Thanks to John Speth for the reminder about Fort Ligonier. Another
caculation along the same lines is in Barbara West's characteristically
exuberant analysis of bones from the Royal Navy Victualling Yard, London
(West B 1995. 'The case of the missing victuals', Historical Archaeology
29, 20-42). From contemporary documents and some plausible arithmetic,
West calculates that the victualling yard should have generated around
880kg of waste cattle bone per day, yet the 'early' phase at the site,
representing some 75 years of usage, yielded just 38kg of cattle bone
fragments. Even allowing for Feast Days and Holy Days, that is around
.0004% recovery. The rest of the paper speculates as to the fate of the
missing bones. Read it - I wouldn't want to spoil the plot by giving
away the ending!
Professor of Archaeological Science
Department of Archaeology
University of York
York YO1 7EP
"John D. Speth" wrote:
> Several previous emails commented on problems of estimating meat weights
> from faunal remains. There's a wonderful old reference concerning the
> faunal analysis of a British fort in western Pennsylvania which comes to
> very similar conclusions. I've appended a quote from the publication
> which summarizes the principal finding of the study. The author attempted
> to estimate meat weights from the faunal remains recovered in the
> excavations and then compared the results to the historical documentation
> for the fort. Below are his conclusions.
> Grimm, Jacob L. 1970 Archaeological Investigation of Fort Ligonier,
> 1960-1965. Annals 42. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum.
> [Fort built in 1758 by British and used for several years in French and
> Indian war.]
> "At standard field ration of one pound of meat per man per day, 4,000
> pounds would have sustained only two men for the length of time of the
> known occupancy, or the entire garrison at full strength for just one day!
> Calculations such as these are patently ridiculous. The major portion of
> the meat ration (salt pork) left no archaeological trace, troops were not
> on full rations at all times, the sample recovered is but a portion of the
> full archaeological sample at the site, and the facilities for garbage
> disposal in the creek, where it would be lost to the archaeologists, were
> excellent...." (p. 186).
> Qualitatively, however, a fair idea of the relative importance of the
> various meat animals in the military diet and the relative importance of
> hunting can be derived from the collection (p. 186).
> John D. Speth Home (734) 662-9505
> Museum of Anthropology Office: (734) 764-1240
> 4009 Museums Building E-mail: [log in to unmask]
> University of Michigan Fax: (734) 763-7783
> Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1079 USA