Sheep, Stockyards and Field Systems: Bronze Age Livestock Populations in the Fenlands of Eastern England

By Pryor, Francis | Antiquity, June 1996 | Go to article overview

Sheep, Stockyards and Field Systems: Bronze Age Livestock Populations in the Fenlands of Eastern England


Pryor, Francis, Antiquity


Introduction

The management, control and protection of large numbers of animals is a skilled business. Even today livestock farmers cannot rely on pharmaceuticals; they must understand animal behaviour and know how best to use the limited repertoire of handling aids inherited from previous generations. Pastoral farmers are still essentially conservative in their methods.

This paper is based on my own experience as a lowland sheep-farmer and - more importantly - on numerous conversations I have enjoyed at farm gates. Its roots grow in the farmyard, not the library. That will be seen by some as a weakness, yet an approach to landscape studies which draws upon the wisdom of those who live and work in the countryside today is a strength.

Approaches to the archaeological study of livestock-keeping

Now out of fashion as too deterministic, 'site catchment analysis', and the approaches to early farming that originated from the British Academy Early History of Agriculture Project, paid proper attention to the early history of domesticated animals (Higgs 1972; 1975; Hutchinson et al. 1977). But the very nature of the research - with many smaller, short-term individual projects - made it difficult to address the physical remains of actual ancient landscapes. The approach was map-based, and the underlying paradigm predictive (Higgs & Vita-Finzi 1972).

'Mainstream' literature on prehistoric farming in Britain has largely focussed upon arable. Neither standard work considers practical aspects of stock management, in the way, for example, that ards and ard-marks are closely reviewed; nor is there discussion of the way that the shapes of fields and their associated communication systems can illuminate their original uses (Fowler 1983; Mercer 1981). The collection of essays edited by Mercer (1981) covers arable over livestock in the ratio 6:2; the two contributions on livestock approach the topic from 'direct' routes, bones and fibres.

Fowler's (1983) review, broader in scope and remarkably comprehensive, works with the assumption that the field systems of the principal area then available for consideration, Wessex and the southern chalklands, were originally intended almost exclusively for arable (Fowler 1981: 94-119). In reality the layout of 'Celtic' fields suggests mixed farming, in which livestock, to judge by the many droveways, possibly even played a major part (e.g. Fowler 1981: [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 41 OMITTED]).

Recent recognition of the importance of livestock farming in British prehistory (e.g. Kinnes 1988) has tended to the theoretical, with no real attempt to examine what hedges, ditches, droveways, byres/barns, wells and other features of the livestock farmer's landscape were originally intended to do. We have classification and indeed typology (e.g. Fowler 1981: 128ff), but without understanding the workings of the systems we are attempting to 'typologize'. This is bad practice.

The literature on British field systems has showed greater flexibility. Although Bowen's (1961) pioneering Ancient fields was entirely directed towards arable, Taylor's (1975) subsequent synthesis, and collections of essays paid greater attention to pastoral landscapes (e.g. Bowen & Fowler 1978; Burgess & Miket 1976; Barrett & Bradley 1980). Yet the few pastoral landscapes are described without analysis of how they functioned.

This paper attempts to understand the detailed workings of a small part of the pastoral landscape of lowland England. It may have a wider significance: the British Isles, enjoying a maritime climate, are better suited to grass-land than most of continental Europe. Indeed, Fowler (1981: 188) recognized livestock farming as the major influence in forming the British landscape. It is a topic of fundamental importance.

Fengate fields and paddocks: stock management on the Fen edge

Prior to their drainage, mainly in post-medieval times, the Fenlands of East Anglia and Lincolnshire were Britain's largest wetland (Hall & Coles 1994). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Sheep, Stockyards and Field Systems: Bronze Age Livestock Populations in the Fenlands of Eastern England
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.