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foundation sacrifice


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When bones, or pots presumably once containing food or drink, are found under the foundations of Roman sites in Britain, they are interpreted as ritual offerings to bring luck to a new building. Other examples come from Anglo-Saxon sites, both before and after the conversion, and the series continues into medieval and early modern times with sporadic finds of animal skulls and bones under doorways, in boundary ditches, built into walls, under bridges, etc. (Merrifield, 1987: 50–7, 116–21, 186). If the object is inside a wall or ceiling space, it is not usually possible to decide whether it was deposited during construction of the building, or later, for example as protection against suspected witchcraft; shoes and mummified cats are the most frequent finds.

See also HORSES, HOUSE, THRESHOLD.


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