Animal species and Anatomical Elements Selected for Cremation in the Early Iron Age Cemetery at Sochaczew-Trojanów
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Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne w Warszawie, ul. Długa 52, 00-241 Warszawa
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2015;LXVI(66):283–311
Excavations conducted in 1959–1961 by the team from the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw of the multiphase at Sochaczew-Trojanów, site 1 (Fig. 1 & 5), uncovered 250 features attributed to a Lusatian Culture settlement from the close of the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (137 features), a partly eroded cemetery of the Pomeranian Culture and the Cloche Grave Culture from the end of Hallstatt D and early La Tène periods (110 features), as well as three graves assigned to the Przeworsk Culture from the Late Pre-Roman Period. The aim of the presented article is discussion of the results of analysis of burnt animal bone remains deriving from the Pomeranian Culture and Cloche Grave Culture grave-sites. The main focus has been to make a trial identification of rules dictating the selection of animal species and their body parts selected for cremation which may be recovered based on the osteological materials. The assemblage subjected to the study includes 30.5 kg animal remains retrieved from 34 graves – 16 animal graves and 18 human burials containing some animal skeletal elements – 30.9% of all the sepulchral features in the cemetery. The quantity of bone found in the animal graves was 29.7 kg (97.4%), in human burials – 0.8 kg (2.6%). The analysed assemblage includes 2430 diagnostic fragments identifiable to species and to the anatomical element. Human graves (among them, seven collective burials within a cist or a stone setting, four cloche graves, four urned burials, a single pit grave? and two undetermined graves) yielded 280 animal remains – bone, teeth and shell. It was established that the human burials typically contained between one and eleven animal bone fragments, or 3–7% of the individual bone assemblages. Out of this group 152 fragments, close to 54.3% of the total material, were identified to species and body part. All the animal graves were pit features. They yielded from just a few (6 features) to a larger number of bone fragments (10 features) ranging in weight between 1.2 and 5.8 kg. Species and anatomical element identification was made for 2278 fragments, some seriously fragmented, unidentifiable specimens were not counted. Studies of the faunal assemblage from the cemetery at Sochaczew-Trojanów have shown that the species composition of the osteological materials from animal graves and from human graves containing some animal bones was quantitatively similar (Table 1). In both groups there was a significant percentage of bones of domesticated animals – respectively, 98.64% & 84.2% – with a domination of cattle and sheep/goat, and a much smaller percentage of horse, pig and dog remains. The remains of wild mammals, birds and molluscs made up a minor percentage. The two groups yielded only a small quantity of bones of young individuals – 4.9% and 7.2%. This suggests a preference for adult animals deposited for cremation. On the other hand, there were some major differences between the two discussed grave groups. In the animal graves there was an evident domination of cattle bones (almost 60% of the total material) and the remains of sheep/goat accounted for half of that value (28.88%). In human burials this ratio was reversed – the percentage of sheep/goat bones was twice the percentage of cattle bones – respectively 44.1% and 20.4%. Interesting results come from the analysis of anatomical elements distribution. For the human burials, because they contained only a small quantity of animal bones, all the remains identified as mammalian were analysed together; this assisted to some extent the recognition of the treatment of different parts of the animal carcass (Fig. 2, Table 2). It was found that all the anatomical elements of the animal skeleton were represented in the human burials, most came from the proximal of the pelvic limb (32.2%) and from the trunk (21%). Other parts of the carcass accounted for a smaller percentage (7–13.3%). This is divergent from values known from complete skeletons of domesticated animals in reference collections, in which most bones come from the trunk (34–43%), and half that percentage, from the head (20–23%). The proportion of bones from the front and the hind limbs, jointly from the proximal and the distal parts, is similar and amounts to 10–15%, with the values calculated for phalanges, depending on the animal species, at 6–20%. As such, the analysis of the faunal assemblage suggests an intentional selection of parts of the animal body deposited on the pyre with the dead humans. Most often these elements belong to portions that were attractive for consumption, from the fleshiest parts of the carcass (Fig. 3), with a special preference for proximal sections of the pelvic limb of sheep/goat (haunch, ham). It was established also that the anatomical elements from parts of the animal which was attractive for consumption belonged to do cattle, sheep/goat and pig (Fig. 4 & 6), whereas those having a low utility in this respect belonged to horse, dog and wild mammals. The presence of many phalangeal bones suggests a frequent deposition for cremation of unskinned parts of animals. Once the skin has been removed the phalanges remain with the skin. It was established that a burial held the remains of one to six animal species. In total, the bone assemblage recovered from the human burials was identified to at least 42 individuals of different species. Equally