Food Remains at the George Read II House:
A study of the early 18th century faunal assemblage from unit N40W80.5 was completed. This unit contained many animal bones. However, we are not sure who was occupying the site at the time, or even on which property it lay (the Read’s or the neighboring one). From the bones excavated, a breakdown of different species can be made. One problem is that many of the bones are difficult to identify. Of those found, 76.4% were unidentifiable as to species, while another 2.26% were totally unidentifiable. From the picture on the right, one can see that fish bones formed the highest percentage of the collection. Many of these bones show cuts, splits and burns, all signs of butchering and cooking. Clam, oyster and other shellfish shells were also found.
Pigeon, quail, duck, and swans were also consumed. However, these bones rarely show signs of butchering or cooking. One reason for this may be that other methods of preparing these birds were used. For example, a 1742 cookbook, The Complete Housewife, included the recipe for “To Pot Duck, or any Fowls, or small Birds”. It said one must “break all the bones of your duck with a rolling pin, take out the thighbones, and as many others as you can, keeping the duck whole…”.
One interesting feature of this study was the large quantity of deer feet, and one rib, in level 22. There were at least 3 or 4 deer included in this sample. It is possible that the deer were butchered on site and then taken elsewhere to be sold. The feet would have been left behind because the deer were hung from them when being butchered and also because they are less meaty than other parts of the deer. The feet would most likely be tossed aside, as they would not be consumed. However, one must remember that this study is only of one small site, so the conclusions remain tentative.
There are also many parts of chickens. This indicated that all phases of the butchering process occurred here. However, there are very few signs of butchering (only 6%) on these bones. The property owners were probably raising the chickens for eggs, since eggshells were also found in this unit.
-Researched by: Cheryl Hendry