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Identifying draught cattle in the past: Lessons from large-scale analysis of archaeological datasets

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-12-11, 12:28 authored by Matilda Holmes, Richard Thomas, Helena Hamerow

Purpose

Improve understanding of the links between biological variables (sex, body size and anatomical position) and adaptive remodelling of autopodia, and the identification of traction use in the archaeological record.


Methods

A modified version of the recording system for identifying draught cattle in the archaeological record (Bartosiewicz et al., 1997) was applied to a sample of 1509 bones from six sites from medieval England. Analysis focused on identifying correlations between pathological and sub-pathological changes in lower-limb bones in relation to anatomy, sex and body mass.


Results

A correlation between sex, body mass and lower limb bone changes was demonstrated. The need to consider anterior and posterior limb bone elements separately to maximise the potential for identifying cattle used for traction was identified. Changes in hindlimb elements were highlighted as the most useful indicator of draught use.


Contribution

This study provides new, detailed evidence for a previously poorly understood correlation between the effects of anatomical position, sex and body size and the nature of skeletal changes traditionally associated with draught cattle. It pulls together findings and makes comprehensive suggestions for future studies.


Limitations

This is a purely methodological paper. Although general results are presented, there is insufficient space to include a full case study. This will be published separately within the results of the FeedSax project.


Further research

Future studies into the use of cattle for draught purposes in the past should take in to account the sex and size of the animals under consideration, and analyse anterior and posterior elements separately.

Funding

ERC-2016-ADG-741751

History

Citation

Matilda Holmes, Richard Thomas, Helena Hamerow, Identifying draught cattle in the past: Lessons from large-scale analysis of archaeological datasets, International Journal of Paleopathology, Volume 33, 2021, Pages 258-269, ISSN 1879-9817, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2021.05.004.

Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

International Journal of Paleopathology

Volume

33

Pagination

258 - 269

Publisher

Elsevier BV

issn

1879-9817

Acceptance date

2021-05-09

Copyright date

2021

Available date

2021-05-24

Language

en

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