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The zooarchaeology of fats, oils, milk and dairying

J. Mulville and A.K. Outram (eds) (Oxbow Books)

The Zooarchaeology of Fats, Oils, Milk and Dairying front cover

Fat has been cast as a villain in our modern, Western society, but for many economies, past and present, the availability of foods rich in fat could mean the difference between life and death. But fat has more to offer than nutrition; fats can be used in waterproofing, as lubrication, and as a base for other items such as perfumes and cosmetics. This variety of use means that fats have been a valuable trading commodity for thousands of years. The various ways in which fats can be utilised has important implications for the archaeological record. The physical method(s) of extracting the fat from a dead animal will leave differing signs on the carcass, while the removal of fats while an animal is alive (such as milking) has been the focus of much ethnographic research. Then there is the matter of how the fats are stored... and so on. The zooarchaeological study of fats is a complex, interdisciplinary area of archaeology. The nineteen papers in this volume represent a firm foundation for further research into the past exploitation of this heroic substance.

Comments on The zooarchaeology of fats, oils, milk and dairying

In Mulville and Outram's volume, no... bone has been left unturned to get closer to 'the ever diverse and creative strategies that humans have adopted to exploit animals resources'. The battery of approaches... has opened new vistas on products such as fertiliser, bone, marrow, fat and grease, milk, cheese, wool fuel, lighting, glue, waterproofing and binding agents in art. Mulville and Outram's book brings together studies from Patagonia to eastern Africa, with a number of papers from the Scottish Isles a stimulating incursion into the many and devious means by which 'the human intellect dupes that of a cow' or any other animal for that matter. A fitting tribute to Andrew Sherratt's secondary products revolution.

Any archaeologist would find his or her sustanence amongst the papers... For inspiration (read) Fats...

Antiquity 80 (2006)