Bone modification and the conceptual relationship between humans and animals in Iron Age Wessex
This source preferred by Mark Maltby
Authors: Madgwick, R.
Editors: Morris, J.T. and Maltby, M.
Place of Publication: Oxford
archaeological records. As a result of the manner in which human and animal remains are traditionally studied and reported on, the analysis of taphonomic processes which affect the character of specimens between death and incorporation into forming deposits is often confined to butchery, burning and fragmentation. This paper argues that current methods of osteoarchaeological analysis fail to recognise the potential of a substantial and easily accessible source of information in paying little attention to the processes of weathering, gnawing, trampling, abrasion and longitudinal/spiral fracturing. More detailed taphonomic assessments have tended to focus on one specific process to answer a particular research question rather than taking a holistic approach to pre-depositional affects (e.g. Outram 2001). Consequently biographies of skeletal material are only partially complete, as the period in the material existence of bone prior to subterranean deposition is not fully investigated. The aforementioned taphonomic processes can provide substantial evidence for human decision making regarding the treatment of different classes of remains.
This research explores the potential of holistic taphonomic analysis in a sample of c.9500 human and faunal specimens from the Iron Age sites of Winnall Down and Danebury. These sites were selected as they are located in the heart of Wessex, an area about which there has been considerable discourse and disagreement regarding the nature of human and animal bone treatment in the Iron Age. Through comprehensive taphonomic analysis, highly regulated, socially circumscribed behaviours surrounding bone handling were revealed. These results are suggestive of separate practices relating to the treatment of human and faunal remains with the latter exhibiting significantly greater evidence of exposure. The analysis of bone modification in features containing both human and faunal remains reveals a blurring of the boundary between human and animal identities, as the treatment of the two classes of material differs to a significantly lesser degree than when analysing the entire assemblage. Therefore each class of material is subjected to a more closely related mode of treatment. This might be seen as indicative of a conceptual proximity of human and faunal remains.