Success!Posted: July 2, 2011
The field season in Khanuy delivered some good data, and it was nice to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Several articles for publication are planned from the results of this research and updates will appear here as they become available.
Among many emails awaiting me when I returned was one from the organisers of this year’s AEA conference in Amsterdam on 21st-22nd October this year, informing me that my presentation had been accepted. A copy of the abstract can be found below:
Make Do and Spend
The development of towns and cities occurs in relation to their region – that is not only their hinterland but the wider province for which they are the cultural, religious and economic centre. Often, these regions are difficult to determine archaeologically and with animal products forming the largest sector of the pre-industrial economy their analysis might be seen as one potential way in which to do so. Such analysis might lead not only to the re-evaluation of economies, but also to a more refined understanding of social gradation within urban societies.
The characterisation of archaeological sites by affluence and social standing is commonly accorded following analysis of zooarchaeological material and (sic) subsistence. This kind of classification has been successfully demonstrated numerous times on Mediaeval sites but presents specific problems on Mediaeval urban sites where the mixing of material from several different family (and thus social) units is probable.
This paper uses the zooarchaeological assemblage from Mediaeval Exeter (UK) to suggest that such considerations of social status may be applicable within urban assemblages, just as they are between rural assemblages. Individuals and families with the widest contacts and social and economic importance within a city’s region might be supposed to consume a greater proportion of higher status foodstuffs, such as wild animals in the Mediaeval period. Conversely, those of lowest status probably subsisted to a greater extent on what food they could produce themselves – within British Mediaeval cites this was most commonly the raising of pigs. Social and economic status in-between these two extremes could be characterised by the purchasing of livestock held to be common and low status in rural areas, such as cows and sheep, not raised within cities themselves.
The analysis of the urban zooarchaeological assemblage presented here aims to show the proportions of urban subsistence, hinterland subsistence and delicacy procurement within a city’s wider province, and hence the proportions of the population which might fall into the self-sufficient (producing) base, the procuring wealthy (with province-wide contacts and status) and those in-between – that is, those that ‘make do’ and those that ‘spend’. This kind of analysis, though stopping short of the identification of social units, may suggest the social balance characteristic of developing cities and the intra-urban subsistence and extra-urban surplus levels necessary for such a community – the demand-supply feedback loop which enables and drives the development of urban centres and their regions.