L’alimentation d’origine animale dans le site fortifié de Boulancourt «Le Châtelet» (Seine-et-Marne, Bronze final IIIb)

Cercetări Arheologice 14-15, 2008, 423-466

L’alimentation d’origine animale dans le site fortifié de Boulancourt «Le Châtelet» (Seine-et-Marne, Bronze final IIIb)

Authors: Adrian Bălășescu

Keywords: IIIb Final Bronze Age; archaeozoology; aristocratic diet; animal husbandry; hunting; meat consumption


The site of “Le Chatelet” at Boulancourt (Seine-et-Marne, France), located on the western edge of the plateau of Gâtinais Beauceron, is a fortified hill settlement occupied at the end of the Late Bronze Age IIIb. It has produced more than 33,000 faunal remains of which almost 8000 have been determined. The archaeological complexes which furnished the material are mostly pits and large and shallow ditches (pits F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7, F8, F9, F10, F11, lateral ditch FL, internal ditch FI and external ditch FE), as well as a surface rubbish dump (DS). The faunal assemblages, mainly from the internal and external ditches which edge the rampart and from a large surface expanse, are the largest ever described for this period in northern France. During the excavation of all these structures, the fauna was collected by sight, without sieving. However, many very small bones (micro-mammals, amphibians, birds, etc.) were recovered, which suggests a good collect of centimetre remains. The state of preservation of the faunal material is generally mediocre. The remaining traces, as well as the high fragmentation which is partly the result of butchering and cooking activities, indicate that all the material is the result of domestic waste. According to the frequency of the skeletal parts related to the proportion which they represent in the organism, there are, for all the species, an excess of teeth and a clear deficit in the elements of the axial skeleton. This situation is symptomatic of an advanced state of destruction. The list of species identified at Boulancourt is particularly rich for this period with 37 species, 21 mammals (mainly large mammals), nine birds, two reptiles, three amphibians and two fish. The analysis of the fauna reveals a strong predominance of the remains of domestic species (including possibly the chicken), within which the pig represents more than 60% in number of remains, but shares pre-eminence with the ox in terms of weight. Even though they contribute little to the food, the wild species offer a large diversity (more than 30 taxa) which suggests hunting and fishing activities which were more sociosymbolic than economic (although this represents about 10% of the weight of the remains, that is about 10% of the meat consumed on the site). The slaughter of domestic animals for consumption, especially that of cattle, sheep and goats, concerns mainly the young animals, which provided tender and tasty meat, without any concern for the techno-economic profitability of raising the animals. For the pigs about half of the animals eaten (45%) are represented by young ones killed between 6 and 12 months; it seems as though the youngest animals were selected for consumption, and were perhaps even fattened especially. In any case, the faunal remains analysed evoke dietary practices rather than systems of breeding, and indicate a particular diet on this site, at least for some of its inhabitants. The study of the spatial distribution of the principal taxa (mainly the domestic taxa, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs) was concentrated on the structures rich in fauna (FE, FI and DS). The ditches FE and FI produced taxonomic frequencies which are not significantly different, but in each of them one observes the differences between the southern and northern extremities (the fauna is more abundant at the southern end of the ditch). The analysis of the surface rubbish dump DS does not reveal this time any spatial structuring of the densities of the species. The deposit appears homogenous from taxonomic viewpoint. These observations suggest that the surface rubbish dump was formed differently from the accumulations of vestiges in ditch FE and FI, probably in relation to differences in function and sedimentary dynamics. The zone DS is again clearly differentiated from the two ditches, by a strong representation of the axial skeleton for all the taxa, to the point that this anatomical part is dominant for the cattle, sheep and goats; however an opposition is observed between the skeletal parts of the ruminants and those of the pigs. The abundance of deciduous teeth of cattle, pigs, sheep and horses in the large external ditch suggest that these animals stayed here for at least part of the year. The discovery of complete bones enabled estimation of the height at the withers for several wild and domestic taxa. The size of the domestic animals conforms to that known for this period in the region concerned. The study of anthropic traces (butchering) shows that the pieces of meat were not chosen selectively, aside from the animals’ heads; it seems that diversity in the dishes was sought. The cutting up of the carcasses during butchering and cooking was not carried out by specialists. The fauna of Boulancourt is close in its characteristics to that of the only other fortified hill settlement in northern France for which there are archaeozoological data, Catenoy; it provides a rough image of the diet of the dominant social class at the very end of the Bronze Age. The choice of particular products of stock-breeding for quality meat consumption and the diversity of hunting, fishing and trapping suggests a privileged social milieu, and fits the aristocratic nature of the site.

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How to cite: Adrian Bălășescu, L’alimentation d’origine animale dans le site fortifié de Boulancourt «Le Châtelet» (Seine-et-Marne, Bronze final IIIb), Cercetări Arheologice, Vol. 14-15, pag. 423-466, 2008, doi: https://doi.org/10.46535/ca.15.16