Goose husbandry in Medieval England, and the problem of ageing goose bones (in special issue: Proceedings of the 4th Meeting of the ICAZ Bird Working Group Kraków, Poland, 11-15 September, 2001)
Acta Zoologica Cracoviensia, 45, .
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In the Middle Ages geese were kept for meat, eggs and feathers. The expected
age at death, the sex ratio, and presence of medullary bone when birds are raised for the different products is discussed. Historically, geese were killed at 12-16 weeks as ‘green geese’ or were killed in the late autumn as ‘stubble geese’. A small sample of modern immature birds was considered to see if the immature birds found in archaeological bone assemblages can be equated with ‘green geese’. The sample suggests that the skeleton is already almost fully mature at 16 weeks, so methods of recording currently in use do not allow the distinction between birds of 16 weeks and older birds. The goose remains from two Medieval sites in England, the city of Winchester and Eynsham Abbey, Oxfordshire, are discussed. They suggest that few geese were raised within the city or the abbey, and there is indeed historical evidence that geese were raised outside the city of Winchester.
One 13th-14th century assemblage from Winchester comprises mainly carpometacarpi, and the preferred explanation is that they are from distal wings collected for the primary feathers to be used as quill pens. To carry the interpretation of goose husbandry further, we need to establish fusion stages of the bones in a larger sample of immature birds.
Key words: Goose, Anser anser, husbandry, Middle Ages, England, zooarchaeology, feathers, quills.
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