Investigating Animal Burials

Ritual, mundane and beyond

James Morris


In recent years zooarchaeology has started to move beyond the purely economic towards social interpretations. In particular, these ‘social’ interpretations have often concentrated upon complete or partial animal burials rather than upon the disarticulated and fragmented faunal remains more commonly recovered from archaeological sites. This book presents a study of these associated bone groups from the Neolithic to late Medieval periods of southern England and Yorkshire. Not only does it present data on over 2000 deposits, it also discusses their interpretation, arguing that most are based on generalised period-based assumptions. It is proposed that a biographical approach to these types of deposit, allows the investigation of the specific above ground actions behind their creation, moving away from generalisations towards individual interpretations. The study shows the value of not only utilising specialist data, but integrating such knowledge with other archaeological evidence and theoretical approaches. The book is divided into three main sections. The first two chapters discuss the history of associated bone groups in the archaeological record and how they are created by human and natural actions. The second section consists of detailed chapters (three to nine) discussing the evidence from each region and period. The third section discusses trends in the data and the problems with how they are interpreted. It outlines and tests the use of a biographical approach and discusses the implications of thesefindings for wider research.