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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy

Rowley-Conwy, P. (2018). Zooarchaeology and the elusive feast: from performance to aftermath. World Archaeology 50(2): 221-241.

Author(s) from Durham


Ethnographic descriptions of feasts reveal that consumption of meat is usually prominent. Zooarchaeological evidence may thus provide the best way of seeing feasts in the archaeological record. The accumulation of trophy arrays and ongoing high-status activities are confusing behaviours that may be misconstrued as archaeological evidence of feasts. A four-fold classification of zooarchaeological evidence for feasts is put forward: ‘over the top’ (high status); ‘ritually charged garbage’ (often religious); ‘small but special’ (nevertheless sometimes visible); and ‘was this feasting?’ (sometimes equivocal). This typology may allow archaeologists to distinguish between the ethnographic categories of competitive feasts and solidarity feasts.