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

7.3 Arranging skeletal elements within a deposit

Unequivocal evidence for arranging of skeletal elements is uncommon but it is found in several deposits. A convincing example is a burial of a sheep at Tiel-PH, where the sheep’s head was removed and replaced by the jaws of a calf (fig. 18). The sheep’s head was found near the back end of the skeleton, together with remains from two neonatal lambs. The dog buried in the lower half of an amphora at Tiel-PH provides another example of the arranging of elements within a deposit. The crossed legs of the skull-and-lower-legs deposit from Geldermalsen seem to be deliberately arranged (fig. 5), as do the legs from two other deposits, which are lying parallel with all feet pointing in the same direction (figs. 14 and 15). Two horse skulls in a pit at Tiel-PH were lying parallel to each other, leaving most of the pit empty. They seem to have been deposited in a deliberate manner. The mandibles from one of the skulls were found at the other side of the pit. The horses were of a similar age (younger than 2.5 years), which could indicate deliberate selection of animals for burial.


Fig. 18 Burial of a sheep at Tiel-Passewaaijse Hogeweg. The sheep’s head has been replaced by the jaws of a calf (photo: ACVU-HBS).

The possibly deliberate arrangement of horse skeletal elements was also encountered at Naaldwijk (Groot 2008c, 187). Two skulls and mandibles, six lower legs and cervical and thoracic vertebrae were placed in a ditch. The arrangement looks deliberate, with the skulls touching and flanked by a line of vertebrae on one side and metapodials on two of the other sides (fig. 16). At two sites in Midden-Delfland, legs had been removed from cattle and buried next to the body. Further evidence of manipulation may be identified in the deposit of a stork where the head and several other elements were removed (Van Londen 2006, 64, 70, 131).