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Title: The neglected goat : a methodological approach to the understanding of the role of this species in English medieval husbandry
Author: Salvagno, Lenny
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 0194
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2015
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The study of the goat has been largely disregarded by British archaeologists, partly because there is a methodological problem related to the difficulty of distinguishing goat remains from those of the more common sheep, and partly because the relative rarity of this species during the Middle Ages has contributed to the perception that this animal was not important. Despite the fact that different methodological approaches have been proposed, problems still affect our ability to correctly differentiate sheep and goat bones. The most commonly used approach relies on morphological traits that have been established by analysing goat specimens from many different parts of the world, and not all of them may necessarily apply to British populations. In addition, these criteria are based on morphological differences whose assessment may be highly subjective. The development of a more objective methodology is of paramount importance in order to address the various historical and archaeological questions concerning the role of the English medieval goat. For instance, why is the goat commonly recorded in the Domesday Book when it appears to be so scarce in the contemporary archaeological record? Is it under-represented in the archaeological record or over-represented in the Domesday Book? Why is the goat, when identified in English medieval animal bones assemblages, almost exclusively represented by horncores? This study provides a new methodology that is based on a combination of two approaches: morphological and biometric. Through the study of modern reference material, a short-list of reliable morphological criteria has been defined and a new biometrical approach focused on translating, whenever possible, morphological differences into Biometrical Indices, has been tested for a variety of mainly post cranial bones. This has permitted the development of a more objective tool for the assessment of archaeological sheep/goat identification. The new protocol has then been then applied to three English sheep and goat medieval assemblages so that a reassessment of the role this animal played in the Middle Ages could be carried out. The results obtained have confirmed what many researchers have previously observed: the goat was not a very common animal. When identified, it is mainly represented by horncores, which are more numerous than those of the sheep; when postcranial bones are considered, sheep by far outnumbers goat. It is likely that the abundance of goat horns is a consequence of an international trade in goat skins (containing horns) while only a relatively small number of goats lived on British soil, probably to be used for small scale household consumption.
Supervisor: Albarella, Umberto Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available