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Food as an Instrument of Social Change: Feasting in Iron Age and Early Roman Southern Britain

By Marijke Van der Veen


The changing nature and meaning of luxury foods is reviewed. It is proposed that the storage pits of Iron Age southern Britain were used to store grain surpluses, rather than seed corn, that the grain stored in such pits was used in large, communal feasts, and that the hillforts, where many such pits are found, functioned as locations for feasting. By the Late Iron Age this particular evidence for feasting disappears, to be replaced in some areas by the deposition of imported luxuries in individual graves, implying the use of such items for the display of the individual's prestige. During the early Roman period a further shift is observed, with the importation and consumption of exotic foods at military and urban sites, possibly representing class membership. The evidence implies that food, initially through communal feasting and later through the individual consumption of exotics, was used as an instrument of social change

Publisher: Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Year: 2007
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