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Rielly, K, 2010 The Black Rat, in T, O’Connor and N, Sykes (eds.), Extinctions and Invasions: A Social History of British Fauna, Oxford: Windgather Press, 134-145

Authors:
  • Pre-Construct Achaeology

Abstract and Figures

Evidence is shown for the history of the Black rat in Great Britain from its 1st century introduction up to the 14th century
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 
e Black Rat
Kevin Rielly
Introduction
Present knowledge about the early history of Britains black rat (Rattus rattus) is
based almost entirely on information gleaned from archaeological excavations of
the last  years. Before  it was generally agreed the species was introduced
in the late eleventh century by returning Crusaders (Barrett-Hamilton
and Hinton –, ). en came two breakthrough archaeological
discoveries, the first from St Magnus in the City of London where a juvenile
rat femur was identified from a late tenth-century deposit (Armitage )
and the second from Skeldergate, York, where fourth-century well fills yielded
several rat bones including a complete skull (Rackham ). Subsequent finds
occasioned a series of articles on the species (Armitage et al.; Armitage
; Dobney and Harwood ; McCormick ; O’Connor a) and
their accumulated evidence has pushed back the introduction date suggesting
that rats arrived shortly after AD . It is now thought that, although black rats
 . Medieval
black rat skull (centre)
compared with modern
black rat (left) and brown
rat (right).
e Black Rat 
Century A.D.
England
Wales
Scotland
Ireland
Isle of Man
1st
6
2nd
10
2nd/3rd
2
1
3rd
1
3rd/4th
9
4th
7
4th/5th
1
6th/7th
8th/9th
2
9th/10th
3
10th/11th
8
10th12th
1
11th/12th
13
12th
2
1
12th/13th
13
1
13th
10
13th/14th
6
2
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
England
Number of sites
 . Inter-period
variation in the number
of sites on which rat are
represented (source Rielly
in prep. a).
were distributed throughout Late Roman Britain, their population collapsed in
the Early and Middle Saxon period, only becoming re-established in the late
Saxon and/or early medieval period.
is chapter reviews the Roman and early medieval evidence for the black
rat’s introduction and spread. Discussion is based on an extensive dataset,
synthesised from both published and grey literature (Rielly in prep a) and
summarised in Table  and Figure . e dataset’s reliability is dependent on
 . Inter-period
variation in the number
of sites which rat are
represented (source Rielly
in prep. a), separating
London from the rest of
England.
 Kevin Rielly
issues of identification, dating and recovery. Here it has been assumed that the
researchers whose records have been collated for this study made every attempt
to differentiate black Rattus rattus from brown rat Rattus norvegicus, as well as
from their similarly-sized relative, the water vole Arvicola terrestris. In general,
it is easier to separate rat from vole than black from brown rat, the greater level
of identification dependant on skeletal part and completeness (Lawrence and
Brown , , Wolff et al.  and Armitage et al. ). For this study
problems of misidentification are alleviated somewhat by the fact that the
brown rat was not introduced to Britain until the eighteenth century (Yalden
, ); for this reason specimens identified only to Rattus spp have been
included in this study. It is possible that either re-deposition or the burrowing
habit of the brown rat could affect dating of the specimens. In order to limit
these factors, the study has only included specimens from well-sealed deposits
containing associated dateable materials covering no more than  years. It
is more difficult to account for burrowing because such diggings rarely show
in the archaeological record; however the deep post-medieval overburden seen
on urban sites should have guarded the Roman and medieval against the more
recent activities of the brown rat.
Sieving is invaluable for the recovery of small mammal bones (see Brothwell
and Jones , ), and it is no surprise that the major discoveries, summarised
above, coincided with the onset of systematic sampling. e efficacy of this
retrieval method varies according to sampling procedure and the size of the sieves
mesh but most of the specimens detailed in this report were retrieved using mesh
of mm or less. Sieving is important not only for indicating the presence of rats
but also for highlighting their absence. Negative evidence is particularly pertinent
when comparing the species’ distribution with areas outside England and also
when illustrating the apparent lack of rats from Early and Middle Saxon deposits.
e sample evidence has also been used as an approximate indicator of relative
abundance, essentially limited to York and London, noting the proportion of
samples with rat bones (after O’Connor , ).
