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A Sheep’s Eye View: Land Division, Livestock and People in Later Prehistoric Somerset, UK

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Part of the Themes in Contemporary Archaeology book series (TCA)

Abstract

Fields and field systems in later prehistoric British archaeology have generally been discussed in relation to territory or land tenure. They are also frequently assumed to relate purely to arable agriculture. Alongside this, we also tend not to situate livestock animals within landscapes. Increasingly, morphological features of fields can be identified as having use in animal handling. Consequently field system morphology, and changes to layouts over time, enable their re-examination in relation to pastoral and arable husbandry (and the interplay between them), and consideration as to why differing approaches may have been adopted within the same landscape at different times. This provides models which, focussing on pastoral husbandry, are potentially applicable to a range of places and periods.

The second and first millennia BC bounded landscapes surrounding the hillfort at Cadbury Castle, Somerset, UK, reveal an intimate relationship between the occupiers of the hillfort , sites in its environs, livestock, and the landscape . A series of different forms of land division and organisation from the earlier Bronze Age onwards can be compared with both faunal and plant macro-fossil data from within that landscape . Different forms of layout appear to reflect different types of strategy and approach in later prehistoric farming. During the second and first millennia BC changes can be observed between different forms of highly extensive pastoral farming and closely integrated and intensive systems. The explanation would seem to be more social than practical in origin, but discerning this is reliant on large scale field survey, and integration of multiple strands of information.

Keywords

  • Fields
  • Livestock
  • Prehistoric
  • Landscape
  • Husbandry

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Notes

  1. 1.

    E.g. Albarella et al. 2007; Amorosi et al. 1998; Chang 1993; Chang and Tourtellotte 1993; Doyle 1870; Fitzherbert 1534; Frame 1992; Fraser 1947; Goodwin 1979; Haas et al. 1998; Halstead 1996; Henderson 1944; Kelly 2000; Lake 1989; Lewthwaite 1981; Rasmussen 1993; Street 1942; Tani 2002.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks are due to Prof Mark Maltby, Dr. Ellen Hambleton, Dr. Richard Tabor, and Dr. Mike Allen for their assistance with this project, which was originally funded by a Bournemouth University Studentship award. Great appreciation goes to Tara Fairclough for tidying up my figures to far greater effect that I could ever achieve; my attempts at design constantly amuse. Dr. Cheryl Green and Richard McConnell cast helpful eyes over the text, and I am indebted to the reviewers for their detailed feedback. Any lingering nonsense is entirely my own. My lasting appreciation goes to all of the volunteers of the South Cadbury Environs Project and subsequently the South Somerset Archaeological Research Group, including dear friends who have departed to fresher pastures, and without whom the data would never have been available.

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Randall, C. (2021). A Sheep’s Eye View: Land Division, Livestock and People in Later Prehistoric Somerset, UK. In: Arnoldussen, S., Johnston, R., Løvschal, M. (eds) Europe's Early Fieldscapes . Themes in Contemporary Archaeology. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71652-3_5

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