A Camel at Greenwich? Zooarchaeology and Negative Evidence for Camels in Roman Britain

Roman mound n Greenwich Park
Mound on which Roman remains were found in Greenwich Park. Photo by Sturdee. Source: Webster 1902.

T. Cregg Madrigal
©2018

Abstract

Reviews of the archaeological record of camels in Europe include one reported occurrence from a Roman site in Greenwich Park, England. Examination of the site reports and the surviving bones from the Greenwich Park site indicates that it is unlikely that camel remains were ever found there, and therefore there is no existing osteological evidence for camels in Roman-Britain.

Download a pdf version of this article from the Research page.

Did the Romans bring camels to Great Britain?

Neither the one-hump dromedary (Camelus dromedarius) nor the two-hump Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is native to Europe, but both species of camel were used by the Romans. Scattered remains of both species of camel, as well as hybrids of the two, have been reported in Roman-era archaeological sites in Europe, including a single site in Great Britain, at Greenwich Park near London (Applebaum 1987:514; Bond 2017; Green 2017; Pigière and Henrotay 2012; Webster 1902).

Bactrian Camel. Source: J. Patrick Fischer [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Other finds of one or a few isolated camel bones have been reported from Roman sites in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Russia (Albarella et al. 1993; De Grossi Mazzorin 2006; Muñiz et al. 1995; Pigière and Henrotay 2012; Tomczyk 2016), and a partially complete skeleton was found at both Saintes in France and Viminacium in Serbia (Pigière and Henrotay 2012; Tomczyk 2016; Vuković and Bogdanović 2013).
While most of the other camel finds in continental Europe are based on relatively recent analyses of actual osteological material, the Greenwich Park record is based on a report dating back to the very early twentieth century (Webster 1902). A review of the published reports and an examination of the surviving bones from this site cast doubt on the presence of camel at Greenwich Park.

Continue reading “A Camel at Greenwich? Zooarchaeology and Negative Evidence for Camels in Roman Britain”

Zooarchaeology in Pennsylvania

This 2015 post on This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology is about zooarchaeology and includes new photos of animal bones and cut marks from the famous Eschelman Site in Lancaster County, which was the subject of one of the earliest systematic analyses of bone modification marks on an American faunal assemblage.

Reference:

Guilday, John E., Paul W. Parmalee and Donald P. Tanner

1962       Aboriginal Butchering Techniques at the Eschelman Site (36LA12), Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 32(2):59-83.

Nominate a Female Zooarchaeologist for the Dienje Kenyon Memorial Fellowship

Open to female zooarchaeologists currently enrolled in graduate school, the Dienje Kenyon Memorial Fellowship includes a $1,000 award and a plaque. Nominations for the award are due December 15, 2015.

The official description:

In honor of the late Dienje M. E. Kenyon, a fellowship is offered to support a female archaeologist in the early stages of graduate zooarchaeology training, Kenyon’s specialty. An award of $1,000 will be made. To qualify for the award, applicants must be enrolled an M.A. or Ph.D. degree program focusing on archaeology. Strong preference will be given to applicants in the early stage of research project development and/or data collection, under the mentorship of a zooarchaeologist.

Any submission for the Dienje Kenyon Fellowship is required to have 1) a 1500 word statement of proposed zooarchaeology research towards which the award would be applied, 2) a curriculum vita that clearly indicated when graduate studies began. These materials should be sent as an email attachment (Microsoft Word format) to the committee chair. Additional materials are described below.

For more information:

Dienje Kenyon Memorial Fellowship

Turkey Archaeology: A Call for Papers

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports Special Issue Call for Papers: Turkey Husbandry and Domestication: Recent Advances
The turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is the only domesticated vertebrate to originate from North America. Its history of use and domestication is therefore of great importance to understanding the process, timing, practice and spread of New World animal husbandry. This special issue therefore brings together recent research papers that advance our understanding of turkey use and domestication through inter-disciplinary work involving skeletal morphology, paleopathology, osteometry, stable isotopes, and DNA analysis. We seek papers that span the entire history of turkey use and domestication from their earliest appearance in the archaeological record to their colonial period diffusion outside the Americas. Geographic coverage is sought from all areas of the species historic range including Mesoamerica, the American Southwest, and Eastern North America to generate more dialogue among researchers independently studying the topic in these cultural regions. Evidence documenting turkey transport outside the Americas is also relevant to this topic. Papers that demonstrate advances in inter-disciplinary and scientific approaches to studying turkey use and domestication are particularly welcomed.

Schedule:

First draft of manuscripts due: August 1, 2015
Notification of Acceptance/Revisions: Sept. 2015 (anticipated)
Final paper production deadline: Nov/Dec. 2016 (anticipated)
Expected Publication date: Spring 2016

Submission Guidelines:

Submissions to the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports are made on-line using through the Elsevier Publishing system. Through the on-line system, you will be able to submit your manuscript directly to the special issue. Registration, on-line submission login, and author guidelines are available at http://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-archaeological-science-reports/.

Optional open access publishing (on a per article basis) will be available for this special issue.

All submitted papers will be subject to regular peer-review procedures. Papers should not typically exceed 5000 words (excluding tables and references) and should not have been published previously nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere in any other format (print or electronic).

Please contact the lead guest editor, Erin Thornton (erin.thornton@wsu.edu), for additional information.

 

Race Horse to be Excavated, Reburied, by Archaeologists

Thoroughbred racehorse Native Diver, who was buried at the Hollywood Park racetrack in California after his death in 1967, is being excavated by archaeologists from the University of Southern California.  Hollywood Park closed for good at the end of 2013, and the horse’s owners wanted to ensure that all the remains were recovered safely so that Native Diver could be reburied at the Del Mar racetrack.

USC archaeology students excavate remains of thoroughbred ‘Native Diver’ at Hollywood Park