Distribution of rats from Roman times to the medieval period
Rat bones from Roman levels are no longer limited to the third- and fourth-
century examples described by Armitage et al. (, ) and there is now clear
evidence that black rats were established in Britain at an earlier date (Figure
). e earliest securely-dated rat bone (a pelvis identified by Philip Armitage),
was recovered during excavations at  Fenchurch Street from an occupation
deposit within a multi-roomed mud-brick building, which was burnt to the
ground during the Boudican revolt of AD / (Dunwoodie , –; Rielly
, ). e means whereby this particular animal, or a close relative, was
imported to London may be indicated by the concentrations of carbonised
grain found in an adjacent room within the same building. While these grain
samples were dominated by wheat, with some barley and oats, there were also
e Black Rat 
small quantities of lentils, einkorn and bitter vetch seeds. e last two were
essentially Southern European crops and their presence strongly suggest that the
grain was imported, most probably from the Mediterranean or Near East. It is
logical to assume that the rats were carried along as unwelcome companions’
(Davis , –) and, after disembarking from the ships, quickly exploited
the sources of food and habitation offered by the restaurants and warehouses
of Roman London. is is exemplified by other first-century examples from
London which include a tentatively-identified axis from a dump deposit at
Poultry (Pipe in prep) but also a more substantial collection ( bones from
 . e
distribution of Roman
sites with rat bones
(source Rielly in prep.).
 Kevin Rielly
at least three individuals) recovered from Fish Street Hill. ese remains came
from a well, located in a small enclosed yard, that contained large quantities
of rubbish (fine wares, glass and other objects, as well as large concentrations
of food waste, especially bird and fish bones, cereals, spices and fruit seeds),
interpreted as the refuse from a nearby inn (Rielly and Davis in prep). In this
deposit the rats were accompanied by the remains of at least  house mice,
suggesting the efficacy of this feature as a pit-fall trap and perhaps the presence
of a notable rodent population in this area at this time. Certainly the species
appears to have colonised the main suburb of Southwark by the end of the
first century, as evidenced by the single black rat femur recovered from the
Southwark Cathedral site (Armitage in prep).
e first-century date of introduction in London is reflected in other parts
of England. For instance rat bones were recovered from a Romano-British
enclosure settlement unearthed at Ivy Chimneys, near Witham, south-west of
Colchester in Essex (Luff ). Shortly after the Conquest this settlement was
bisected by the London to Colchester Roman road, which would have offered
a perfect route for the inadvertent export of rats from London. At Wroxeter
in Shropshire a rat skull and mandible were recovered with several other small
mammal bones and it is assumed these represent the remains of one or more
owl pellets (O’Connor , ). ey were located amongst the ruins of the
legionary fortress, abandoned in the late first century. A similar date may apply
to these remains; however, it is always possible that these ruins were used as
a convenient owl roost or perch for some years following their abandonment.
Another possible early find is the rat from the enclosure settlement at ornham
near the north Norfolk coast (Lawrence ). e site has been generally dated
to the first century, but the rat bone(s) as Romano-British.
Rat remains have been recovered from a greater number of second-century
sites. For London almost all the specimens come from the suburb of Southwark,
with the exception of a single bone from a pit possibly associated with a building
at – Gresham Street (Ainsley ; Rielly in prep b). ese rat bones were all
recovered from sites within the southern part of the Jubilee Line Extension (JLE)
project, with excavations adjacent to London Bridge Station. A notable feature of
these sites and, in particular, from the Main Ticket Hall, Borough High Street, was
the recovery of dumps with copious quantities of carbonised seeds (Gray ,
). ere is no evidence for foreign imports (einkorn or bitter vetch) amongst
these grain dumps, so it cannot be deduced whether the Southwark rats were
independently introduced or if they spread to this locality from the city across
the river. However, it can be supposed that this ‘concentration’ of rats may bear
some relation to the storage of grain in this area. Most of the JLE rat bones were
recovered from deep features (wells and pits), apart from one bone taken from
an occupation deposit associated with a building at the Area  site.
Beyond London, the second-century distribution of the black rat extends from
York in the north to Dorchester in the south-west. e evidence for black rats
from the more westerly and northern areas of Britain is rather sparse, with just
e Black Rat 
one find from the Roman town at Caerwent (Venta Silurium) in Wales, where
deposits within the forum-basilica provided two late third-century rat mandibles
and a third possibly dated to the second century (M. Maltby pers. comm.). e
absence of rats from other Roman settlements in Wales may relate to the acidic
soils found in certain areas, particularly in North Wales. Recovery methods are also
likely to have biased the archaeological representation of rats because, although
large collections of animal bones have been retrieved from Welsh sites, they tend
to pre-date the active use of sieving, as for example during the – excavations
of the Roman fort of Segontium, near Caernarfon (Noddle ).
