The Other Shoe: Fragmentation in the Post-medieval home

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Deposits are not always recovered whole; many are found broken and damaged. The obvious explanation is that such objects were accidentally broken; however, some have been interpreted as having been deliberately damaged by their depositors, a practice termed ‘fragmentation’. Objects are broken into parts and deposited incomplete, often in ways that make their missing parts starkly evident. Thus many fragmented deposits denote synecdoche. It is the position of this paper that the absent (part) is just as integral to an understanding of the whole as the present (part) is, and this notion is explored by focusing on the post-medieval concealed shoe: an item of footwear that was fragmented by being deposited within the fabric of a building without its counterpart, for reasons unbeknownst to us. Drawing on a sample of 100 examples, this paper questions why such shoes were deposited as singles (the present parts), what became of the ‘other shoe’ (the absent part), and how such consideration aids our understanding of this enigmatic custom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-274
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number2
Early online date5 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


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