Wednesday 2 July 2014

All Cannings Cross Midden Reports

"Towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, Plain Ware ceramics are replaced by the more highly decorated Early All Cannings Cross forms. These are more focused on the service of food than the earlier ceramic forms and appear indicative of the importance of public consumption in the negotiation of social relationships. It therefore seems likely that consumption, governed by its strict rules of etiquette, would have served as the primary medium for re-incorporating these disparate groups back into the community. The meetings will have been filled with stories of the journeys undertaken, the people encountered and the activities conducted. Relaxed sexual licence often characterizes such events (Fleming 1985) and the knowledge gained through conversation and the relationships formed would have strengthened the individual’s sense of belonging to the community...."

"During the 80’s and 90’s a number of discoveries highlighted the occurrence of a number of large midden sites in and around the Vale of Pewsey consistently dated to the Late Bronze Age / Earliest Iron Age transition. Consisting of 1-2m deep dark humic deposits, rich in animal bone and ceramics, the dramatic nature of the midden sites is highlighted by the huge numbers of animals slaughtered on an annual basis and its implication on the population that such sites could support. Initial explanations for these sites have focused on the manipulation of social relations through cycles of competitive feasting (McOmish 1996).
This paper reviews recent work by the University of Sheffield on the faunal data from the middens at All Cannings Cross and Stanton St. Bernard. Whilst these sites were the scene of large seasonal congregations that augmented a full time population during the year, it argues against feasting as the primary driver of midden creation. It suggests that changes to the landscape on the downs during the Late Bronze Age represent a rise in transhumance and dispersal of communal elements. Evidence suggests that the midden sites were located at pivotal points in the landscape where large groups of people would be drawn together at certain times during the agricultural calendar. As such, in contrast to the socially divisive results of competitive feasting, it suggests the sites were integral to a process reincorporating community ethos for disparate groups and may over time have become symbolically associated with what it meant to belong to a community. 

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