Where rats are present, the range of sites they occupied is of interest,
including not only the urban centres of York and Colchester but also the villa
at Gorhambury and a rural settlement on the outskirts of Dorchester (Locker
; Rielly ). At the latter site a series of structures and agricultural features
dating to the third century suggest the presence of a villa-like settlement (Smith
et al. , ). It would certainly appear that rats had both the ability and the
inclination to settle in areas other than in close proximity to highly populated
ports of entry. e earliest rats at York, from late second-century deposits,
probably date to within a decade or two of the establishment of the main
civilian Colonia (O’Connor , ). In contrast, the Colonia at Colchester was
founded in AD , but the earliest rat is from a second-century level (Grimm
in prep). is absence could relate to a lack of sieving at several sites, but
sampling programmes have been in operation at a number of sites within the
city, including Culver Street that featured well stratified first- to fourth-century
occupation levels (Crummy , ; Luff , –).
e third and fourth centuries appear to have witnessed the greatest
distribution of rats in the Roman era, with further evidence from York and
Dorchester, at other urban centres such as Lincoln as well as sites towards the
northern periphery of Roman rule – the fort at South Shields and the villa at
Dalton Parlours in West Yorkshire (Dobney and Harwood ). Again, these
bones were found in a variety of settlement types, including a number of rural
sites. Sieving is cited as an issue regarding the lack of rats from earlier levels
at Lincoln, where amongst a variety of sites only those from the late Roman
waterfront area where routinely sampled (ibid.). e quantity of rat bones from
these sites tends to be rather small, with the exception of the General Accident
site at York (O’Connor ) and also from the earlier phase at Dalton Parlours.
While it is difficult to ascertain the reason(s) for the good recovery of rats at
this York site, the late third/early fourth-century collection at Dalton Parlours
are clearly associated with a granary, these levels providing a minimum number
(MNI) of  rats as well as  mice (Huntley and Stallibrass , ). It is of
interest that rats were also found in a later context within this granary, dating
to the late fourth century, but following the abandonment of this structure.
is change of usage undoubtedly had an effect on the rodent population, as
suggested by the recovery of a MNI of  rats and  mice. It can be seen that
the density of rats found at the General Accident Site appears to increase by
 Kevin Rielly
the third century (see Table ), perhaps indicating a general increase in the rat
population within the colonia. An expansion in rat populations is also indicated
by the evidence for third/fourth-century London, which appears to suggest an
expansion in their distribution, with rats bones found at several occupied as well
as abandoned sites in both the centre and periphery of the City. For instance,
rats were found alongside or just outside the eastern perimeter in the area of
the east London cemeteries, areas that were clearly used as city dumps and that
would have attracted scavenging rats.
No sooner had rats become established than their population seems to have
crashed, reflected by the clear paucity of finds dating between the fifth and ninth
century (Figure ). In London, there appear to be just two finds from this long
period, both dating to the late eighth/mid-ninth centuries, each taken from
sites within the Middle Saxon settlement of Lundenwic (Rackham et al. ).
is small number of bones is highlighted by the large number of excavations
undertaken in this area, based on modern day Covent Garden, many of which
were extensively sampled. e rest of England is similarly bereft, as particularly
shown by the well-sampled excavations in York, with rats not appearing until the
later ninth century, at Coppergate (O’Connor a). Neither York nor London
can offer much evidence for fifth- to seventh-century occupation. However, the
absence of rats at the early sites of West Heslerton (Berg ; pers. comm.;
Dobney and Harwood , ) and West Stow (Crabtree ; ), of
which only the former was sieved, is probably significant. Further negative
evidence is provided by the large bone collections derived from the extensive
excavations at the Middle Saxon era sites of Flixborough in Lincolnshire, plus
Wicken Bonhunt, Brandon and Ipswich, all in East Anglia (Crabtree ), and
then in Southampton (Hamwic), the sites of Melbourne Street (Bourdillon and
Coy ), Six Dials (Bourdillon with Andrews ) and the Friends Provident
St Mary’s Stadium (Hamilton-Dyer ). With the exception of Melbourne
Street and Wicken Bonhunt all of these sites were sieved and, although there is
insufficient evidence to warrant firm conclusions concerning the initial decline
of the rat population, there is little doubt that the nationwide density of this
species had declined dramatically by the seventh/eighth centuries.
