Norwich Castle: Excavations & Historical Survey 1987-98. Part III:

A Zooarchaeological Study by Umberto Albarella, Mark Beech, Alison Locker, Marta Moreno-García, Jacqui Mulville and Julie Curl with Elizabeth Shepherd PopescuNorwich Castle colour

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Norwich Castle, established soon after the Normal Conquest, was the only royal castle in Norfolk and Suffolk for nearly a century. Together with is surround Fee or Liberty, the fortification overlay a substantial part of the Late Saxon town. Redevelopment for a shopping centre complex – named Castle Mall – entailed the archaeological excavation of the castle´s south bailey, its barbican and part of its north-east bailey (the Castle Meadow), along with the fringes of the adjacent urban settlement. This was the largest archaeological excavation ever undertaken in Norwich and remains one of the largest urban excavations in Europe. The investigation was carried out by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit (NAU) between 1987 and 1991, with supplementary work undertaken at Golden Ball Street in 1998.

This is Part III of the Norwich Castle report. A two-volume monograph (Shepherd Popescu 2009) presents a synthesis of all the results from the excavations and associated historical and documentary research. Part I spans the Anglo-Saxon period to c. 1345 and includes the background to the project. Part II spans the period c. 1345 to modern and includes chapters on finds analysis, the development of the castle and overall conclusions. Although Parts I and II contain summary accounts of the faunal remains, setting them into their wider context and including additional information on craft activities, the scale of the data required the production of a separate and more specialised report on the faunal remains. This permits presentation of metrical and other data that could not be published in detail within the monograph, where the faunal assemblage is considered largely in chronological terms; this occasional paper details the evidence more specifically by species.

Excavation at Castle Mall yielded the largest faunal assemblage ever recovered from Norwich with the greatest, most continuous chronological spread. The assemblages recovered demonstrate the breadth of information available from faunal remains, from the common farm animals providing milk, meat and eggs, to the trade in horns, antlers, hides and bones for crafts and industries. Evidence ranging from the occasional exotic species to the use of non-traditional food animals such as horse and dog has revealed a picture of the human-animal interaction within a medieval town. The analyses reveal details on the diet of the citizens of Norwich: how animals where procured and butchered, which foods people ate and how they disposed of their waste. It has also been possible to link archaeological and zooarchaeological evidence to trace the changing use of space within and around the castle site throughout its long history.

Amongst the various assemblages recovered from the site, the well-preserved late medieval group from the barbican well suggests that between the mid/late 15th and early 16th centuries at Norwich, cattle were raised for prime beef production and pigs for pork. Sheep seemed to be more important for other products than meat, such as wool and skin. Chicken and geese supplied meat and eggs, with geese also providing the raw material for the fletching of arrows and/or quills for writing.

The results presented here build upon previous work both within the city and further afield and contribute greatly to the debates on the changing use of animals, agricultural improvement, the fishing industry, and the relationship between urban sites and their rural hinterland. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this site has provided evidence for the most illusive of innovations, that of the `agricultural revolution´. Analysis of these large assemblages has allowed linkage between a shift in animal use to a change in animal type. These changes, occurring between the 15th and 17th centuries, are the initial stages in a new economic system of animal husbandry. The creation of a large corpus of ageing and metrical data has provided an extensive and detailed body of evidence absent from many other sites, upon which future research in the development of animal use can be built.

Shepherd Popescu, E. (2009) Norwich Castle: Excavations and Historical Survey 1987–98 (2 vols.), East Anglican Archaeology 132.

Paperback: 188p, 145 illus Publisher: East Anglian Archaeology Occasional Paper 22 2009, ISBN-13: 978-0-905594-50-7, ISBN-10: 0-905594-50-9