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Dogs, cats and horses in the Scottish medieval town

Dogs, cats and horses in the Scottish medieval town

By Catherine Smith

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol.128 (1998)

Abstract: Scottish medieval urban sites excavated over the last two decades have provided abundant evidence of the animals which were exploited by human populations. This paper is concerned with three domesticated species — the dog, cat and horse — and reviews the nature of their relationships with town dwellers. The majority of the excavations reviewed here were funded either wholly or in part by Historic Scotland, in conjunction with the Manpower Services Commission, and research for this paper was also funded by Historic Scotland.

Introduction: Over the last two decades, many town sites in Scotland have been the subject of rescue excavations, in advance of building developments. Such excavations have produced a wealth of evidence relating to the development of urban centres in the medieval period. Where waterlogging has occurred, for example in Perth, which is still periodically affected by local flooding, preservation of organic remains can be particularly good. These remains, of both animal and plant origin, can provide a rich source of information as to the diet and living conditions of the medieval urban population. Analysis of animal bone assemblages can reveal not only evidence about the beasts themselves, but also about the humans who exploited and lived alongside them. Hodgson has reviewed and summarized the evidence for domestic animals at sites on the eastern Scottish seaboard; this paper focuses on, and updates, the evidence for, dogs, cats and horses, three species long associated with man, and their place in the Scottish medieval town.

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