A comparative study of faunal assemblages from British Iron Age sites
The broad aim of this thesis is to further understanding of British Iron Age animal husbandry regimes by undertaking a comparative study of faunal assemblages. More specifically, this involves development of a uniform methodology for comparing published faunal data in order to recognise inter and intra-regional patterns of animal husbandry. Lack of uniformity in methods of recording and presenting faunal data, together with variation in the quality and quantity of information published in reports, serves as a barrier to systematic quantitative comparison. This thesis therefore seeks to develop methods of comparison which utilise the most commonly available forms of faunal data, or convert different forms of data into a single comparable format, in order that inter and intra-regional analyses of the widest possible dataset can be undertaken. To ensure viable comparisons unaffected by small sample bias, only those sites with total cattle, sheep and pig assemblages of NISP>300 or MNI>30 are included in this study. Analyses concentrate on the three main domestic species (cattle, sheep, and pig) which comprise the bulk of all faunal remains recovered from excavations of British Iron Age sites, and utilise three main types of information: Firstly, representation of different skeletal elements is examined in order to recognise the effects of taphonomic and human alteration on each assemblage. Secondly, quantification data for cattle, sheep, and pig is compared, using tripolar graphs to establish the relative importance of different species in each assemblage. Thirdly, mandibular tooth wear data is used for the composition of mortality profiles to compare herd management strategies. Both species proportions and mortality profiles from different faunal assemblages are compared, and examined for any inter and intra-regional similarities. Subsequently assemblages are examined for relationships between patterns of species proportions and/or mortality profiles and particular site characteristics (topographical location, underlying geology, settlement type, and date). Finally, using the results of these analyses, suggestions are made as to the nature of animal husbandry regimes in different regions, and the factors influencing choice of husbandry strategy in Iron Age Britain.