It is of interest that their probable re-emergence coincides with the period
of Viking contact, evidence from York strongly suggesting that this species was























































 . Relative
abundance of samples
with rat bones from the
General Accident Site
(GA) and Coppergate
(CG), York and a
combination of sites from
London, where N is the
number of samples with
rat bones and N is the
number of samples with
animal bones (London
information taken from
Rielly in prep and York
data from O’Connor
,  and b, ).
e Black Rat 
reintroduced via Viking trading ships (O’Connor b, ). e density of
rats at the Scandinavian settlement at Coppergate in York (see Table ) is similar
to that observed at the later levels at the General Accident site and also within
Late Roman London. It can perhaps be proposed that favourable conditions
and/or a sizeable introduction outweighed the initial limitations on population
expansion that might be expected for a newly arrived species. While the
evidence regarding this introduction is rather slight in other parts of England,
the number of sites dated to the ninth and early tenth centuries with rat bones,
 . e
distribution of Saxon
period sites with rat
bones (source Rielly in
prep.).
 Kevin Rielly
in comparison with the extensive negative evidence from Middle Saxon sites in
the same localities, does appear to indicate a general trend.
e following two centuries are marked by a steady increase in rat representation
(Figure ). London is clearly well populated with rats by the eleventh/twelfth
centuries as shown by their wide distribution, extending from the City into
Southwark and also at one of the outlying monastic houses, at Merton Priory (Pipe
 . e distribution
of medieval period sites
with rat bones (source
Rielly in prep.).
e Black Rat 
). is resurgence of rats in London was probably supported by the extensive
rubbish deposition and the stalling/feeding of domestic animals (Bowsher et al.
, ; Hill and Rowsome ). Rats were similarly well distributed around
England by this period, although perhaps not re-attaining Roman densities until
the thirteenth/fourteenth centuries. In comparison to the Roman period, these
rats had obviously occupied a wide selection of settlements, from farmsteads
and monastic houses to castles and major urban centres. While widespread, the
quantities of rat bones recovered were invariably quite small, with the notable
exception of the  bones from the eleventh/twelfth-century castle at Middleton
Stoney, described as deriving from a stone-lined shaft (Levitan ).
For Wales, during this later period, it is necessary to turn to historical and
linguistic evidence. Giraldus Cambrensis, in his Journey rough Wales written
in , describes a large species of rodents, called rats’ referring to a story he
had ‘read somewhere’, which shows he knew of the existence of this creature
but not necessarily that it occupied Wales during this time (orpe , ).
Perhaps of greater significance is the Welsh word for rat llygoden mawror
llygoden ffrengig’ which translate as large mouse or French mouse. e latter
name could derive from the fact that it entered, or possibly re-entered, Wales
with the French-speaking Normans, which may have been as early as the late
eleventh century coinciding with the Norman invasion of South Wales.
e same twelfth-century author and traveller has a little more to offer
concerning the presence of rats in Ireland, when he refers, in approximately
, to ‘larger mice that are commonly called rats’ eating the books of the
Bishop of Ferns (O’Meara , ). is would appear to be the earliest
written reference to rats in Ireland (McCormick , ), coinciding with the
arrival of the Normans in the twelfth century. It is of interest, in this respect,
that the Irish name for the rat, following the Welsh name, is French mouse
luch francach. e earliest archaeological evidence is represented by a skull
from a mid twelfth-century deposit within a site interpreted as the remains
of medieval tenements at – Peter Street, Waterford (McCormick , ).
ere is undoubtedly a great potential for an earlier introduction, most notably
via the Viking settlements. e lack of such evidence could again relate to
the absence of sieving, although ironically, the Waterford example was hand-
collected. However, the numerous samples taken from Viking Age deposits from
Dublin (c.  to  AD), admittedly for botanical rather than zoological
purposes, were described as containing ‘no bones of rats or mice’ (Geraghty
, ). Later finds of rat bones include examples from Kilferagh, a small
rural settlement in County Kilkenny (McCormick , –) and a single
pelvis from a dump possibly associated with the medieval castle at Greencastle,
County Down (Beglane ), again all hand-collected.
e Isle of Man evidence is limited to a few bones taken from deposits
associated with a Norse settlement on St Patricks Isle, Peel, dating between the
eighth and twelfth centuries and just predating the late twelfth/early thirteenth-
century construction of the Cathedral of St German on the same site. Unlike
Ireland and Wales, there is no obvious indication either from the local name for
 Kevin Rielly
rat or from historical texts to suggest whether this animal was present during the
medieval period. While outside the remit of this report, it is worth mentioning
that the Black Death, which ravaged most of Britain in – (Horrox ,
, – and ), was not mentioned in the Chronicle of Man (yearly accounts
between  and ) for  (Coakley ). e Peel example suggests that
rats were present on the island in the early medieval period. However, they may
have either become extinct or perhaps never attained the population density
necessary to trigger an epidemic (see McCormick , –). Alternatively, they
may not have carried the vector flea, Xenopsylla cheopis to the island. Of interest
also is the linguistic evidence, where the Manx rodden for rat is apparently derived
from northern English, probably entering the local vocabulary in the fifteenth
century with the arrival of the Stanley lords or possibly a little later via merchants
(Ball and Fife , ).
