Thursday, July 12, 2012

Roots of medieval rights of common stretch back thousands of years

The Uffington white horse marks an area of open grassland that has been subject to common rights of pasture for over 3,000 years. Image: Dave Price (Flickr, used under a CC )

In the 1920s archaeologists discovered more than 1,000 cattle skulls buried at an early Iron Age stock enclosure at Harrow Hill in Sussex, while a huge Iron Age midden (rubbish heap) covering at least 2.5 hectares has been found at East Chisenbury in Wiltshire. Each is thought to represent the remains of vast annual feasts on grasslands shared between local communities, perhaps during the annual round-ups of their collective herds.

A chance for a good meal

These meetings were much more than the chance for a good meal. Feasts reinforced links and relationships within and between communities: such occasions provided at very least a context for resolving disputes about livestock and grazing, at times when animals were taken to the pastures in the spring or rounded up in the autumn and disagreements were most likely to occur. Post-medieval folklore suggests that these meetings may have been accompanied by games and competitions, the making of marriages and other formal agreements between groups, and opportunities to catch up between members of extended families.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.