived. Cattle long bones were assessed for epiphyseal fusion evidence and the results summarised in Table 49. For ease of comparison, medieval and post-medieval phases from all areas have been combined. Thus, at the Green, 'medieval' refers to Phases 1-5 in Areas A, B and C and Phases 1-6b of Area H (?12th-15th centuries). 'Post-medieval' refers to Phases 6 and 7 in Areas A and B (?17th-18th centuries) and to Phases 7-9 in Area H (18th century). At 12 Martin's Lane, medieval phases 2/2a/3/3a (equivalent to Phase 5 at the Green) are considered together.

At both the Green and 12 Martin's Lane, very young calves appear to have been absent from both the medieval and post-medieval assemblages, although given that conditions of preservation may have been locally poor (particularly in Area H), it is not unlikely that fragile young bones may have been present but did not survive. The pattern of age at death of medieval cattle at the Carmelite Friary indicates that the majority of animals survived into young or older adulthood (age categories Immature or Adult (I/A) or Adult (A) although there was also some evidence from the Green that a small number of Juvenile (J) animals had been killed or had died. Slightly fewer Juvenile or Juvenile/Immature cattle died in the post-medieval period, and the pattern of survival of predominantly Adult beasts was maintained.


In the case of sheep/goats, more mandibles survived than for cattle, although as the sample size for each phase was very small it is not feasible to display the results graphically. Wear stages of each available mandible at the Green are presented in Table 52 which shows that four lambs under the age of one year died in the medieval period. Not included in this table are two mandibles recovered from Phase 3 at 12 Martin's Lane. One of these came from a lamb at Payne's (1973) stage B/C (probably under 12 months of age) and the other from an animal at Payne's stage B, mandible wear stage 2 (probably between 2 to 6 months).

The majority of the sheep, however, were older when they died and most of them may have been about four years old at death. Comparison with the epiphyseal fusion evidence (shown in Table 50) indicates a good degree of correlation for the medieval period: a small percentage of sheep were killed at an early age, while most survived to become young or older adults. A similar pattern occurred in the post-medieval period, although there is some indication that a higher percentage of young animals died than in the medieval period. This may indicate a changing dietary preference for lamb over mutton. In general, more young animals appeared to have been present than was the case for cattle.

Two horn core fragments from very young goats indicated that kids were killed at the Green (Area B, Phase 2a).


There was some evidence that very young pigs died or were killed at the Carmelite Friary. At the Green, a partial skeleton of a foetal or newborn piglet was recovered from Phase 5 of Area A and a juvenile or immature individual from Area B, Phase 4. Otherwise there was little evidence of the age at death of the pigs, due to a combination of butchery of the bones, and small size of the samples. However, as Table 51 indicates, the majority of bones for which it was possible to allocate an age category tended to come from young animals. One pig mandible from 12 Martin's Lane (Phase 2; Context 186) had however come from an animal which had survived until at least 20 months.

Other mammals

Most of the deer bones found at the Green appeared to have come from adult animals, with the exception of an innominate (pelvis) from a young red deer (Area A, Phase 5) and an unfused distal metacarpal from an immature red deer (Area H, Church Subphase II).

Approximately half of all the cat bones found at the Green seem to have come from kittens, some of these very young, while at 12 Martin's Lane, one out of a total of four cat bones came from a kitten (Context 156). Found in the same context as the kitten bones at 12 Martin's Lane were one unfused dog radius and a juvenile maxilla, both from young animals. Bones from an adult dog were also recovered from this context. At the Green, there was little evidence of age of the dogs, although one very small unfused femur came from a puppy (Area A, Phase 7).


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