e single example from Scotland was provided by a deposit associated with
a row of houses facing the High Street in early medieval Perth. ere would
appear to be no corroborative evidence, either historically or otherwise, to
confirm whether rats were introduced at or prior to the thirteenth century in
Scotland. However, as mentioned above, concerning the spread of plague, it
can be assumed that rats were relatively plentiful in certain areas of Scotland
by the later fourteenth century (Horrox , ).
Discussion
Rats entered this country as early as the mid first century, most probably as
unwelcome guests accompanying grain imports from the eastern Mediterranean,
becoming well-established throughout England and extending into Wales by
the Later Roman period. A point worth considering is the means whereby the
rat population was maintained. By the later second century, there was less trade
between the Mediterranean and Britain, suggesting that the rat population must
have been self-sustaining or at least reliant on transfers from rat colonies in
other parts of north-west Europe, where trade continued into the later Roman
period (see Fulford , ).
In sharp contrast to the Roman period, there follows an uninterrupted dearth
of rats, right up to the mid-ninth century. e timing of their demise is as yet
poorly understood, but the negative evidence from sites such as West Heslerton
would suggest it took place either coinciding with or soon after the end of the
Roman era. A major reason for the population collapse may be the dismantling
of the Roman infrastructure, which had provided optimal conditions for this
‘warmth-loving species that had adapted to a purely commensal existence in
the north European limits of the Roman empire (after Armitage , –
and McCormick , ). Climate change may have also played a part, given
that records suggest cooler temperatures and prolonged wetness in the years
between the early fifth and eighth centuries (Armitage , ).
ere is a question concerning whether the rat population suffered a major
decline rather than extinction. However, it can perhaps be assumed that if any
e Black Rat 
rats had survived, they would have been restored to something like their former
glory within the concentrated and waste littered urban centres set up by the
seventh/eighth centuries in various parts of England, from York in the north to
Southampton in the south (Hill , ). e evidence regarding the subsequent
discovery of black rats at ninth-century York and at a few other sites, dated to
the ninth or tenth centuries, has been used to suggest a reintroduction, most
probably by Viking traders. An interesting aspect of this event, as found at
Coppergate, is the notably large density of rats. is is clearly different to the
first-century Roman evidence from London or indeed to the initial occurrences
of this species at York. e greater quantity of rats could relate to the method
of introduction, with a direct transfer by ship from rat-infested Scandinavian
ports (note the early ninth-century occurrence of this species at Birka in Sweden
as described by Bengt Wigh ,  and – taken from McCormick ,
) compared to the more arduous overland route via the east coast of Spain
and then along the Rhone/Rhine or Rhone/Loire rivers as used by first- and
second-century Roman traders (Peacock  cited in Milne , ).
ere are relatively few tenth- to eleventh-century sites with rat bones, perhaps
suggesting initially a rather slow rate of colonisation. However, they were certainly
better represented by the twelfth century, when they reached the Irish ports, and
had extended beyond the major urban centres in England to smaller settlements
as the villages of rislington and Wharram Percy by the thirteenth/fourteenth
centuries. is widespread distribution clearly provided the means whereby, in
, the plague was able to cause such devastation across Britain.
Acknowledgments
e gathering of data for this report was facilitated by the generous donation of
information by a host of archaeozoological colleagues. ese include Umberto
Albarella, Ian Baxter, David Berg, Keith Dobney, Lorraine Higbee, Louisa Gidney,
Jessica Grimes (Wessex Archaeology), Sheila Hamilton-Dyer, Philip Armitage
(including identification of the pelvis from  Fenchurch Street), Alison Locker,
Jacqui Mulville, Sue Stallibrass, Ian Smith (Chester Archaeological Service),
Naomi Sykes, Dale Serjeantson and Sylvia Warman (Cotswold Archaeology);
Fay Worley, Andrew Hammond, Tessa Pirnie and Umberto Albarella (English
Heritage); Mark Maltby (for the only rat from Wales); Finbar McCormick,
Fiona Beglane, Jonny Geber and Auli Tourunen (Irish rats). anks are also
due to Dave Bowsher at Museum of London Archaeology (MoLA) and Cath
Maloney at the London Archaeological Archive Resource Centre (LAARC)
who facilitated access to various unpublished reports, Daphne Hills (Mammal
Section, BMNH) for help with the identification of British rat-sized rodents,
to James Gerrard and Josephine Brown at Pre-Construct Archaeology (PCA),
for production of the distribution maps and to James again as well as Kevin
Hayward (also at PCA) and Alan Pipe (Museum of London Archaeology) for
helpful comments in the writing and editing of this report.
