Repurposing a Theatre at Corinth?

Wow … the AIA shindig is getting some good press coverage (primarily by Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience) … the latest coverage relates to the work of Michael MacKinnon (UWinnipeg) who has excavated a pile of cattle bones — a bit out of our period — from a theatre in Corinth. Here’s the incipit:

A metric ton of cattle bones found in an abandoned theater in the ancient city of Corinth may mark years of lavish feasting, a new study finds.

The huge amount of bones — more than 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds) — likely represent only a tenth of those tossed out at the site in Peloponnese, Greece, said study researcher Michael MacKinnon, an archaeologist at the University of Winnipeg.

“What I think that they’re related to are episodes of big feasting in which the theater was reused to process carcasses of hundreds of cattle,” MacKinnon told LiveScience. He presented his research Friday (Jan. 4) at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Seattle.

From theater to butcher shop

A theater may seem an odd place for a butchery operation, MacKinnon said, but this particular structure fell into disuse between A.D. 300 A.D. and A.D. 400. Once the theater was no longer being used for shows, it was a large empty space that could have been easily repurposed, he said.

The cattle bones were unearthed in an excavation directed by Charles Williams of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. They’d been discarded in that spot and rested there until they were found, rather than being dragged to the theater later with other trash, MacKinnon said.

“Some of the skeletal materials were even partially articulated [connected], suggesting bulk processing and discard,” MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon and his colleagues analyzed and catalogued more than 100,000 individual bones, most cattle with some goat and sheep. The bones of at least 516 individual cows were pulled from the theater. Most were adults, and maturity patterns in the bones and wear patterns on the teeth showed them all to have been culled in the fall or early winter.

“These do not appear to be tired old work cattle, but quality prime stock,” MacKinnon said. [...]

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