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Prehistoric Pig Legs, Death, Decay, and the Tales of Salty Sea Dogs

July 7, 2010

Interested in archaeology, but don’t think a lecture sounds appealing? Come along to A Pint with the Past, a chance to learn more about archaeology from our three speakers, put your own knowledge to the test with our quiz, and hear some live bluegrass and hornpipes from our musical archaeologists, all in a real ale pub with a view of a very steep road.

Speakers will be Louisa Pittman (University of Bristol, talk entitled “Appeasing Neptune: Sailors’ Superstitions (and Why Archaeologists Should Care)”), Rich Madgwick (Cardiff University, talk entitled “Feasting on forelimbs:Later Prehistoric Ritual in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales”), and Matt Law (Cardiff University,talking on The Human Body from Death to Ancient Skeleton). The quizmaster will be Dr Nick Corcos, and live music played by Kev Potter. Oh, and it’s all free.

The event is on Friday, July 23rd 2010 at the Three Tuns on St George’s Road, Bristol, and starts at 7.30pm.

A Pint With The Past website

Facebook event page

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2010 5:40 pm

    Hi Matt
    As it is too far away for me, I can’t attend. However,
    I curious to know why eating forelimbs is construed as ritual?

    If this was a medieval deposit, I would see bias towards particular joints as indicative of status.

    For example; fore limbs in pigs, [hock] is one of the ‘cheapest’ cuts, and was used for stews or smoked. Shin and Shank in cows is also very tough meat, and difficult to cook, so is suitable for only for stewing.

    So could you ask the question for me; why are the least desirable cuts ritual?

    • matthewlaw permalink*
      July 13, 2010 6:19 pm

      Hi Geoff,
      Thanks for commenting. As I remember the particular problem with this assemblage is that there is an unusually high number of one particular limb (front right I think, but I might be wrong). I’ll ask though, and pass on what I learn on the night.

  2. July 25, 2010 6:28 pm

    Hi Matt,

    Any news on the cheap cuts?

  3. July 25, 2010 7:08 pm

    Hi Geoff, I do have some news! The site is a Bronze Age to Iron Age midden, and seventy percent of the bones are pig. 88% of the pig bones are from the front legs, and 70% of the pig bones are right sided. Oxygen and Nitrogen isotope analysis shows that the pigs have an unusual difference in values between individuals, suggesting they’ve had different diets and are likely to come from different places.The very limited amount of strontium isotope analysis also carried out confirms that some of the pigs are not local. The theory – although Rich admitted it was only a theory – is that Llanmaes was the site of some kind of recurring event within the very dispersed rural community, and bringing that particular cut to the feast (if that’s what it is), was a way of formally showing that visitors had made their contribution, a kind of entry fee. I hope I’ve done justice to his talk with that summary.

  4. July 25, 2010 9:14 pm

    Thanks Matt,

    If the pigs were locally produced, a wider array of cuts should be present, so it is no surprise they are not local.

    So my idea that this is social differentiation, with the occupants of the site occasionally obtaining cheap cuts of meat, from elsewhere, perhaps smoked, still holds good.

    [This could apply to either, a midden produced by local occupation, or, one resulting from transitory / seasonal use.]

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