is PDF of your paper in Extinctions and Invasions: A
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(September ), unless the site is a limited access
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this please contact the editorial department at Oxbow
Books (editorial@oxbowbooks.com).
Extinctions and Invasions:
A Social History of British Fauna
Edited by
Terry O’Connor and Naomi Sykes
Windgather Press
is an imprint of
Oxbow Books, Oxford
© Windgather Press and the individual authors 2010
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by an means
(whether electronic, mechanical, photocopying or recording) or otherwise
without the written permission of both the publisher and the copyright holder
ISBN 978-1-905119-31-8
A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library
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Printed in Great Britain by
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Contents
Preface v
Contributors vi
List of Figures vii
List of Tables ix
1. Introduction –e British Fauna in a Changing World 1
Terry O’Connor
2. e Horse 10
Robin Bendrey
3. Donkeys and Mules 17
Cluny Johnstone
4. e Aurochs and Domestic Cattle 26
Anthony J. Legge
5. e Elk 36
Andrew C. Kitchener
6. Red Deer on Scottish Islands 43
Jacqui Mulville
7. European Fallow Deer 51
Naomi Sykes
8. e Wild Boar 59
Umberto Albarella
9. e Wolf 68
Aleksander G. Pluskowski
10. e Lynx 75
David Hetherington
11. Wildcats, Domestic and Feral Cats 83
Andrew C. Kitchener and Terry O’Connor
12. e Brown Bear 95
Andy Hammon
13. e European Beaver 104
Bryony Coles
14. e Rabbit 116
Naomi Sykes and Julie Curl
15. e House Mouse 127
Terry O’Connor
16. e Black Rat 134
Kevin Rielly
17. Extinct Birds 146
Dale Serjeantson
18. Bird Introductions 156
Kristopher Poole
19. Freshwater Fish 166
Alison Locker
20. Land and Freshwater Molluscs 175
Paul Davies
21. Insects 181
Harry Kenward and Nicki Whitehouse
22. Conclusion 190
Derek W. Yalden
Bibliography 197
Index 233
iv Contents
Preface
All books are a labour of love, and this one has been particularly protracted.
It has taken longer than usual to bring to press, thanks in part to the usual
exigencies of competing demands (and childbirth on the part of at least two
contributors), and in part to the developments and new finds that are constantly
being made in the field. Even at the time of writing, we are aware of new
discoveries that (fortunately) strengthen the arguments made in this volume.
Studies of wildlife are becoming more aware of, and informed by, the long-term
record provided by historical and archaeological sources, and we hope that this
volume will be seen as a timely addition.
We thank the many contributors for their expertise and patience, and
thank Windgather Press and subsequently Oxbow Books for theirs, and for
supporting the project. We are grateful to staff and students, in particular Tom
Hartman and Alex Hyde of the University of Nottingham’s MSc in Biological
Photography and Imaging, who provided some of the beautiful images for this
book. We thank all of those who have given permission for their images to be
used here, in particular Julie Curl, whose illustrations for Figures 31 and 40 add
art to this work of, we hope, science. Figures 22, 23, 34 and 42 are by TPOC.
NS would like to thank both the University of Nottingham and the Arts and
Humanities Research Council who supported the period of research leave in
which this volume was edited.
Contributors
Umberto Albarella Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, S1 4ET
Robin Bendrey Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, F-75231 Paris cedex 05
Bryony Coles Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter, EX4 4QE
Julie Curl NAU Archaeology, Scandic House, 85 Mountergate, Norwich, NR1 1PY
Paul Davies Quaternary Research Centre, Bath Spa University, Bath, BA2 9BN
Andy Hammon English Heritage, 37 Tanner Row, York, YO1 6WP, UK
David Hetherington Cairngorms National Park Authority, 14 e Square,
Grantown on Spey, Highland PH26 3HG
Cluny Johnstone Department of Archaeology, University of York, YO1 7EP
Harry Kenward Department of Archaeology, University of York, YO1 7EP
Andrew C. Kitchener Department of Naural Sciences, National Museums Scotland,
Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF and Institute of Geography, School of
GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9XP
Anthony J. Legge McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, CB2 3ER.
