Newly found well sheds light upon animal history in Late Bronze Age

The study shows how the remains of meaty meals and pet dogs were cleaned.
Nergis Firtina
Path upto the Lion Gate, Mycenae.
Path upto the Lion Gate, Mycenae.

Wikimedia Commons  

Located 75 miles (20 km) southwest of Athens, Greece, archaeologists have found important data for understanding the history of animal resources at the site in Mycenae. 

Although images of animals in art and architecture at the Late Bronze Age site of Mycenae prove the importance of animals as a source of sustenance and symbolism, further study is required on the animals that lived there. 

The Petsas Mansion at Mycenae, which also included a ceramics workshop, contained a significant deposit of animal remains that underwent a thorough analysis by researchers, according to the new study, just published today in PLOS ONE.

Together with numerous animal bones, the most frequent of which were remnants from pigs, sheep and goats, cattle, and dogs, excavations into the well-recovered ceramics, metal, stone, and other objects. The state of these animal bones, along with evidence that many of them were eaten as food, along with the other discoveries, particularly pottery, led researchers to the conclusion that this well was used to collect debris after a structure had been destroyed, as per the press release.

Newly found well sheds light upon animal history in Late Bronze Age
The Petsas Well, with bones highlighted.

It consists of vertical layers

The well's contents change over its vertical levels, which suggests that the processes that build the source and the availability of animal resources—both those that are obtained locally and those that are obtained from outside sources—are variable. The debris found inside the well appears to have come from efforts to clean up after a devastating earthquake. Thus, these alterations may potentially be a reflection of struggles following a natural disaster.

The dog remains were found in the well at different times and were more complete than those of the farm animals. The authors take this as flimsy proof that dogs may have been given different final care than other animals.

"This study presents new insights about ancient animals recovered from the renowned archaeological site of Mycenae in Greece—a major political center in the Late Bronze Age, famous for references in Homer's Iliad," say authors.

"Research at Petsas House, a domestic building in Mycenae's settlement used in large part as a ceramics workshop, revealed how the remains of meaty meals and pet dogs were cleaned and disposed of in a house well following a major destructive earthquake. Study of the archaeologically recovered bones, teeth, and shells from the well yielded a more nuanced picture of the diverse and resilient dietary strategies of residents than previously available at Mycenae," they add.

This study reveals how careful examination of animal remains in exceptionally well-preserved assemblages can shed light on the social dynamics of prehistoric communities.

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