Another fun day at the museum stores (19.11.2014)

This week saw us return to Corinium Museum’s stores for a second time. This time we were focused on animal bone and ‘small finds’ – ‘small finds’ is a loose term used to describe types of find that are rare on site, often metal, glass and worked bone objects. To make the best use of our time, we divided the team into two: I went hunting for animal bone, while Lisa was in charge of looking through the small finds.

I went to Northleach with Priscilla Lange, who is an animal bones expert based at the University of Oxford. Heather Dawson, from Corinium, had kindly brought out a small selection of the animal bone kept in store, so we were able to make a quick start. Priscilla found lots of useful material for the exhibition, including the remains of a suckling pig and a cache of pigs’ trotters from Cirencester. In the exhibition, we really want to show how we know about Roman food, so we also selected animal bones that show the difference between evidence for food and evidence for other practices, for example these cattle metapodials.

Cattle metapodials from St Michael's Field in Cirencester. They show a variety of treatments. Top row (l-r): cut marks for meat removal; marrow extraction; bone working; marrow extraction. The example at the bottom has  been sampled for scientific analysis.

Cattle metapodials from St Michael’s Field in Cirencester, which show a variety of treatments. Top row (l-r): cut marks for meat removal; marrow extraction; bone working; marrow extraction. The example at the bottom has been sampled for scientific analysis.

Meanwhile, Lisa spent a productive day with James Harris finding artefacts from the Corinium Museum on-site store, looking at the small finds from the excavations within Cirencester itself and from sites in the surrounding region. Here we found a range of objects from those used to produce food, to those used to eat food. This meat hook would have been used to hang cuts of meat in Cirencester, causing the holes seen in cattle scapulae (shoulder blades).

Meat hook from Cirencester.

Meat hook from Cirencester.

Me holding a cattle scapula that has been pierced by a meat hook, like the one in the picture above.

Me holding a cattle scapula that has been pierced by a meat hook, like the one in the picture above.

Meanwhile, Lisa spent a productive day with James Harris finding artefacts from the Corinium Museum on-site store, looking at the small finds from the excavations within Cirencester itself and from sites in the surrounding region. Here we found a range of objects from those used to produce food, to those used to eat food. This meat hook would have been used to hang cuts of meat in Cirencester, causing the holes seen in cattle scapulae (shoulder blades).

Some artefacts were used for food consumption, for example a lovely bronze bowl and some bone spoons. Other items may have had a more ‘special’, possibly ritual, significance beyond food, like a ceramic vessel with a snake wrapped around the handle.

A fragmentary bronze bowl from Cirencester.

A fragmentary bronze bowl from Cirencester. Finds like these are very rare.

As well as selecting objects for the exhibition, I also met up with Jak Harrison from the Churn Project (www.churnproject.org.uk). This is an excellent initiative that works with elderly, unemployed and family groups within the Cirencester area to improve quality of life and well-being. We discussed several potential collaborative events and activities that we hope to have running before and during the exhibition at Corinium Museum. This is an exciting prospect and I’m looking forward to putting these ideas into action.

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