Meal Remains From Castles: 2016 Osteology Reports

Supported by a grant from the King Gustavus Adolphus VI Foundation For Swedish Culture, osteologist Lena Nilsson has analysed the bones we collected during excavations last year at two Medieval strongholds. Two weeks with 19 fieldworkers at Birgittas udde produced only 0.4 kg of bones, because the site has no culture layers to speak of and the sandy ground has been unkind. But from the following two weeks at Skällvik Castle we brought home 32.7 kg of bones! And now Lena has looked at them all. Here are her reports:

The reports are in Swedish, but the species names and anatomical terms are given in Latin. Birgittas udde was occupied briefly in the 1270s but then seems to have been vacant, though kept in repair long into the following century. Skällvik Castle was occupied from 1330 to 1356 or shortly thereafter.

Lena is available for more work, and I’ll be happy to help readers get in contact with this seasoned osteologist.

Update 29 May: And here’s Lena’s report on the bones from Landsjö Castle 2015.

2015 Osteology Report For Stensö Castle

As with the bones from the 2014 fieldwork at Stensö Castle, Rudolf Gustavsson of SAU in Uppsala has again analysed the bones we found this year (report in Swedish here). And as expected, there are no human bones: this too is mostly food waste. The body parts represented indicate that trench D just inside the perimeter wall contained meal remains while trench F inside the south tower contained more butchery refuse.

The material is dominated by youngish pigs, a tell-tale marker of aristocratic housekeeping, followed by cattle and finally sheep/goat to a lesser proportion than in the 2014 trenches. Chicken, goose, duck and hare were also eaten. Most of the fish species identified would have been available just downhill in the Bråviken inlet.

Turning to other uses for animals than as food, bones of squirrel, cat and dog suggest the production of furs, as do the aforementioned hares. Some cat and squirrel bones have cut marks characteristic of flaying, while some dog bones show signs of butchery.

2014 Castle Excavation Reports

Things are coming together with the post-excavation work for last summer’s castle investigations so I’m putting some stuff on-line here.

  • I’ve submitted a paper detailing the main results to a proceedings volume for the Castella Maris Baltici symposium in Lodz back in May. There are no illustrations in the file, but you’ll find all you need here on the blog in various entries tagged ”Castles”.
  • Osteologist Rudolf Gustavsson has completed his reports on the bones from the two sites (LandsjöStensö).

For the Dear Reader who doesn’t read Swedish, a short summary of Rudolf’s results is in order. As expected, there are no human bones: this is food waste. The material from both sites is dominated by youngish pigs followed by sheep/goat and cattle in roughly equal fragment numbers. Pig parts represented at Landsjö suggest slaughter on site. Chicken was also eaten at both sites. Both sites have fish species that would have been available in the body of water overlooked by the castle. Landsjö’s trench D has large parts of a fox whose femur shows a healed break. It’s from the top layer that probably represents post-Medieval, post-castle slope erosion, and thus doesn’t seem to have anything to do with courtly hunting.

Questions and comments on the documents are most appreciated!