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

7.7 Combination of animal remains with other finds

In some deposits animal remains are buried with other finds, such as metal objects and pottery. Two complete bronze brooches were found with a horse burial at Tiel-PH. Their location and the fact that the brooches were intact and closed suggest that the horse was covered by a piece of cloth which was fastened by the brooches. A parallel is known from Oosterhout, where dismembered parts of a horse seem to have been wrapped in a cloth held together by a brooch (Van den Broeke 2002, 16; 2004, 8). Another remarkable deposit from Tiel-PH is that of a horse skull, a complete crow and an iron knife, all buried in a pit (fig. 25). In a settlement at Beuningen a large 7-year-old male horse was buried with its head gear. This burial was explained as a possible offering to the gods from a grateful veteran soldier (Van der Kamp & Polak 2001, 23, 25). At Den Haag-Wateringseveld a horse burial was associated with a large fragment of a quern stone (Nieweg 2009, 307-308; fig. 26). Two deposits of combinations of horse remains and other finds are known for the Roman period in Midden-Delfland where the hind legs of a foal were deposited with an unbaked axe-shaped clay object and, at another location, the hind legs of a horse were associated with several wooden pegs (Van Londen 2006, 131, 150).


Fig. 25 Impression of special animal deposit of a horse’s head buried with a crow and an iron knife, Tiel-Passewaaijse Hogeweg (illustration: Mikko Kriek, ACVU-HBS).


Fig. 26 Horse buried with a large fragment of a quern, Den Haag-Wateringseveld (photo: Gemeente Den Haag, Afdeling Archeologie).

In Tiel-PH there are two known examples of dogs found associated with pottery. One dog was placed on top of the bottom of a vessel that was already broken and incomplete when it was buried; the dog was not placed inside it (fig. 27). Although the dog’s head and feet were missing, the presence of a single phalanx and damage to the lower tibias make it likely that these parts were accidentally removed during excavation. A second dog was found close to the first one. Another association of a dog with pottery is known from Tiel-PH, but in this case the dog was lying partly on top and partly next to some large sherds (fig. 28). Again, a second dog was buried close to the first; both were buried in house ditches.


Fig. 27 Dog buried on the bottom half of a vessel. Tiel-Passewaaijse Hogeweg (photo: ACVU-HBS).


Fig. 28 Dog buried with large sherds of pottery at Tiel-Passewaaijse Hogeweg (photo: ACVU-HBS).

Dogs buried with pots are also known outside the Dutch river area. In Midden-Delfland site 01.23 a dog skeleton was deposited in a ditch next to a partial Belgic ware pot (Van Londen 2006, 40, 43). The otherwise clean ditch and scattered bones were seen as indications that this was a ritual deposit in a ditch that was carrying water. In another site in this area, the skull and forelegs of a young dog were deposited in a pit in the southwestern corner of the main settlement area together with a partial native ware pot (Van Londen 2006, 119). In the terp De Leege Wier at Englum, Groningen, dog remains were found under a pot that was placed upside down (Nieuwhof 2007, 222-223; Prummel 2007, 152-153). The remains probably represent a dog skin since only skull, feet and tail were recovered, together with three ceramic game counters. A second pot contained an intriguing mix of pottery, animal bones, stone, manure and part of a dog coprolite. The two pots were found in a long pit or ditch dating to the 1st century AD. A similar feature, dated to the 1st century AD and with a similar orientation, was located close to this pit or ditch, suggesting an approximate contemporaneity. In it remains of a cod were deposited between sherds of three pots, possibly complete when buried (Nieuwhof 2007, 226-227). The cod was not complete, only the middle (meatiest?) section was present. A single cod fragment was also present in the feature with the dog skin and two pots. Cod was not found in other features (Prummel 2007, 153).

At Heeten, the head and three lower limbs of cattle were found in a posthole together with a large fragment of a pot (Lauwerier 1999, 186). In Midden-Delfland a complete coarse ware pot in the deposits of a muddy pool close to a farmhouse contained the remains of three geese (Van Londen 2006, 144). Only the bones carrying flesh were present (Groot 1998). This could be seen as a pot of food or food remains. A comparable find is published for Schagen-Muggenburg I, where the remains of a lamb were deposited in the base of a broken pot. It shows the active collecting of consumption waste and the secondary use of a broken pot (Therkorn 2004, 36).

An Early Roman concentration of sheep bones (skull and at least three legs) from Geldermalsen was located close to a deposit of three loomweights. Although it is not certain whether the two pits are associated, it is tempting to link the deposits in view of the relation between species (sheep) and object (processing wool). The find of an articulated horse leg in a ditch at Geldermalsen, close to other finds including burned cereals, brooches and two pots must also be mentioned here. Human remains were not found as special deposits at Tiel-PH, but at Geldermalsen a dog skeleton was deposited close to a human skull.

An association between an animal deposit and other finds is rare for any site but the resemblance between some of the deposits is striking. The presence of other finds in or near special animal deposits points to the selection of both animal and object and to deliberate burial.