Alison Locker Editici L’Ingla, Atic 1a, 58 Avenguda del Pessebre, Escaldes-Engordany,
AD 700, Andorra
Jacqui Mulville School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University, CF10 3XU
Terry O’Connor Department of Archaeology, University of York, YO1 7EP
Aleksander G. Pluskowski Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, RG6 6AB
Kristopher Poole Department of Archaeology, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD
Kevin Rielly Pre-Construct Archaeology, 96 Endwell Road, Brockley, London, SE4 2PD
Dale Serjeantson Archaeology, School of Humanities, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ
Naomi Sykes Department of Archaeology, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD
Nicki Whitehouse Palaeoecology Centre, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN
Derek W. Yalden formerly School of Life Sciences, University of Manchester;
now at High View, Tom Lane, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak SK23 9UN
List of Figures
1. Konik ponies from a breeding population in an enclosure at Canterbury, 11
Kent. Photo courtesy of Dr A. E. Bendrey.
2. Histograms showing the number of identified horse bones. 13
3. Mule. Photo by Barbara Noddle. 18
4. Scatter plot showing the results of discriminant function analysis on the 20
mule and donkey metatarsals from Iron Age and Roman Britain.
5. Scatter plot showing the results of discriminant function analysis on the 21
mule and donkey metacarpals from Iron Age and Roman Britain.
6. Scatter plot showing the results of discriminant function analysis on the 21
mule and donkey femora from Iron Age and Roman Britain.
7. Metacarpal measurements showing sexual dimorphism in, and separation 29
between, domestic and wild cattle.
8. Inter-period variation in the size of cattle metacarpals from three 30
archaeological sites.
9. Aurochs skull with Neolithic axe, recovered from Burwell Fen 33
(Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge, acc. No. D33, 665a,b).
10. Red deer stag. Photo © Richard Ford, Digital Wildlife. 44
11. Fallow deer buck. Photo © Richard Ford, Digital Wildlife. 51
12. Shed antler from Roman Scole Dickleburgh, Norfolk. 54
Photo courtesy of Norfolk Museum Service.
13. A small group of wild boar recently re-established in Britain. 59
Photo by Martin Goulding.
14. Size of lower third molar in British Mesolithic wild boar compared 60
to other Mesolithic specimens and to modern European wild boar.
15. Size of distal humerus in British Mesolithic wild boar compared to other 61
Mesolithic specimens and to modern European wild boar.
16. A wild boar skull from the late Bronze Age site of Welland Bank 62
Quarry, Lincolnshire. Photo by Shane Eales.
17. Wolf. Photo by Tom Hartman. 69
18. Distribution of caves sites in Britain where lynx bones have been recovered. 76
19. Hunting scene from the late 9th century Kildonnan cross-slab, 79
Island of Eigg. Crown Copyright: RCAHMS.
20. �e Lynx back in the Harz.’ Photo: Harz National Park. 82�e Lynx back in the Harz.’ Photo: Harz National Park. 82
21. Scottish wildcat. Photo © Alex Hyde, Alex Hyde photography. 84
22. Domestic and wildcat mandibles from Victoria cave, Yorkshire. 86
23. Late Glacial brown bear skull from Victoria Cave, Yorkshire. 96
24. e distribution of beaver evidence in Britain from late in the last Ice Age 105
to recent times. Drawn by Mike Rouillard for Beavers in Britain’s Past.
25. Map of Europe showing how beavers could have spread overland. 106
Drawn by Mike Rouillard for Beavers in Britain’s Past.
26. An adult European Beaver (Castor fiber) in the southeast of France, 107
photographed by René Nozerand.
27. e Neolithic Baker Platform in the Somerset Levels. 110
Baker Platform photos Somerset Levels Project.
28. Two Breton beaver ponds. Photos Beaver Works Project. 111
29. An indication of the resources that a human predator might take 114
from a beaver. Drawn by Mike Rouillard for Beavers in Britain’s Past.
30. Rabbit © Richard Ford, Digital Wildlife. 118
31. Reconstruction of the Lynford rabbit and its associated pottery. 120
Drawing by Julie Curl.
32. e so-called �rabbit’ depicted on a corbel from Kilpeck Church, 122
Herefordshire. Photo by Richard Jones.
33. House mouse © Richard Ford, Digital Wildlife. 128
34. Medieval black rat skull (centre) compared with modern black rat (left) 134
and brown rat (right).
35. Inter-period variation in the number of sites which rat are represented, 135
separating London from the rest of England.
