work at Butser have contributed greatly to our understanding of the raising and management of sheep. Much Iron Age land must have been covered in fields, and sheep were probably grazed on these fields in

rotation, where their dung could enrich the soil. But if the wide-ranging Soay sheep were allowed to wander at will, then the new arable crop would have been in jeopardy from grazing, so there must have been some control or corralling system to protect the fields. Certainly, there must have been shepherds: one of the scenes on the rocks at Camonica Valley depicts a shepherd guarding his flock, armed with a long pole, perhaps a spear.49

Figure 2.8 Silvered bronze brooch in the form of a horse's and a ram's head, fourth century BC, Dürrnburg, Hallein, Austria. Length: 4cm. Paul Jenkins.

Analysis of the faunal remains at Danebury shows that more than 70 per cent of the animals kept by the hillfort community were sheep. Some of them died young; a good proportion of these were killed at about a year, probably after they had been fattened on spring grass. The presence of the bones of newborn lambs indicates that the pregnant ewes were rounded up in early spring and brought in from the downs within the fort enclosure.50 This had the added advantage that, if the neo-natal fatality rate had been high, the bereft ewes could provide milk for the people. Ewes do not lamb until they are 2 or 3 years old: decisions would have been taken as to which animals to slaughter young for meat and which ewes should be allowed to breed and to produce wool.

The predominance of sheep at Danebury reflects a situation occurring elsewhere in central southern England. Normally, wool was their prime function, with meat only secondary: Iron Age Britons often had to make do with tough, elderly mutton. The downlands, with their limited water and poor grass, are ideal for sheep-rearing. The Glastonbury lake-villagers produced wool on a large scale:51 their sheep may have been pastured on the nearest higher, well-drained soil. There was intensive sheep-rearing in many areas of Britain outside Wessex and the southeast, notably in the Welsh highlands, northern England and Scotland, just as it is today. In later periods of the British Iron Age, there was a general reduction in sheep, and cattle became more dominant: at Danebury there were to still a great many flocks in the second century BC, but they were ravaged by disease, as we have seen.

As with cattle, there is literary evidence for Celtic sheep-rearing. Strabo54 comments on the raising of flocks and the production of wool: he says of the Gauls, 'they have enormous flocks of sheep'. In early Ireland, sheep were clearly a major source of wealth: in the 'Tain', the flocks of Queen Medb and King Ailill of Connacht are described thus: 'Their great flocks of sheep were brought from the fields and the lawns and the level plains. . . . But among Medb's sheep was a fine ram with the value of a cumal.'55

Before we leave the subject of sheep, its close relative, the goat, should be mentioned. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish goats from sheep in the archaeological record, but the general picture seems to have been that goats were far less common. Goats are good milk-producers, and they would have been useful as browsers of weeds,56 but they would have to have been carefully controlled, otherwise they would have destroyed the growing crops. The probability is that each farming community may have kept a few goats tethered around the farm buildings. Goats are less hardy than sheep; they dislike the damp and can be killed by cold, so they are unlikely to have competed seriously with sheep, especially in Britain and northern Gaul. They are much more at home in the hotter, drier climate of Mediterranean Europe.


Their pigs are allowed to run wild and are noted for their height, and pugnacity and swiftness . . . they have such enormous . . . herds of swine that they afford a plenteous supply for . . . salt meat. . . . They have large quantities of food together with milk and all kinds of meat, especially fresh and salt pork.

Pig-keeping is traditionally associated with the Celts. The early Welsh group of mythological tales, the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, tells of the first pigs or hobeu in Britain, gifts from Arawn king of the under world to Pryderi, lord of Dyfed, and the subsequent bloody war between Gwynedd in the north and

Dyfed in the south for possession of these coveted creatures. Pigs seem to have been equally important in the economy and mythology of early Ireland.59 Here, pork is frequently mentioned in the Insular literature, often being associated with the 'champion's portion'.60 The 'Tâin Bo Cuailnge' relates the story of two great bulls who were once human pig-keepers called Fruich (Bristle) and Rucht (Grunt).61

Figure 2.9 Bronze goat figurine from the Roman legionary fortress of Caerleon, Gwent. By courtesy of the National Museum of Wales.

Pigs were and are kept almost exclusively for their meat: they are a very valuable resource in that they are able to eat virtually anything and convert a great variety of organic matter, inedible to other species, into high-quality meat.62 It is often thought that the Celts spent much of their time hunting boar and that this was their source of pork, but it is clear from the faunal record63 that most pig bones on Iron Age sites are those of the domestic pig. None the less, Peter Reynolds has made the point64 that the piglets of wild pigs are easily tamed, so perhaps wild and domestic pigs were sometimes treated similarly and even interbred.

