The Tortuous Process of Ritualisation

imageIn the post today I received a copy of “The Ritual Killing and Burial of Animals: European Perspectives”; a glossy hardback volume that should be of some interest to many zooarchaeologists and perhaps others too.  It includes my paper “Ritualisation (or The Four Fully Articulated Ungulates of the Apocalypse)”, based on research carried out in 2008 and first presented at a conference in 2009 (the proceedings of which form the basis of this publication).

Alongside ethnographic work carried out in Ethiopia I discuss a broad range of topics, including Mediaeval European conceptions of famine and disease, in relation to the interpretation of fully articulated animal bone groups (ABGs) in archaeology.  ABGs are often interpreted as ritual deposits by archaeologists but this paper argues that such interpretations are often no more than the poorly considered results of a an undefined prejudice.  It’s several years since the paper was first researched and written and I’d undoubtedly set about it in a different way now, nevertheless it is there for posterity and a copy of the abstract is included after the break.  A link to purchase a copy of the book is also included on the ‘books’ page of my website.

lion skeleton


Ritualisation (or The Four Fully Articulated Ungulates of the Apocalypse)

It is now common practice amongst British and European archaeologists to interpret burials of fully articulated animal skeletons as evidence of ritual activity, particularly on sites from the prehistoric or Roman periods. This interpretation of ritual activity has become an accepted analysis for many archaeologists, despite the full meaning behind such an interpretation remaining obscure. It is sometimes applied as a short-hand for these deposits without full consideration of other potential explanations.

Whilst conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Ethiopia during 2008, many fully and partially articulated bovid skeletons were observed on the ground, and were reported buried. The reasons behind such methods of disposal were discussed with the local people and are here presented with reference to other examples, in the hope that they may aid future interpretation of archaeological sites and zooarchaeological assemblages as an analogue of use in a variety of temporal and climatic situations.