36. e distribution of Roman sites with rat bones. 137
37. e distribution of Saxon period sites with rat bones. 141
38. e distribution of medieval period sites with rat bones. 142
39. Mid-nineteenth century illustration of a great auk. 148
40. White-tailed sea eagle over an Anglo-Saxon village. Drawing by Julie Curl. 153
41. Origins and route of bird introductions. 157
42. Helix pomatia. 179
43. Fragments of fossil beetles from Bronze Age lake settlement site 184
at Ballyarnet, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland. Photo by Nicki Whitehouse.
viii List of Figures
List of Tables
1. Key finds of directly radiocarbon dated horse bone. 11
2. Details of British mule and donkey bones identified using discriminant 22
function analysis.
3. Withers height estimates and metapodial slenderness indices for 23
donkeys and mules from Britain.
4. A comparison of the potential food yield (kg) and biomass (kg/km2) 39
from large ungulates found at the Mesolithic site of Star Carr.
5. Archaeological representation of red deer on the Scottish islands. 46–47
6. Early representation of fallow deer in the archaeological record. 53
7. Neolithic to medieval brown bear specimens recovered since the 98
publication of Yalden’s �e history of British mammals’ in 1999.
8. Inter-period variation in the number of sites on which rat are represented. 135
9. Relative abundance of samples with rat bones from the General Accident 140
Site (GA) and Coppergate (CG), York and a combination of sites
from London.
10. Results of literature survey for sites where peafowl have been identified. 162–163
11. Results of literature survey for sites where turkey have been identified. 164–165
12. Introduced terrestrial species. Data from Kerney (1999). 176
13. Introduced freshwater species. Data from Kerney (1999). 177
14. Terrestrial and freshwater species becoming extinct from the UK 178
during the Holocene. Data from Kerney (1999) unless otherwise stated.
15. Molluscan biozones from south-east England as detailed by Preece 179
and Bridgland 1999.
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Biological invasions are one of the great threats to Earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity in the Anthropocene. However, species introductions and invasions extend deep into the human past, with the translocation of both wild and domestic species around the world. Here, we review the human translocation of wild plants and animals to the world’s islands. We focus on establishing criteria used to differentiate natural from human-assisted dispersals and the differences between non-native and invasive species. Our study demonstrates that, along with a suite of domesticates, ancient people transported numerous wild plants and animals to islands and helped shape ecosystems in ways that have important ramifications for modern conservation, restoration, and management.
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Terrestrial and freshwater species becoming extinct from the UK 178 during the Holocene. Data from Kerney (1999) unless otherwise stated.
Castor fiber) in the southeast of France
  • An Adult
  • European Beaver
An adult European Beaver (Castor fiber) in the southeast of France, 107 photographed by René Nozerand.
Photo by Nicki Whitehouse. viii List of Figures List of Tables
  • Ballyarnet
  • Co
  • Northern Derry
  • Ireland
at Ballyarnet, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland. Photo by Nicki Whitehouse. viii List of Figures List of Tables
Photo © Richard Ford, Digital Wildlife
  • Buck Fallow Deer
Fallow deer buck. Photo © Richard Ford, Digital Wildlife. 51
Philip Armitage (including identification of the pelvis from 168 Fenchurch Street), Alison Locker
  • Ian Albarella
  • David Baxter
  • Keith Berg
  • Lorraine Dobney
  • Louisa Higbee
  • Jessica Gidney
  • Grimes
Albarella, Ian Baxter, David Berg, Keith Dobney, Lorraine Higbee, Louisa Gidney, Jessica Grimes (Wessex Archaeology), Sheila Hamilton-Dyer, Philip Armitage (including identification of the pelvis from 168 Fenchurch Street), Alison Locker, Jacqui Mulville, Sue Stallibrass, Ian Smith (Chester Archaeological Service),
English Heritage); Mark Maltby (for the only rat from Wales)
  • Fay Worley
  • Andrew Hammond
  • Tessa Pirnie
  • Umberto Albarella
Fay Worley, Andrew Hammond, Tessa Pirnie and Umberto Albarella (English Heritage); Mark Maltby (for the only rat from Wales);
Photo courtesy of Dr A
  • Kent
Kent. Photo courtesy of Dr A. E. Bendrey.
Photo by Tom Hartman
  • Wolf
Wolf. Photo by Tom Hartman. 69
Photo by Barbara Noddle
  • Mule
Mule. Photo by Barbara Noddle. 18
Crown Copyright: RCAHMS
  • Eigg Island Of
Island of Eigg. Crown Copyright: RCAHMS.