Zooarchaeology of Central England

Umberto Albarella and Tessa Pirnie


The aim of this project is to produce a review of the animal bone evidence for Central England from Mesolithic to Modern times.

Overview of the Project

The project is funded by English Heritage, and undertaken by Umberto Albarella and Tessa Pirnie. It will principally lead to the production of a report and monograph, which will be of interest to zooarchaeologists, archaeologists, curators and historians operating in Britain and elsewhere, as well as a more general readership.

The review is based primarily on faunal data from sites found in the Environmental Archaeology Bibliography, hosted by ADS (Archaeological Data Service). Preparatory research involves the update and analysis of an extensive zooarchaeological database for the region. It is also intended that this summary site data, linked to a searchable gazetteer, should be made available electronically, through an online database and on CD-ROM.

The Period

The period under consideration starts with Post-glacial times (c.8000 BC) and ends with the modern era (19th century), although noting that the archaeological record for very recent periods is generally confused by residuality and stratigraphic disturbance.

The Study Area

Central England includes the areas generally known as the West Midlands, East Midlands and East Anglia, as shown on the map below.

The Study Area


The review will be structured to facilitate inter-site comparison, and the available evidence will carefully be selected to discuss major archaeological questions, such as:

  • Mesolithic extinctions
  • the beginning of domestication
  • ceremonial and domestic settlements
  • feasting and consumption
  • agricultural intensification
  • the impact of the Romanization of Britain
  • villages and towns
  • regional comparison (particularly east/west)
  • diet, trade and status
  • late medieval agricultural innovations.

In addition, diachronic trends will be highlighted, such as:

  • livestock size and improvement over time
  • primary and secondary products
  • centre and periphery
  • hunting and husbandry
  • use of land, freshwater and marine resources
  • extinctions and introductions
  • urbanization.

The discussion of these broad themes will provide a critical analysis of the evidence and its potential, as well as the existence of gaps and inadequacies in the available record. On the basis of the presented evidence, the intention is to emphasise the contribution of faunal studies to the wider theoretical debate in archaeology.

Carsington Pasture Cave

Carsington Pasture Cave