Eating inequality : food, animals and people at Bosutswe
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This study addresses the use of wild and domestic animals at the Iron Age site of Bosutswe, Botswana. I argue that that the Western (commoner) inhabitants consumed more wild game than Central (elite) inhabitants. The overall roll that wild animals played in the diet decreased radically over time, perhaps due to environmental degradation, a change in hunting practices, or due to a combination of both factors. The importance of domestic animals increased over time. Both commoners and elites had access to cattle and small stock, but elites consumed a greater amount of these species. During the Early and Middle Lose, Bosutswe elites were able to preferentially consume young and aged domestic animals rather than consuming mainly adult animals. This may have been a form of conspicuous consumption. Despite the differences in what was eaten, how meat was cooked appears to be similar amongst both commoners and elites. Meat appears to have largely been boiled, as much meat is in Botswana today. The elite inhabitants of Bosutswe retained much of the favored cuts of meat- upper limbs- for themselves. Less-favored cuts of meat, especially lower limbs and craniums, were distributed to the commoners of Bosutswe. This redistribution of resources may have provided the commoners of Bosutswe with tangible material benefits, but also served to emphasize their non-elite status and reinforce the social hierarchy. Likewise, herding cattle may have provided commoners with access to their labor and milk, but also served to codify and increase social hierarchy by enabling elites to maintain large cattle herds.