• The fate of neonate calves. A discussion of the bovine infant health implications of dairying in antiquity, using archaeozoological studies of six Orcadian contexts.

      Mainland, Ingrid L.; Davis, Geoffrey W. (University of BradfordDepartment of Archaeological Sciences, 2011-06-29)
      A methodology for ageing foetal and neonatal cattle is developed, involving radiographic examination of infant mandibles for early developmental stages in molariform teeth; tooth-wear methodologies are imprecise at this stage before wear commences. Known-age modern bovine foetal and neonate material are collected as a control assemblage for method development (n=73); six Neolithic to Norse era assemblages from Orkney are examined using the modified technique together with standard tooth-wear analysis and other methodologies. Foetal and died-at-birth material is diagnosed at most sites using the new technique, together with a range of other peri-natal age-groups. Ageing at this early stage is highly relevant in the diagnosis of milking as a palaeoeconomy: the accepted view is that unwanted (male) calves were slaughtered to maximise milk for human consumption, hence a surfeit of neonate calf remains, as at the study sites. The diagnosis of foetal and died-at-birth material challenges this view, suggesting that attritional causes may have contributed to deaths at this stage. Although milking was probably carried out at most of the study sites, this may have been combined with slaughter of cattle for meat in a pragmatic exploitation strategy. Literary research shows possible attritional causes of abortion and early death in calves, in particular dietary insufficiency in pregnant cows, microbial infections, and also inadequate colostrum uptake. Additionally, research is used to consider the challenges to health that early milking might have posed, to the calf as mentioned, but also to the cow, where three main health issues are highlighted: infertility, mastitis and lameness.