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
7 Recognising patterns

7.5 Other deposits associated with houses

Special animal deposits within or close to farmhouses should be seen in the same context as complete pots found in postholes, namely as part of a ritual related to the building, use or abandonment of the house. At Tiel, five finds from farmhouses were interpreted as foundation deposits. All were complete pots and in one case two pots and a coin (fig. 22). Four of the five deposits were placed in one of the main postholes and one in a ditch outside the main entrance. A concentration of silver coins was found in a corner posthole. The coins were interpreted as a hoard and not a foundation deposit, since the latter are usually of little value (Heeren & Van Renswoude 2006, 215, 219, 225, 229, 234, 246-247; Aarts 2007, 126-127). In contrast to Tiel-PH, deposits from farmhouses are not found at Geldermalsen. A complete strainer from the core of a posthole of an Early Roman granary is interpreted as an abandonment deposit (Van Kerckhove 2009, 157). Two pots were buried in the upper fill of Late Iron Age postholes, suggesting that these are also abandonment deposits (Van Kerckhove 2009, 191). The postholes could not be associated with buildings, but are likely to have belonged to small granaries.


Fig. 22 Foundation deposit from Tiel-Passewaaijse Hogeweg and a reconstruction of the moment when the pots were buried (illustration: Mikko Kriek, ACVU-HBS).

Animals or animal parts do not seem to have been deposited as house offerings in Midden-Delfland. Foundation deposits in that region were placed in the north-eastern corner of the house and include a willow wreath and a metal object that could be a curved knife or a horseshoe. A Mesolithic flint core was buried in a wall ditch, resting on top of a complete coarse ware lid. An example of a deposit from a house ditch is an iron shoe of an ard (Van Londen 2006, 36, 147-149). At Schagen-Muggenburg III an inverted pot was found under the threshold of a house entrance, while the hearth was built over three partial cooking pots which were placed in a row (Therkorn 2004, 48-49).

Foundation deposits are usually found at the base of postholes, in wall ditches and near the entrance of the house. Gerritsen suggests that they generally consist of complete pottery vessels, but Van Londen’s and Therkorn’s studies have shown their variability (Gerritsen 2003, 63-65; Van Londen 2006; Therkorn 2004). A recent study claims that the contents and location of house deposits varies according to the region (Van Hoof 2007). Deposits made during the habitation of the house are so-called site maintenance practices. When habitation of the house ended, abandonment deposits could be made. These typically consist of pits filled with large quantities of refuse (Gerritsen 2003, 97-102). Gerritsen mentions the use of organic material as a possible explanation for the relative paucity of foundation deposits in his study area (Gerritsen 2003, 64-65). It has indeed been suggested that it is the contents of the complete pots that are the real offering (Gerritsen 2003, 64); these are seldom preserved. A find from Schagen-Muggenburg I supports this idea; while not associated with a house, a near complete pot contained the edible seeds of orach and chickweed (Therkorn 2004, 35).