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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2017 / Continuity and change in animal exploitation at the transition from Antiquity to the early medieval period in the Belgian and Dutch loess region

Fabienne Pigière and Quentin Goffette (2017)

Continuity and change in animal exploitation at the transition from Antiquity to the early medieval period in the Belgian and Dutch loess region

Quaternary International.

Abstract This article studies the evolution of livestock exploitation during the late Roman Empire and the Merovingian period by highlighting significant and progressive changes in husbandry practices that are discernible from archaeozoological data relating to five settlements in the Belgian and Dutch loess region. The intensive exploitation of cattle for agricultural activities, transport, and meat supply of consumer sites during the Roman period was progressively abandoned. Pigs grew in importance during the late Empire and became predominant at all sites from the 5th century onwards. Reduction in demand for powerful draught animals for agricultural work in the loess belt is reflected by strong decrease in cattle size and robusticity in the 6th century. Kill-off patterns, sex-ratios, and pathologies related to the use of cattle for traction also point to changes in the objectives of breeding cattle. There was a shift from intensive exploitation for traction during the late Roman period to mixed breeding for meat and milk production in addition to traction during the Merovingian period. The archaeozoological results suggest a less intensive exploitation of agricultural land and a more significant exploitation of woodland. An increase in cattle is recorded at the end of the Merovingian period, in particular at the sites of the Meuse valley, coinciding with an increase in agricultural production.

International Redaction Board, Impact Factor
Cattle morphology, Draught animal, Late Antiquity, Husbandry, Agriculture, Archaeozoology
Related content
Earth and History of Life

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