Displayed or Concealed? Cross Cultural Evidence for Symbolic and Ritual Activity Depositing Iron Age Animal Bones

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Abstract

Although Iron Age rituals involving the depositing of animal bones in pits have been discussed intensively in the literature, possible cross-cultural and ethnographic parallels for the symbolism of such activity have been neglected. This paper begins to remedy this deficiency. Archaeological and ethnographic examples occur world-wide, especially relating to the symbolism and treatment of animal heads and crania. They support previous arguments that at least some Iron Age bone deposits involved the renewal and protection of fertility, for example those associated with grain storage pits and other archaeological features, perhaps also foundation deposits, especially at later periods.

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