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Analysing Deposition and Site Formation Processes in Medieval Cess Pits Using Bone Fragmentation

Authors:

Emily V. Johnson ,

Archaeology South-East, Institute of Archaeology, UCL Portslade, Brighton, East Sussex, GB
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Hayley Forsyth-Magee,

Archaeology South-East, Institute of Archaeology, UCL Portslade, Brighton, East Sussex, GB
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Ian Hogg

Archaeology South-East, Institute of Archaeology, UCL Portslade, Brighton, East Sussex, GB
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Abstract

Signatures of animal bone fragmentation have huge potential for understanding deposition and archaeological site formation processes, yet they are scarcely studied, especially in medieval urban contexts. Archaeological investigations at 1–5 Benjamin Street, Farringdon uncovered a number of medieval cess pits and other contexts associated with the Hospitaller Priory of St John of Jerusalem. The well-preserved zooarchaeological assemblage from these contexts was deemed an excellent case study for in-depth bone fragmentation analysis to both test and display the utility of the method at this type of site.

The analysis revealed that material from the lowest fills of the cess pits differed from the upper fills in that fragmentation was more intensive. Based on the size and weight of fragments, and surface modifications related to burning and taphonomy, we postulate that floor and hearth sweepings were occasionally deposited in the cess pits whilst they were in use. This material was likely further fragmented when cess pits were periodically emptied. Faunal specimens in the upper fills have different fragmentation and taphonomic signatures and more likely relate to opportunistic refuse deposition or capping after the use of the cess pits. This analysis shows the archaeological potential of this approach when aligned with specific research questions concerning deposition.

How to Cite: Johnson, E.V., Forsyth-Magee, H. and Hogg, I., 2020. Analysing Deposition and Site Formation Processes in Medieval Cess Pits Using Bone Fragmentation. Archaeology International, 22(1), pp.72–78. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/ai-402
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  Published on 17 Jan 2020

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