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Evidence of Large Feast Found on Scottish Island

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Orkney Cooking PitSOUTH RONALDSAY, SCOTLAND—More than 18,600 shellfish remains recovered from a cooking pit at an Iron Age site on the island of South Ronaldsay in the Orkneys appear to have been consumed during one massive feasting event, according to a report in The Herald Scotland. Radiocarbon dating of the cooked limpet and periwinkle shells place the gathering in the fifth or sixth century A.D. After they were cooked and eaten, the shells were thrown back into the pit. “This is an astonishing number of shells for a short-lived, single-event context," said archaeologist Martin Carruthers of the University of the Highlands and Islands. "This suggests it may have been part of a special food event, a feast involving the whole community of the site or even beyond.” The shells date to the same period as a souterrain, or "earth house," that has also been unearthed at the site. In addition to its use as a space for food production and storage, Carruthers said, it may also have had a ritual function related to the feasting activity. To read about another recent discovery in the Orkneys, go to "What's in a Norse Name?"

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