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Conspicuous Consumption and Global Warming

No blogging yesterday as the Broadband line went down and in the evening I went to a Public Lecture in All Cannings Village Hall to hear about the Iron Age site at All Cannings Cross. The archaeologists have produced a preliminary report of their findings but were also kind enough to come down and talk through the whole conundrum these midden sites pose. David McOmish started talking about East Chisenbury on Salisbury Plain, which is a midden of refuse so large and strange it re-defines the concept of `rubbish' and its `disposal'.

The East Chisenbury midden is a famous example of a large dump, dating to the 1st millennium BCE. Sited on Salisbury Plain in the United Kingdom, the midden mound contains discrete layer upon layer of flint, charcoal, bones, pottery and excrement. It survives to a height of 2.5m and measures 140m in width despite 2,500 years of weathering. The accumulation is believed by some archaeologists to have a ritual basis, with ritual deposition of produce and waste being suggested as an explanation for its size and longevity.

Sampling of the site suggests that it was produced in less than a hundred years and contains half a million butchered sheep remains, plus some cows and a few pigs. That is some feasting! - Look at the size of it again. My compost heap rots down to a couple of inches high very quickly - this one is still over two metres thick after 2500 years, and it covers the area of 6 football pits.

All Cannings Cross is the same, and so it seems is another one less than half a mile away from All Cannings Cross, and there is probably a third one where my house is built!

The Vale of Pewsey seems unique in containing these vast feasting sites and about 6 have been identified so far. So all very interesting with more questions than answers still.

And how could Iron Age Wiltshire man afford such extravagance? - the climate was a couple of degrees warmer than now and a bit dryer, so agriculture was more productive. When that little episode of global warming stopped and the climate went wet and cold again it all stopped!


How nice to see someone use 'discrete' correctly.

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