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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
A detail of some of the cattle bones found in layer 4 of the Odeion
Body part representation of the cattle at the Odeion. The colored bones (horn cores, feet, vertebrae) are missing or heavily underrepresented.
Bea De Cupere going through the faunal material of the Odeion

Photos courtesy Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project. Click on images to enlarge.
by Marc Waelkens

Archaeozoology: August 21-25, 2005

During the final week of the excavations an enormous amount of bone material was recovered from layers 4 and 5 of the Odeion dating to the early Byzantine period (sixth to seventh century A.D.), which covered the column drums stored inside the southeast corridor (see Odeion, August 21-25). Expressed in volume this assemblage largely exceeds the fauna that was collected this season thus far. The material essentially consists of cattle bones left at this spot. The fact that the bones were not found in articulating position and that many of them show cut and chop marks demonstrates that we are not dealing with complete carcasses of animals that were dumped in this area. We hence believe that we are dealing with the refuse of butchery activity. Interesting is that certain bones are missing or heavily underrepresented which allows to reconstruct how the carcass was processed and what happened to the different parts of the butchered animals. Horn cores are missing and foot elements are heavily underrepresented. Horns are indeed often left in the skin when it is removed for hide working elsewhere. Sometimes also the foot bones are left in the skin, but in the case of Sagalassos we suppose that they were removed for bone working. The canon bones (metacarpals and metatarsals in archaeozoological jargon) were used as raw material for the production of bone objects such as needles, hairpins and spoons. A large concentration of refuse and half-finished objects related to their manufacture has been found previously in the late fourth century A.D. filling of the burnt down Neon Library.

The bones of meat bearing parts of the carcass (fore and hind legs) are well represented and typically are heavily fragmented, possibly indicating that also the bone marrow was collected for consumption. Ribs are also well represented. Faunal analyses carried out in the palatial mansion of the Domestic Area show that cattle bones are relatively rare, and it seems therefore likely that most of the beef was sold without the bones. An exception to this rule is the meat around the vertebrae. In this area of the body, defleshing is less easy. This can explain why vertebrae are almost totally lacking at the dump in the Odeion; we suppose that portions of the vertebral column (meat and bones) were sold as such.

A similar and broadly contemporaneous deposit of butchery waste has been found previously in the small Trajanic street fountain along the NE access to the Lower Agora. This assemblage differs from the one in the Odeion in that the shoulder blades were also missing. Evidence from other classical sites has shown that this part of the body was processed into smoked ham. It is unclear thus far how this difference should be explained; it could be either a small temporal difference or simply an illustration of the varying distribution systems operating within the town. In any case, the finds from the Odeion and from the Lower Agora show that once several large monuments lost their original function towards the end of the occupation of the town, the tradition of centralized carcass partitioning and animal part distribution still went on.

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