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Totemism and food taboos in the Early Neolithic: A feast of roe deer at the Coneybury "Anomaly", Wiltshire

Reynolds, Ffion 2011. Totemism and food taboos in the Early Neolithic: A feast of roe deer at the Coneybury "Anomaly", Wiltshire. In: Thomas, Julian and Anderson-Whymark, Hugo eds. Regional Perspectives on Neolithic Pit Deposition: Beyond the Mundane, Neolithic Studies Group Seminar Papers, vol. 12. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 171-186.

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Examining the ways in which materials are deposited in Early Neolithic pits – be they artefacts, animal or human remains – still poses interpretational difficulties even for the modern theorist. Working through the detail of the Coneybury ‘Anomaly’ in Wiltshire, this paper focuses specifically upon the character of the depositional practice evident at this site within the Earlier Neolithic (c. 3850 cal. BC), and attempts to define how we might comprehend the pit as a form of totemic practice. Acts of feasting, like the one evident at the ‘Anomaly’ would have shaped the ways people conceptualised certain animals, with symbolic significance of particular species changing through time. Especially during the Earlier Neolithic, cattle began to predominate in the structures’ contexts, with certain species such as deer being underrepresented, perhaps because they were not domesticated. Alternatively wild species such as deer may have been subject to formal taboo. To fully contextualise my argument, I will be using analogies from the many religions of Amazonia and neighbouring regions of South America, who may be classed as totemic or perspectivist. For many of these people deer are proscribed, considered scared, used in shamanic performances and appear in an anthropomorphised form. Can we work these concepts through the Neolithic material? This paper will consider the effects of possible ideological behaviour at the Coneybury ‘Anomaly’ – especially in relation to the patterns of wild deer deposition. In this, I aim to identify some of the potential archaeological correlates of Neolithic taboos, and through this begin to offer possible ways of understanding the missing link – why were deer not domesticated?

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Publisher: Oxbow Books
ISBN: 9781842174685
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Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 05:02

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