Iron Age pigs were probably maintained semi-confined, herded rather than kept in sties, and allowed to forage in the woodland to which they are particularly suited.65 They are adaptable creatures and ideally should have access to wooded areas, so that they do not compete unnecessarily with humans for land and food.66 Pigs actually contribute to the management of woodland in that they keep down unwanted shrubs and undergrowth. But they are also useful in agriculture: if they are turned out onto the fields in spring and autumn, they will break up, turn over and manure the soil before the ploughing.67 Being good scavengers, they will clean up after the harvest and aerate the earth ready for the new cycle of crop-sowing.

In Gaul, pigs were consistently important throughout the Iron Age, though other species might fluctuate in popularity according to time.68 In Britain, pigs were never as common as in Gaul, but they generally increased towards the end of the Iron Age and during the Roman occupation.69 Pigs breed fast and, if the herd were carefully managed, it would be possible both to keep sufficient breeding-stock to

maintain the herd and to rear the remainder for slaughter in prime condition (at about two years old). Many of the males would have been killed while they were still young, but the sows were kept alive longer for breeding. This occurred on a number of Iron Age settlements studied by Patrice Meniel in northern Gaul.

Danebury is again a useful type-site for the analysis of pig-rearing practices in southern Britain. Pigs were not very numerous here but

Figure 2.10 Romano-British clay pig-figurine, Birrenswark, Scotland. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland.

were present in some proportion during the entire period of occupation. Though Danebury is on downland, there is heavy clay soil nearby which would have supported woodland and therefore pigs. But by the second century BC there was significant local decline in pigs (contrary to evidence elsewhere in

southern England), perhaps the result of a decrease in the quantity or quality of the local forest. The bone evidence at Danebury conforms, however, to the general pattern of usage seen on other British sites. Pigs must always have been invaluable as a steady source of meat, even if other species were sometimes consumed for preference. But in Gaul, the pig played a much greater role in the human diet.


Horses were the common companions of humans by around 1600 BC in much of Europe. At Camonica Valley in north Italy, the rock carvings date from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. Here, horses are first depicted in any numbers in the very last phase of the Bronze Age (c. 1000-800 BC). The images show horses as display animals or as mounts for warriors, and they are depicted pulling funerary wagons

to the tombs of the highranking dead.

Celtic Iron Age horses were small and light compared to Roman horses (see chapter 4). The livestock at the Butser experimental farm includes the Exmoor pony, which is not dissimilar to the small, fast and

tough horses of the British and Gaulish Iron Age. On Celtic farms they were used for riding (perhaps for rounding up herds), as pack or draught animals, and they were also eaten. The evidence from Danebury, Gussage All Saints and from some Gaulish sites suggests that horse-breeding did not take place within the confines of farmland, but that horses were rounded up and trained as and when required (indeed the slings found at Danebury could have been used in the hobbling of horses). That horses were

not bred on these sites is suggested by the paucity of the bones of young horses in the faunal record. The Danebury animals were mainly male, and the implication is that the mares were allowed to run free with the herd. But in the latest phase of the hillfort's occupation, there seems to have been a shift in horse-management practices: young horses are represented in the bone assemblage, indicating that breeding did now take place on site.

Sometimes there is evidence as to how horses were used. The animal is relatively common on some

Gaulish settlements, such as Chevrieres and Creil in the Middle Oise.76 On such Gaulish habitation sites,

horses were killed young, probably for food; but at Danebury horses, like cattle, were generally eaten

only at the end of their useful lives. Horses could be employed to pull light loads: the analysis of the wear on the

horse bones at Gussage indicates that here they were used as draught-animals or pack-horses, perhaps for hauling carts of produce. Donkeys were known only in the very late Iron Age in Gaul, as at Hornaing

(Nord); it is possible that they were introduced by the Romans. They would have been used, as today, as beasts of burden.

Figure 2.11 Bronze figurine of a horse, fifth to fourth century BC, Freisen, Germany. Length 12cm. Paul Jenkins.

In early Celtic Ireland, during the first millennium AD, it is clear that horses, like sheep and cattle, were considered as symbols of pastoral wealth: Cu Chulainn of Ulster boasted that he had slaughtered 'hosts of cattle, men and steeds'.01 The Tain speaks thus of the horses belonging to the royal court of Connacht, Ulster's enemy: 'From grazing lands and paddocks their horses and steeds were brought to

them. Medb had a splendid horse which was valued at a Cumal.

Figure 2.12 Romano-Celtic stone relief of a mare with suckling foal, Chorey, Burgundy. Miranda Green.

