The History of Butchers

Updated April 17, 2017

Butchering animals is one of civilisation's oldest and most respected professions. Guilds were set up during the Middle Ages that specialised in the slaughter and preparation of animals. From using sharpened sticks to modern cleavers, butchers have always fed hungry carnivores.

Early Man's Butcher Shop

University of Miami scientists and underwater archaeologists discovered the remains of a butchered giant sloth at a Florida sinkhole. The remains are thought to be about 12,000 years old. An earlier discovery of a sharpened stick and tortoise remains had led them to believe the area was used as a butcher shop for early man.

Butcher Shop in Ancient Rome

In the late 1880s, the Museum of Antiquities in Dresden, Germany, displayed an ancient Roman relief of a butcher shop. The butcher was separating a rack of ribs with a cleaver. In his shop was a three legged chopping table and hooks with dressed meats. Among them were pork joints and favourites of the time like udders and boar's heads.

London Butchers

Butchers honoured their craftsmanship and often gathered in Butchers' Halls to sell their meats. The earliest reference was the mention of London's Ward of Farringdon Without in 975 A.D. The Worshipful Company of Butchers started in the 14th century and remains one of the UK's oldest guilds. Smithfield Market, a meat market for over 800 years, once had grassy plains that allowed livestock to be freshly slaughtered.

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About the Author

Since 1993 Mona Harte's work has appeared in various publications, including "NYTimes Regional Newspaper Group," the "Calgary Sun," the "Great Falls Tribune" and the "Tahoe Daily Dispatch," as well as international magazines "Atlantica," "Portfolio," and "Open Skies." She holds an Associate of Arts in layout/design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.