Animals formed an essential part of urban life in England from Medieval times onwards, economically, socially, and ecologically. As livestock, they provided meat and other carcass resources, traction power, wool, and dairy produce. The close integration of livestock with everyday urban life is reflected in the ubiquity of butchered cattle, and sheep and pig bones, and the sight, sound, and smell of livestock would have been everyday experiences. Horses are probably under-represented in the animal bone record, given their likely importance as pack and riding animals. Poultry and, later, rabbits were important as livestock that poorer households could raise and trade. Other animals provided companionship, although the differentiation of companion animals is not unproblematic. The commensal scavengers such as crows and rodents were a central element of the urban scene, becoming stigmatized as ‘vermin’ at least by the sixteenth century.
This chapter considers the application of archaeobotany to the later medieval period in Britain with reference to selected sites. The strengths and weaknesses of methods and evidence are explained. The most common plants remains are cereals but fruit and nuts are also found in abundance, some being imported species. Vegetables and herbs are generally poorly preserved. Some of the richest assemblages come from wet deposits in ports and may include exotics or from towns where possible thatch and industrial remains are known. Elite sites such as castles, manors, and monasteries sometimes also have abundant plant remains but the evidence from lower-status rural sites can be absent or difficult to recognize. Key concerns for the future include the limited scope of many commercial archaeological investigations, the need to exploit the archaeobotanical evidence more fully other than as a source of information about diet, and the importance of collaborative work between archaeobotanists and historians.
Finbar McCormick and Emily Murray
This paper presents an overview of the main trends in animal exploitation in the Medieval period in Ireland as revealed by the zooarchaeological data. Cattle dominated the farming economy and diet throughout the period with dairying being their principal role. Sheep are consistently present. The growth of the wool trade after the Anglo-Norman conquest is evident in assemblages from the east and southeast, though it is not a strong trend with their use as a source of meat persisting throughout the Medieval period. An urban–rural dichotomy is also evident in the exploitation of pigs, goats, cats, dogs, and domestic poultry. The native Irish clearly took little interest in the exploitation of wild animals, unlike the Anglo-Normans for whom the consumption and hunting of game played an important role.