Other farm animals


It is usual to classify deer as a wild species, hunted both for sport and to protect arable land from its depredations (chapter 3). But the bones of red and roe deer found on some habitation sites could represent something more than sporadic hunting. The so-called ranch boundaries of later prehistoric Britain could reflect deer management as well as cattle-herding. It is possible to envisage an annual

round-up of deer within these boundaries, followed by any culling deemed necessary or advantageous. Chickens and other birds

Domestic fowls were known in Hallstatt and La Tene times in temperate Europe: remains of chickens dating to the sixth century BC have been found at the Hallstatt stronghold of the Heuneberg in Germany. Fowls were common in the Mediterranean world from at least the sixth cen tury. The chickens of the Celtic Iron Age were Red Jungle Fowl, imported from India or the Far East.84 Chickens were kept for their eggs and flesh, especially during the later Iron Age in Gaul and Britain. They are often poorly represented archaeologically, since their fragile bones are easily fragmented or destroyed by dogs or pigs. But in Gaul the bones occur in the protected context of graves, where they are found to be of moderate size, smaller than those of the Roman period. A silvered metal model of a

cockerel comes from the Gallo-Roman sanctuary at Estrees-Saint-Denis (Oise) (figure 2.14). A brooch in the form of a hen comes from the much earlier context of the princess's grave at Reinheim, dating to the fourth century BC (see chapter 6). In Britain, chickens arrived later than in Celtic Europe. Caesar86 indeed stated that the

Britons shunned geese and chickens as food. But none the less, remains of domestic fowl are found

among food debris in Iron Age Britain, for example in the late period at Danebury. The keeping of chickens greatly increased during the Romano-Celtic period.

Figure 2.13 Wooden carving of a stag, second century BC, from a Viereckschanze at FellbachSchmiden, Germany. Height: 77cm. Paul Jenkins.

Figure 2.14 Bronze fowl from a Romano-Celtic sanctuary at Estrees-Saint-Denis, France. Paul Jenkins.

Geese and ducks were kept on some farms. Peter Reynolds considers that they are likely to have

been greylag geese and mallard ducks. Both birds appear as funerary offerings in Gaul. Pliny refers to the keeping of geese among the Morini of the Netherlands.90 In the Romano-Celtic period, both geese and ducks are represented in religious iconography (see chapter 8).

Strabo— mentions the export of British dogs for hunting. Certainly (see chapter 3), they would have been invaluable in sniffing out, bringing down and retrieving prey, and also in protecting their masters from savage beasts such as boar and bear. Faunal remains, iconography (mainly of the Romano-Celtic period) and vernacular Celtic literature all indicate that there were many different types of Celtic dog,

from the deer-hound so splendidly represented at the Lydney sanctuary to small terriers and lapdogs

(figure 2.15). Classical writers mention both large and small hunting-dogs and stress that British dogs had an especially fine reputation. Greyhounds are specifically mentioned in the early Welsh literature: they formed some of the many gifts presented to Pwyll by Arawn, lord of the Otherworld, in the First Branch of the

Dogs and cats

Mabinogi. Two greyhounds accompany Culhwch, when he sets out in all his splendour to visit his cousin

Arthur, in 'Culhwch and Olwen'.94 The guardianship aspect of dogs in Celtic life is amply illustrated by one of the stories of the early life of Cu Chulainn: he kills the hound of Culann the Smith and, in recompense, pledges himself to act as guard dog in its place (see chapter 7).

Figure 2.15 Romano-British bronze figurine of a dog, Kirkby Thore, Cumbria. Paul Jenkins.

Around the farm, dogs were useful not only as guard dogs but also as scavengers. A range of dog types and sizes is represented at Danebury.95 At Camonica Valley, sheepdogs are depicted,96 although Reynolds has argued that dogs are ineffective in controlling the wayward Soay sheep. Dogs would help to keep the farmyard free of vermin, especially rats, which would threaten the stored grain. But in

addition, there is evidence that dogs were eaten, both on habitation sites and as part of ritual feasting, as at the sanctuary of Gournay (Oise). Dog pelts were also utilized: there is archaeological evidence for skinning at the Iron Age cemetery of Tartigny (Oise) (chapter 5) — Diodorus Siculus remarks of the Celts: 'When dining, they all sit not on chairs but on the earth, strewing beneath them the skins of wolves or dogs'.99

There is evidence for cats in the British Iron Age, indeed the earliest record for the domestic cat in Britain. Cats, including a small kitten, lived at Danebury. At Gussage All Saints, there were several cats, mainly juveniles: five new-born kittens died here and were disposed of together. The presence of young animals indicates that they were bred

on site, perhaps primarily to keep down mice and rats. But equally, some cats may have been pets.100

Figure 2.16 Bronze mirror-handle with cat's head terminal, first century BC to first century AD, Holcombe, Devon. Height: 37.2cm. Paul Jenkins.

Crop and animal husbandry were interdependent on Celtic farms. Arable land needed to be fertilized by the dung of grazing animals, and its nutrients replenished after harvest. The by-products of cereal production were used to feed cattle, especially in the winter months. Animals were used in many ways on a farm: pigs or cattle could be let loose to eat the stubble and churn up the ground after each harvest, prior to the next season's ploughing; sheep or cattle could graze on grasses and weeds growing on the fields before they were sown. Cattle pulled the plough and, together with horses, pulled the carts laden with produce.101

The utilization of dung from farm animals could be effected in one of several ways: the animals could be turned out onto harvested or fallow fields, thus fertilizing arable land before ploughing and at the same time resting the normal pasture, or beasts (and this applies particularly to sheep) could be penned up in particular areas for a period of intensive

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