Differentiating animal waste and remains from games in the amphitheater I of Carnuntum

The animal bones originated from excavations in the Amphitheater I in Carnuntum. They largely represent domestic animals that were deposited there as refuse. Bones of large predators such as a bear or a big cat could represent animals that were killed during late antique animal hunts in the amphitheater. 

The archaeozoological material mainly comes from excavations that took place in the amphitheater I in 2009 and 2010. To a large part it originated from the large late antique layers in front of the east gate, the west gate as well as the filling of the basin in the arena. The late antique contexts suggest that at the time venationes (animal hunts) were still taking place in the amphitheater leading to a considerable interest in the animal bones. 

Spectrum of animal species


The already analyzed animal remains from these find contexts illustrate a ›uniform‹ composition. They largely consist of cattle bones, including body parts with very little meat as well as also richer in meat. A lot of cattle bones illustrate traces of hacking and cutting indicating that they were cut apart with butcher tools, such as choppers or cleavers. Furthermore, a large number of bones show traces of dog bites. The cattle were mostly butchered as adolescent or when mature and the presence of sucking calves could barely be proven. The bones indicate two morphologically different types: very small cows that resemble an Iron Age domestic cattle type and very large cows that are represented in numerous Roman find sites throughout Austria.

The remaining domestic animals are less frequent but a higher proportion of pigs than sheep and goats is remarkable. Horse and donkey are evidenced by a few remains in the material. Surprisingly quite a few dog bones have been identified but they do not have any traces of being processed. The use of poultry is evidenced through chicken and goose.

Evidence for hunting are wild boar, deer, and red deer as well as bones that could come from a European bison. In addition to small predators, such as foxes and possibly wild cats there might also be brown bear bones and the forearm bone of a very large predator. Although the bone has been severely damaged on both ends, its form does indicate that it is a large cat rather than a bear. While most of the animal remains likely were waste, the bones of the large predators could also be the remains of an animal hunt in Amphitheater I.