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Food, craft and status in medieval Winchester: the plant and animal remains from the suburbs and city defences

Serjeantson, D.J. and Rees, H. (eds.) (2009) Food, craft and status in medieval Winchester: the plant and animal remains from the suburbs and city defences, Oxford, GB, Winchester Museums, 276pp. (Winchester Museums Archaeology Reports, 10).

Record type: Book


This volume is part of an integrated series of studies of Winchester’s archaeology. It provides a record and analysis of medieval environmental evidence from the less studied extra-mural areas of Winchester and assesses what these new discoveries add to the understanding of the city’s past. The report includes the most comprehensive study of animal remains from a medieval English town published up to this time. The study is based on excavations from the 1970s and early 1980s, which, by examining sites on the defences and in the historic suburbs, enlarged the scope of previous extensive investigations within the city walls.

The volume consists of seven chapters, of which the first forms an overall introduction, covering the nature of the sample and how it was retrieved; the method- ologies employed during analysis; and the influence of site and context on the interpretation of the dataset. The locations of the sites themselves and an outline of the structural sequences within them are linked to the changing history and archaeology of the medieval city as a whole. A small sample of molluscan remains from the western suburb is also discussed.

Chapter 2 deals with plant remains from all phases of all of the sites. The contents of four large charred grain deposits are presented in detail, and examined within the framework of the results from an extensive soil sampling programme. The implications, both for actual cultivation and use of plants in medieval Win- chester, and for their survival in the archaeological record are assessed. Faunal assemblages are examined in a further three chapters which between them cover the period from the 10th to the 17th century AD, with the late Saxon and high medieval assemblages being par- ticularly important. Inferences concerning inter- and intra-site variability are addressed through descrip- tion of the remains as groups by context, feature, and phase: species-by-species discussion brings together observations concerning animal husbandry as a whole. A sixth chapter discusses a specific topic – the patholo- gies of the Winchester sheep and the implications.

Finally, all of the evidence is reassembled and synthesised in a seventh chapter which considers Winchester’s medieval economy and society – the food, craft, and status of the title – through time and in relation to other towns and settlements, drawing on the documentary record. Throughout the volume, as here, description and discussion are backed up by the presentation of quantified data, in the form of tables and charts, both within the text and as appendices. In addition, the question of how far individual assem- blages might represent a whole time period, site, area, or settlement is a constant theme.

Thus, this volume will be essential reading for all those concerned with the animals, plants, and envi- ronment of a medieval town, as well as being of value to urban archaeologists and to those with an interest in the history and archaeology of Hampshire. It sheds new light on the management of the animal and plant resources in and around one of England’s foremost cities, as well as providing glimpses of everyday life in Winchester through its keeping, buying, consuming, and disposal of the familiar fowls and fish, plants and animals, over a period of almost a thousand years.

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Published date: 2009
Additional Information: This report publishes and analyses medieval environmental evidence from excavations which took place in the 70s and 80s in extra-mural Winchester. The reports on the faunal remains are particularly full and important ranging from the 10th to the 17th centuries and including a detailed specialist examination of the pathology of the sheep bones. In their discussion of the data the authors draw conclusions about diet and social status, and the chronological spread of the data enables analysis of the changing urban economy. Also stressed is the highly variable nature of the different depositions under study, and thus the dangers inherent in drawing conlusions about urban conditions from small datasets.
Keywords: animal remains, winchester, late saxon, norman, medieval, post-medieval
Organisations: Archaeology


Local EPrints ID: 342287
ISBN: 978-0-86135-018-6
PURE UUID: d51faee8-fa69-489f-853a-b8b4525232c9

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Date deposited: 20 Aug 2012 13:53
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 05:30

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Editor: D.J. Serjeantson
Editor: H. Rees

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