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


This paper explores recurring patterns among special animal deposits in rural settlements in the Dutch river area from the Roman period and draws a comparison with finds of other material categories. Recognising patterns is a step towards interpreting special deposits as the material remains of ritual actions since ritual usually follows strict rules. Any interpretation of special deposits, such as animal burials, should be based on sound argumentation. Archaeologists may be faced with, and have to distinguish between, deliberate or casual rubbish disposal, intentional deposition without attending rituals and deposition surrounded by ritual actions. Detailed descriptions of good examples of both rubbish dumps and structured deposits will be of great value in this process. This paper also argues for a more holistic approach where various find categories are studied together. This will lead to the identification of similarities between deposits. As an example, remarkable bone and non-bone finds from wells are described. Some of these finds should be seen as foundation or abandonment deposits, suggesting that like farmhouses, wells had a life cycle punctuated by ritual moments. Special deposits of animal remains and other find categories deserve much more attention than they now receive in excavation reports.