Looking at Pig Remains

Kirklevington, Stockton-on-Tees




Nathan Sleaford

For this week’s #FindsFriday, we’re looking at pig remains from the rural medieval site of Kirklevington in Stockton-on-Tees. 


As part of our excavations, we found the remains of two nearly complete pigs buried next to each other in a pit. Both animals still had their lower ‘milk’ (deciduous) premolars, with the first permanent molars just reaching their full height, indicating they were probably just over six months old when they died.


It’s quite common to find the remains of young pigs on medieval sites in England. They were usually kept for around a year before being slaughtered and transported to towns for consumption. In the archaeological record, this kind of activity is usually represented by the presence of a greater number of ‘meat bearing’ bones relative to those with lower yields such as metapodials and phalanges (feet and toes).


However, the Kirklevington pig remains are unusual because they represent the deposition of whole animals rather than joints or cuts of meat. Their presence on a rural site suggests they were raised in the vicinity. The remains also lack any of the evidence typically associated with butchery, such as knife marks and chops indicative of dismemberment and decapitation. It’s unlikely that these animals were eaten by the local populace; instead, they seem to have been buried together soon after they died. The lack of skeletal trauma might indicate that their demise came about through natural rather than human means, which could explain why they were apparently deemed unfit for consumption.

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