Offered to Gods, Eaten by People: Bird Bones from the Sanctuary of Jupiter Heliopolitanus in Carnuntum–Mühläcker (Austria)

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ABSTRACT

This paper discusses the bird bones from a large animal bone assemblage found in the largest pit located on the territory of the Sanctuary of Jupiter Heliopolitanus in Carnuntum–Mühläcker (Austria). Features of the material suggest that the bones result from ritual meals, perhaps from a single event. The bird bone assemblage is characterised by the dominance of domestic chicken (Gallus domesticus), but the number of (domestic) goose (Anser cf. domesticus) remains is outstanding. Wild species such as the greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) and the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) were represented by smaller numbers of remains. According to the distribution of bones, the birds were slaughtered in the sanctuary. The calculated minimum number of individuals is about 193 fowl. The slaughtering season is proposed to have been in early spring according to the seasonal presence of the greater white-fronted goose and the age at death of the domestic mammals. On the basis of the measurements of sexed tarsometatarsi, two size groups of domestic chicken were identified. Similar results regarding the dimensions of this species could be recognised from a number of civic and cultic Roman localities in Central Europe. The dominance of male over female birds in domestic chicken is notable in our assemblage, and points to an Eastern origin for the feasting habits, especially in the light of the scarcity of pig remains in this context as opposed to urban Carnuntum. Unlike the assemblages unearthed from Mithraea, however, it was mostly beef that was consumed in addition to fowl in the sanctuary of Carnuntum–Mühläcker. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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