Other animals

Bones of wild and domestic animals of species other than those already discussed turn up only sporadically in ritual contexts. Goats do not appear to have been common, although there is a problem here, in that it is often impossible to distinguish goats from sheep in faunal assemblages. But goats were buried entire as part of the funeral cortège at Soissons;146 and there is some evidence for ritual goat-burials at Danebury (figure 5.2). Goats were prominent in the cult deposits at Uley, where they may have been associated with the cult of Mercury. More rare still are cats: again they appear at Danebury, in

company with two sheep. Two young wildcats were buried in a ritual pit at

Bliesbruck (Moselle), victims of an infection which evidently resulted in tooth loss and therefore

starvation.

Deer, bear, fox and hare are among the wild animals which were occasionally sacrificed and their bodies used for ritual purposes. The creatures of the wild were rarely eaten (see chapter 3). Two teeth of a young bear were buried in the Celtic cemetery of Mont Troté: the youth of the creature reflects the general preference at the site.149 A young hare was buried entire, together with a young dog, in the tomb of a man, perhaps a hunter, at Tartigny.150 The great ritual enclosure at Aulnay-aux-Planches (Marne) may have been used from the tenth to the sixth centuries BC. Here were sacrificed a dog, a fox and a young bear.— Fox and deer are relatively common among the wild creatures represented in ritual contexts, and on occasions they were apparently despatched together: thus at Winklebury, a red deer and

twelve foxes were interred in an Iron Age pit deposit. Deer and fox were prominent in the ritual

assemblage of the Digeon (Somme) shrine, a sanctuary distinctive in its bias towards wild species. Deer are perhaps the most common wild and hunted creature represented in British ritual pits.154 At Ashill (Norfolk) boar tusks and antlers were buried in a well with more than a hundred pots;155 and a pit at Wasperton in Warwickshire contained two sets of antlers arranged to form a square enclosing a hearth.156

Perhaps oddest of all creatures to be found in ritual contexts are frogs and toads: a chariot-burial at

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Chalon-sur-Marne contained a hundred frogs placed in a pot; and a ritual pit in Aquitaine contained toad bones. The amphibious nature of these beasts may have endowed them with a special symbolism associated with life and death.

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