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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2018 /  The diet of a household in late and post-medieval Brussels: multidisciplinary analysis of cesspits from café Greenwich, Brussels

Lien Speleers, Bea De Cupere, Koen Deforce and Ann Degraeve (2018)

 The diet of a household in late and post-medieval Brussels: multidisciplinary analysis of cesspits from café Greenwich, Brussels

In: 24th EAA Annual Meeting, Barcelona, 5-8 september 2018, pp. 639.

During renovation works in the cellar of a famous art nouveau building in the centre of Brussels -Café Greenwich- three late and post-medieval cesspits were discovered and excavated by the archaeological team of the Brussels-Capital region. Two cesspits, one dated to the 14th/15th century and the other to the beginning of the 16th century, still contained several layers of excellently preserved organic fll deposits. These were entirely sampled for archaeozoological, palynological, macrobotanical and paleoparasitological analyses. Some individual coprolites were collected for analyses as well. The integrated study gives information on human diet and health, and waste management. Indirectly, it also sheds light on social and economic status. In medieval times cesspits were not only used as dump for human faeces but often to discard various domestic waste as well. However, the flls of the analysed Brussels structures seem to consist almost exclusively of cess. The sieving residue subsists largely of small fruit pips. Ceramics and other archaeological objects were rare. Densities of archaeozoological remains vary considerably from one layer to the other. The faunal record consists generally of very small bones, mainly fsh but also small songbirds and chicken and a large quantity of tiny unidentifable bone fragments affected by the digestive process. The macrobotanical study reveals a large variety of plant foods: more than 40 species of economic plants were observed. Analysis of pollen signifcantly enlarges this spectrum with diverse species from which only leaves and/or flowers have been eaten. Furthermore the palynological study suggests the consumption of honey. The plant spectrum comprises several exotic and more expensive products while the faunal assemblage points to more common households.
Abstract of an Oral Presentation or a Poster
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