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James Roberts,               University of Nottingham

 

Size (and shape) matters! An osteometrical approach to determining chicken ‘breeds’ in medieval England.

 

Chickens are the most highly bred livestock species, exhibiting a wide range in size, conformation and colour. Different types of chickens have been selectively bred for different purposes – meat, eggs, plumage, sound, cock-fighting and display – but the timing and circumstances by which these different ‘breeds’ emerged is poorly understood.

 

My aim is to compile the metrics from chickens of known breed, sex and age from various reference and museum collections around the country. I shall then compare these data to metrics from the chicken assemblages recovered from the Late Medieval site of Woking Palace. Using statistical analyses, it is my intention to try and refine the classification of the archaeological chickens: to which modern breed are they most similar? Ultimately, I hope to discover what chickens were being used for at Woking Palace and the extent to which they were being used as a foodstuff in Late Medieval England. The metrics I gather will also be placed onto the project’s online database for use in further studies by other researchers.

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