Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 1-2 (November 2009)Maaike Groot: Searching for patterns among special animal deposits in the Dutch river area during the Roman period

9 Conclusion

In this paper I have attempted to draw attention to what I believe are repeated patterns in special deposits of animal and other remains in settlements. My aim was not to provide an exhaustive list of deposits. I have discussed some examples from a number of sites and of various material categories in the hope of illuminating the meaning and importance of these types of deposits. I am not suggesting that all deposits mentioned denote ritual. For some we can be fairly certain that they must have a ritual inspiration, while for others it is hard to reach a definitive conclusion. Research into settlement rituals and structured deposition and into religion in general will not progress unless these special deposits are described and illustrated in publications. Since a better knowledge of rubbish dumps should allow us to distinguish better between rubbish disposal and structured deposition, clear-cut examples of disposed rubbish also deserve detailed descriptions in excavation reports, both regarding their contents and context.

Recurrent patterns that can be identified in special deposits of animal and other remains in Roman settlements are remarkable finds from wells, an association between different find categories (animal-metal, animal-pottery, pottery-metal etc.), selection or exclusion of certain skeletal elements and a relation with farmhouses and enclosure ditches. These patterns are not limited to the Dutch river area, as my examples show. The resemblance between special animal deposits and deposits of other remains provides a warning against studying deposits of different material categories in isolation. A comprehensive study of all types of deposit will be much more fruitful.

In particular, finds from wells especially deserve more attention. They are now accepted too easily as accidental losses, dumps or the result of good preservation, when circumstances sometimes clearly indicate that this is not the case, or unlikely. A close examination of finds may reveal patterns in which objects are found in, or excluded from, wells. This may help us understand the process of construction, use and abandonment, and any rituals that accompanied these moments. Like farmhouses, wells seem to have had their own biographies.