The role of animal husbandry in late Iron Age and Roman societies: cultural identity and relationships between Italy, Iberia and Britain.


Building on past research of the three main investigators – Umberto Albarella (project coordinator) Claudia Minniti and Silvia Valenzuela Lamas (Intra-European Marie Curie Fellows )– the project investigates changes in animal husbandry at the Iron Age-Roman transition, as part of our wider understanding of the mechanisms of cultural transmission and contact during this momentous phase of human history. Specific questions that are being tackled include change in husbandry techniques, the contribution of local breeding, the introduction of livestock, the use of the land, the role of the market, the influence of local culture and the permanence of Iron Age ideology. The project builds on previous work that we have carried out at a national level, which we now want to interpret in a pan-European perspective.

Materials and methods

Animal remains of selected domestic mammals and birds from a number of key sites from Italy, Portugal, Spain and Britain dating between the 4th C BC and the 4th C AD are being analysed or re-analysed. Our approach focuses on selected aspects of the assemblages that are suited to address our research questions and have so far not been fully explored. We pay particular attention to the age and morphometry of the animals, but, in a particular case study focusing on cattle, we are also working on mobility indicators, such as Strontium isotopic values, which are known to be associated to the geological nature of the soil on which livestock pastured. This latter approach is undertaken in collaboration with the NIGL laboratory, in Keyworth (Nottingham, UK).

Iberian sites

Italian sites

British sites

Mesas do Castelinho

(Almodôvar, Portugal 4th C BC to 2nd C AD).

Palatino - capanna Puglisi (9th-8th C BC), Velia Pozzo 1 (7th-6th C BC), Palatino - scavi Boni (8th-5th C BC) (Rome)

Owslebury (Hampshire) (4th Cent. BC - 4th cent. AD)

Casa do Governador (Lisboa, Portugal, 1st C BC to 5th C AD).

Centocelle (4th-3rd C BC); Palatino area temenos (4th – 3rd C BC), Palatino - capanna Puglisi (3rd CBC) (Rome)

Elms Farm, Heybridge (Essex) (1st C BC – 4th C AD)

Núcleo Arqueológico da Rua dos Correeiros (NARC-BCP) (Lisboa, Portugal, 8th C BC to 1st C AD).

Arco of Costantino, Foro Transitorio, Meta Sudans, Quirinale, Via Sacchi, Aqua Marcia, Anfiteatrum Flavi - corridoi ipogei, Tenuta of Vallerano (all 1st and 2nd C AD – Rome)

L'Hereuet (Tarragona, Spain, 3th C BC to 2nd C AD)

Other deposits in Rome (all 3rd- 5th C AD): Aqua Marcia, Anfiteatrum Flavi drain trunk lines, Meta Sudans, Terme of Traiano, Anfiteatrum Flavi - Criptoporticum cd Passaggio of Commodo, Mitreum of Crypta Balbi

El Vilarenc (Calafell, Spain, 2nd C BC to 3rd C AD)

Relevant publications

Valenzuela, S. (in press) Mammal remains from the Governor's House (Belém Tower, Lisbon) and Rua dos Correeiros (Baixa, Lisbon) in the context of fish processing factories in Lusitania, BAR International Series, forthcoming in 2014.

Minniti, C., Valenzuela, S., Evans, J., Albarella, U. 2014: Widening the market. Strontium isotope analysis on cattle teeth from Owslebury (Hampshire, UK) highlights changes in livestock supply between the Iron Age and the Roman period, Journal of Archaeological Science 42 : 305-314.

Valenzuela S., Fabião C. 2012: Ciervos, ovejas y vacas: el registro faunístico de Mesas do Castelinho (Almodôvar) entre la edad del hierro y época romana, V Encontro de Arqueologia do Sudoeste Peninsular, p. 413- 432.

Maltby M. 2010. Feeding a Roman Town: Environmental Evidence from Excavations in Winchester, 1972-1985. Winchester, England: Winchester Museum Service.

De Grossi Mazzorin J., Minniti C. 2009. L’utilizzazione degli animali nella documentazione archeozoologica a Roma e nel Lazio dalla preistoria recente all’età classica, in L. Drago Troccoli (a cura di), Il Lazio dai Colli Albani ai Monti Lepini tra preistoria ed età moderna, Edizioni Quasar, Roma, pp. 39-68.

Albarella U., Johnstone C. & Vickers K. 2008. The development of animal husbandry from the Late Iron Age to the end of the Roman period: a case study from South-East Britain. Journal of Archaeological Science 35, pp. 1828-48.

Hammon, A. 2008. Animal Husbandry: An Overview of the Evidence from the Animal
Bones. In Cunliffe, B. Overview: The Danebury Environs Roman Programme: A
Wessex Landscape during the Roman Era, Volume 1. Oxford: English Heritage /
Oxford University School of Archaeology, Monograph 70, pp. 74-100.

Albarella U. 2007. The end of the Sheep Age: people and animals in the late Iron Age. In C.Haselgrove and T.Moore (eds). The Late Iron Age in Britain and beyond, Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp.393-406.

Conference presentations:

November 2011: Mammal remains from the Governor’s House (Belém Tower, Lisbon) and Rua dos Correeiros (Baixa, Lisbon) in the context of fish processing factories in Lusitania, 1r Encontro de Zooarqueologia em Portugal, Lisbon (Portugal).

June 2012: New evidence on cattle mobility in Britain during the Late Iron Age and Early Roman periods: strontium isotope analysis of cattle teeth from Owslebury (Hampshire), Integrating Zooarchaeology and Stable Isotope Analyses, Cambridge (UK).

September 2012: Animal husbandry and the ‘Romanisation’ process of Britain: a case study from Owslebury (Hampshire, southern Britain), XXII International Limes Congress 2012 – Roman Empire Frontiers, Ruse (Bulgaria).

April 2013: Meat supply and economic system: some insights from Iron Age and Roman Owslebury (Hampshire, UK) using stable isotopes from cattle teeth. OIKOS Meeting, Tarragona (Spain).

September 2013: Romanization and zooarchaeology in the Limes of the Empire: the case of Lusitania. ‘The Romanization in the Iberian Peninsula: a state of the art from Zooarchaeology’, León (Spain).

March 2014: "Was Romano-British husbandry innovative? An integrated approach to a complex question", 11th RAC Conference, Reading (UK).

September 2014: Livestock mobility basing on Strontium and Oxygen isotope analysis on sheep teeth: a perspective about seasonal movements in Iron Age Catalonia (North-Eastern Spain), 12th ICAZ conference, San Rafael, Argentina

September 2014: Meat supply, trade and economic system: some insights from Iron Age and Roman Owslebury (Hampshire, UK) using stable isotopes from cattle teeth, 12th ICAZ conference, San Rafael, Argentina



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