Pastoral Farming And Stock Management

Generally speaking, the most common animals to be found on Celtic farms were cattle, sheep, pigs and horses. In addition, there is evidence of goats, ranched deer, farm dogs (used as guard dogs, sheepdogs and waste-scavengers) and cats to keep down vermin. But within this general scenario, there were certain differences between settlements, and changes occurred through time. An interesting view of

hillforts is that the function of some may have been either wholly or partially as stock enclosures. Thus in the late period of Danebury (between 400 and 100 BC) the middle earthwork may have been added to form an enclosure or paddock for the protection of stock. When the outer earthwork was built, additional corralling space became available: this represents either an alteration in the system of farming in the latest phases of the hillfort, the existence of larger flocks and herds, or possibly increased tension resulting in the need for greater protection for stock.13 Certainly by the first century AD stock enclosures were a feature of a great many Iron Age farmsteads in Britain,14 and this may reflect an increasing population with a consequent requirement for more stock.

Figure 2.2 Sizes of modrn and ancient Celtic animals compared (cross-hatched animals modern). Paul Jenkins, after Meniel.

Figure 2.3 Iron Age farm animals: sheep and cattle. Paul Jenkins, after Cunliffe.

Mixed farming was carried out at most farms. In Britain, it used to be thought that there was a major distinction between the pastoral economies of the 'Highland Zone' of the north and west and the arable exploitation of the south and east. But whilst it is undoubtedly true that there was some regional specialization and that differences existed between the use of upland and valley ground, it is none the less clear that agriculture and stock-rearing were highly interactive and interdependent. Fields were cleared of grass and weeds and manured by stock before going under the plough, thus benefiting from the presence of farm animals. The beasts in turn gained supplementary nourishment from the residue of cereal production.15

Work in Wessex and the Thames Valley, by Annie Grant among others,16 has thrown a great deal of light upon the integration between settlements on different soils - between high downland and valley exploitation. By the third century BC, if not before, farms in this region were developing a certain degree of specialization within a stock-rearing economy, with divergences based upon differing environments. Chalk downland sites, like Danebury, had more sheep, while low-lying gravel farms like Ashville (Oxon.) and Odell (Beds.) possessed larger numbers of cattle. There could be seasonal factors involved

here. Colin Haselgrove has suggested that developed hillforts like Danebury were perhaps only fully occupied during the winter months. The preference for sheep on high ground and cattle in the valleys is based entirely upon practicalities: sheep flourish on the relatively poor pasture and scarce water of chalk downland whilst the damp of the river-gravels tends to rot their feet and render them susceptible to liver-fluke. Cattle, on the other hand, thrive on the lush grass of the river valley-bottoms and need

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