interesting findings were made for the bone assemblages retrieved from animal graves. In each of the 10 graves containing a large quantity of osteological material there was a similar species distribution (Table 4) – the largest percentage was made up by the remains of cattle (48.1–69.5%), followed by sheep/goat (20.3–39.3%). For assemblages containing a sufficient quantity of cattle, sheep/goat, horse and pig bones the distribution of anatomical elements was analysed. Analysis made for the cattle remains (Table 5) revealed the presence in every grave of bones from all the elements of the skeleton, including phalanges, in proportions suggesting that these animals were burnt on the pyre complete, including the skin. The distribution obtained for sheep/goat bones is harder to interpret (Table 6). It seems that in graves 163, 202, 204, 217 and 225 the animals had been deposited whole, unskinned and cremated, in other graves – mostly fragments more attractive for consumption, without the head and distal parts of the limb (Fig. 8). The overrepresentation of the remains from some parts of the body of sheep/goat and cattle, and some isolated fragments of bones of young individuals identified in a few graves suggest the presence in some features of at least fragments of more than one representative of a given species. Anatomical distributions obtained for pig and horse (Table 7), and the number of the remains of dog and wild mammals (Table 3) show that only some fragments of the body of these animals were placed on the pyre, and that most often (except for the horse) they came from parts valuable nutritionally (Fig. 8). In animal graves holding a small quantity of the osteological material these assemblages included only bones from the part of the domesticated animal carcasses, mostly sheep/goat. Usually these were parts attractive from the point of view of consumption, mainly from the trunk. These features may be recognized with some confidence as fractional animal graves. In individual animal graves containing a larger quantity of bones these were identified to between three and eight species, as compared to the poor graves which contained between one and three species. Ultimately, the osteological material from these features was identified to at least 77 individuals. The analysis of a modest group of zooarchaeologically analysed animal bone remains from other Pomeranian and Cloche Grave cemeteries (Fig. 9 & 10, Table 11 & 13) revealed that the domination of cattle, sheep/goat and pig bones observed in the assemblage from animal graves and human burials containing some animal bones recovered at Sochaczew-Trojanów is largely the norm for the grave-sites of these two cultures. The horse, on the other hand, was treated differently; the remains of this species mostly were identified to the nutritionally less attractive body parts. It was confirmed also that graves are not an isolated finding either, and are known also from a number of other cemeteries. On the other hand individual grave-sites differed in the species composition of animals deposited for cremation (Table 10 & 12). Definitely more dominant are the remains of domesticated mammals, with the most prevalent species being sheep/goat, cattle and horse. However, at present, due to the very limited source base, the reasons for these dissimilarities are hard to pinpoint. This significant proportion of the remains of domesticated mammals in the osteological material in the two types of burial (animal and human) appears to be in correspondence with the model of economy, in which all animal products presumably mostly came from domesticated animals. Meat meant for consumption was obtained mainly from cattle, sheep/goat and pig, which is possibly reflected by the deposition for cremation of what are – in terms of consumption – the best portions of the body of these mammals. The frequent presence among the horse bones of the remains of distal parts of its limbs might be the consequence of a different use made of this species, used primarily for transport, and to a smaller extent, as a meat supply. It seems that in some religious-ceremonial activities the ideological sphere could have drawn to some extent on the everyday living and human experience; this is suggested by the ways of using particular species observed in the cremated materials from cemeteries, which at times may correspond to the ways they were used in economy and everyday life. At Sochaczew-Trojanów and at Gulin-Młyn most of the bones found in the fractional human and animal graves came from sheep/goat, and in features containing an animal (animals) apparently burnt whole – from cattle. In other grave-fields the limited number of bone remains, or the lack of some types of grave, precluded making a comparison of this sort. The ritual behaviour of the Pomeranian and the Cloche Grave culture people is poorly understood and interpretation is difficult. Perhaps, in some ceremonies which are intimated by the animal remains from cemeteries, sheep/goat was regarded as more a fitting animal, while in others the same goes for cattle. Additionally, the analysis of materials from Sochaczew-Trojanów revealed the remarkable range of ritual activities involving the use of animals through the sheer number of individuals identified in the cemetery – at least 119. Burnt animal bone remains from cemeteries are an important source of information about ritual activities in which animals played a part; osteological studies, allied with a detailed analysis of the context of discovery of these remains and their cultural setting, have potential to advance our understanding of many aspects of the ideological sphere within the Pomeranian Culture and the Cloche Grave Culture communities.