Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 1-2 (November 2009)Liesbeth Troubleyn; Frank Kinnaer; Anton Ervynck; Luk Beeckmans; Danielle Caluwé; Brigitte Cooremans; Frans De Buyser; Koen Deforce; Konjev Desender; An Lentacker; Jan Moens; Gaston Van Bulck; Maarten Van Dijck; Wim Van Neer; Werner Wouters: Consumption patterns and living conditions inside Het Steen, the late medieval prison of Malines (Mechelen, Belgium)
5 The small finds


Most important in number are the bones of domestic animals: cattle (Bos primigenius f. taurus), sheep (Ovis ammon f. aries) and pig (Sus scrofa f. domestica) (table 4). Cattle clearly was the most important meat provider. Of all three species, remains of all parts of the skeleton were found. Cattle and sheep are mostly represented by older animals. Game species played a minor role in the food supply; only hare (Lepus capensis) and rabbit are attested (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The latter finds are interesting because the rabbit was only introduced into the Low Countries during the late Middle Ages and was kept – first for its fur, only later also as a food item – in wastelands such as the coastal dunes and in enclosed hunting areas, the so-called ‘warrens’. Keeping rabbits was a project of the upper class, i.e. the inhabitants of castles and abbeys (Lauwerier & Zeiler 2001; Ervynck 2003). Only later (although the exact date for this evolution is unknown), were rabbits kept in small cages by urban households, thus becoming a real domestic animal. Finally, both cesspits contained a number of bones from cats (Felis silvestris f. catus), mostly young animals.

The small mammal remains comprise a skull fragment of an unidentified bat species (Chiroptera sp.) and a large number of rodent bones from both the 4 mm and 2 mm sieve. The latter group apparently only consists of skeletal elements of two commensal species, the house mouse (Mus musculus) and the black rat (Rattus rattus). The presence of these rodents, and especially of the black rat, is also clearly witnessed by gnawing marks on the chicken remains, and on the bones of the large domestic animals of which the meat was consumed within the tower (fig. 23).


Fig. 23 Cattle phalanges gnawed by rodents (left: reference specimen), most probably black rats (Rattus rattus).