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The role of animals in late Iron Age and Roman life: cultural identity and the relationship between Italy and Britain

GoTriple's project summary

Archaeological evidence has indicated that major cultural changes occurred in Europe between the Late Iron Age and Early Roman periods, although these were neither homogeneous nor universal. The theoretical framework by which to interpret these complex processes has been energetically debated and remains contentious. Animal bones recovered from archaeological habitation sites - mostly the product of meal, kitchen and waste - can reveal far more than merely the diet of past societies. They reflect a complex web of economic, social, religious, political and domestic circumstances and behaviours and can help our understanding of the cultural identity of past human communities. The project is designed to develop a much-needed scientific approach to the study of animal assemblages found in Italy and Britain and dated to the pre- and Roman periods. Questions, such as change and/or improvement of husbandry techniques, contribution of local breeding, introduction of livestock, use of land, role of market, influence of local culture and permanence of the Iron Age ideology will be investigated. The project will build on previous work carried out at a national level, but will try to provide a pan-European perspective by comparing the evidence from the origin of Roman influence - Italy – with that of one of the colonies – Britain. The project will be interdisciplinary as it will benefit from several methodological approaches, including taxonomy, demography, biometry and biochemistry. A key research aim will be to identify changes in bone size and morphology and mortality patterns, and to interpret any observed trends in terms of factors such as site type, location and chronology. It will incorporate analyses of newly collected data and that from sites which have been previously published to a high standard. Cattle tooth enamel from selected sites will be subjected to strontium and oxygen isotopic analysis to investigate the relative diversity/homogeneity of livestock supply.

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