The Report on the bones from Old Barn Field arrived shortly before Christmas. Now that the New Year is here, members might like to see the summary I have made about the bones that they have been unearthing.
The analysis was undertaken by Vida Rajkovaca, of Cambridge Archaeological Unit. Vida is familiar with Hill Farm, having previously examined 123 bones discovered on the site, before SVCA’s involvement. Some 54 oyster shells were also recovered in those earlier excavations)
A further 264 bones were subsequently unearthed by the SVCA. To provide the best possible picture of the faunal remains from Old Barn Field, the figures have been amalgamated.
A total of 441 bones, teeth or shells are therefore included. As the following table indicates cattle (or cattle sized) bones were significantly the most numerous:
Cattle or cattle sized bones 256 58.05%
Sheep, goat or sheep sized bones 80 18.14%
Pig 6 1.36%
Horse 8 1.81%
Rabbit 2 0.45%
Non identifiable mammal 35 7.94%
Oyster shells 54 12.24% (*)
(*) All of the oyster shells came from Trench B, amidst finds of Samian ware and Roman tile. Whether they were consumed ‘on site’, or were refuse from the Villa is an interesting question.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
In her report, Vida remarked on the lack of bones from birds or red deer. The paucity of pig bones is also of interest. Of the two rabbit bones, she says that ‘they are presumably of later date, as there is a general belief that rabbits were a Norman introduction’.
Two of the cattle bones, she reveals, bear marks indicating that joints of beef were immersed in salt brine – to be cured. (For the technically minded, they were ‘scapula with trimming of the origin of spina – which ensured that the salt brine penetrates into the beef joint’).
‘The large proportion of cattle sized ‘shafts’, Vida continues, suggest that they ‘must have been split for marrow removal, a type of butchery previously noted on other Roman sites… Ribs,’ she observes, ‘appear to have been chopped to fit pot sizes’.
Another important finding was the presence of a young or juvenile horse. (One of the horse bones Vida analysed was under 15 months of age).
From the first batch of 123 ‘pre-SVCA’ bones, 9 were recorded with butchery marks.
Unfortunately Vida has not yet seen the pig’s skull discovered in Trench F which was inadvertently left at Hill Farm. Hopefully it can be taken to her after the Lockdown. Like the oyster shells however, it is included in this Interim Summary.
BONES DISCOVERED BY THE SVCA – TRENCH B AND B/C
Cow, or cow sized bones 30
Sheep.goat, or sheep sized bones 28
Non identifiable mammal 5
BONES DISCOVERED BY THE SVCA – TRENCH C
(This trench runs at a right angle to Trench B, and has suggestions of a cobbled path)
Sheep/goat or sheep sized bones 2
Non identifiable mammal 5
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH D
A small trench on the ‘Bulmer side’ of Trench B, containing a degraded up-turned bowl and burnt material (From the Interim Report by Corinne Cox)
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH E
(A small trench revealing a ditch and much burnt material. Situated between Trench B and Trench D)
Cow and cow sized 8
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH F
(At right angles from Trench B and directly opposite Trench C. Trench F provided the exciting discovery of a complete boar’s skull. In her Interim Report, Corinne speculated that the latter may have been a totem, placed on a post, as a post hole was found beside it.)
Cow or Cow sized 15
Sheep sized 2
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH G26
(The intriguing ‘banana shaped’ditch. It is here that bones were discovered together with pottery, surrounded by flint stones.)
Cow and Cow sized 89
Sheep/goat and Sheep sized 26
Non identifiable mammal 24
BONES DISCOVERED BY SVCA – TRENCH H24
(The final trench we opened, about 4 metres from G26. It is almost certainly a continuation of G26)
Cattle sized 3
Sheep sized 1
SVCA members undertook a very great deal of patient archaeology to recover the bones and teeth!
Hopefully, it will be possible – after the Lockdown – to see exactly which bones and teeth belong to each species and location.
In the meantime, we have a glimpse of our Bulmer predecessors some 2000 years ago. Their meadows were grazed by cattle and sheep, with much smaller numbers of pigs.
On the evidence from Old Barn Field, their meat diet consisted principally of beef, mutton or lamb. The oysters, whose shells were deposited in Trench B, may – or may not – have been eaten by them. The paucity of pig bones is intriguing and it will be interesting to see if this is reflected on other archaeological site in the area.
The 264 bones recovered by the SVCA, including the pigs skull, which Vida has not yet seen, together with the 256 which she examined in 2020 and the seven she looked at in 2018 .
Assessment of Faunal Remains from Hill Farm, 2nd Batch, (Old Barn Field, 1995-2011) by Vida Rajkovaca, 2016
Assessment of Faunal remains from Hill Farm (Belchamp Brook and Old Barn Field), by Vida Rajkovaca, 2018
Assessment of Faunal remains from BUL/OBF, 2020, by Vida Rajkovaca
Interim Report…Excavations Undertaken by SVCA volunteers at Old Barn Field, Bulmer, Essex, 2016-2018, by Corinne Cox