A sheep’s eye view: Land division, livestock and people in later prehistoric Somerset, UK

Authors: Randall, C.

Editors: Arnoldssen, S., Lovschal, M., Johnston, B. and McOmish, D.


Publisher: European Association of Archaeologists' (EAA)

Fields and field systems in later prehistoric British archaeology have generally been discussed in relation to territory or land tenure. They are also frequently assumed to relate purely to arable agriculture. Alongside this, we also tend not to situate livestock animals within landscapes. Increasingly, morphological features of fields can be identified as having use in animal handling. Consequently field system morphology, and changes to layouts over time, enable their re-examination in relation to pastoral and arable husbandry (and the interplay between them), and consideration as to why differing approaches may have been adopted within the same landscape at different times. This provides models which, focussing on pastoral husbandry, are potentially applicable to a range of places and periods.

The second and first millennium BC bounded landscapes surrounding the hillfort at Cadbury, Castle, Somerset, UK, reveal an intimate relationship between the occupiers of the hillfort, sites in its environs, livestock, and the landscape. A series of different forms of land division and organisation from the earlier Bronze Age onwards can be compared with both faunal and plant macro-fossil data from within that landscape. Different forms of layout appear to reflect different types of strategy and approach in later prehistoric farming. During the second and first millennium BC changes can be observed between different forms of highly extensive pastoral farming and closely integrated and intensive systems. The explanation would seem to be more social than practical in origin, but discerning this is reliant on large scale field survey, and integration of multiple strands of information.

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