Ancient butcher unearthed in Devon and it could rewrite history of Roman rule

Rob Waugh
The dig at Ipplepen (University of Exeter)

Even under Roman rule, ancient Britons had a healthy appetite for roast beef, a new find has shown - and it might also show that the Roman Empire stretched further than thought.

An excavation at Ipplepen by University of Exeter researchers found evidence of a Roman butcher shop which slaughtered and sold beef in Devon 1,700 years ago.

A burial pit was found filled with heads and feet from cows, suggesting they were reared locally and slaughtered for meat productions, the Guardian reported.

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Professor Stephen Rippon, from the University of Exeter said the find suggested that the cattle weren’t slaughtered and eaten by local peasants.

Professor Rippon told The Guardian: “They would have boiled down the bits that have been thrown away and made something like brawn out of them.

“The normal practice would have been to keep the cattle into old age, pulling ploughs and so on.

“Our cattle were one and a half to two years old – which fits in with the idea of this being professional beef production.

“We think they were preparing good meat joints and perhaps storing them in barrels of salted water and taking them somewhere else.”

The find follows another at the fields near Ipplepen in September 2018.

The excavations showed features such as ditches and wells were back filled with domestic rubbish including broken pots, butchered animal bones, metal studs from old shoes, and even a dead badger.

The remains of Amphora, large pottery storage vessels used to transport and store wine and olive oil from the Mediterranean, have also been found. This suggests the community in the area enjoyed foreign food and drink.

The settlement was occupied from the Middle and Late Iron Age – from about 400 BC to AD43 – throughout the Roman period and into the early medieval period.

It was home to a farming community and, in the Roman period, a road was constructed through the settlement that linked it with Exeter.