Animals and humans: power, knowledge and agency | Mon Dec 16 13:30:00 | Room 728
Human – animal relationships have often been viewed in terms of domination and exploitation, whilst more recently there has been an emphasis on commensality, intimacy and trust. Power and knowledge flow around such relationships, directed by the agency of both human and animal participants. In addition, knowledge of animals may shape human – human interactions, being used to empower or to marginalise animal specialists. Within mainstream archaeology, the significance of animals is largely confined to economy and domestication, and the power, knowledge and agency that revolve within and around animal-human interactions are essentially ignored.
This session will encourage discussion and debate on the dynamics of human-animal relationships, exploring ways in which animals themselves, together with those who interact with them have shaped human history. Animals have not ceased to be an important means for constructing human relationships; rather, human relationships have become so complex that it is frequently forgotten that animals, their agency and their exploitation may lie unrecognised at the very base of these constructs. Knowledge and power are clearly interwoven through these relationships. Themes to be explored may include (but are not limited to) theory and theoretical approaches to animals in human societies, animal-based cosmologies, cross-disciplinary perspectives and animal-related technologies.
13:30 | Joanna Lawrence, University of Cambridge
13:35 | Jill Goulder, University College London
Donkeys - the secret agents
Too commonly we equate past human-animal interaction with hunting and herding, deleting from our pre-memories the significant exploitation of animals as workers for essential pack and traction from at least the 4th millennium BC.
13:55 | Neil Erskine, University of Glasgow
Farm, Field, and Fauna. Socialisation in the agricultural hinterlands of the 3rd Millennium Jazira
In recent years, the importance of an elite hybrid equid species to the people of 3rd millennium Northern Mesopotamia has seen considerable attention. Both archaeological and textual studies have stressed the symbolic power of this species, the BAR.AN, and delineated its ancestral associations and its uses in cultic, military, and agricultural contexts. Less attention, however, has been devoted to the socialising power that was granted to the BAR.AN by its ideological and symbolic prominence.
14:15 | Lonneke Delpeut, Leiden University
The expression of human-horse relationships in ancient Egypt
The introduction of the horse in ancient Egypt had a great impact on society. Horses have always been animals associated with nobility, and it was no diﬀerent in ancient Egypt. They were never deiﬁed in ancient Egypt, but they did enjoy a certain elevated status. The high regard in which horses were held is visible in diﬀerent contexts, from two-dimensional depictions in both royal and private context, to literature, royal decrees, material culture, international correspondence and even in a horse burial located in the forecourt of an Egyptian noble’s tomb. Within its context, the horse can function as a status marker, being the distinguishing factor between ‘pharaoh’ and ‘the other’ or elevating a private person from its peers, but the animal is more than that. The contexts in which the horses appear, mostly highlight the animal rather than the human; emphasising the importance of the animal within the scene. The horse is in this case the factor that elevates those associated with them. This paper aims to discuss how the horse is used as a status marker, as well as showing how the human-animal relationships were displayed in ancient Egypt also beyond the animal as simply that.
14:35 | Claire Ratican, University of Cambridge
Animal and HumanBodies in Producing Viking Age Persons
A growing body of work has emerged over the last few decades that attempts to rebalance the anthropocentric focus of research in the social sciences by exploring non-human agency and the alternative ontological structures that give rise to the unfamiliar and challenging phenomena we are presented with in archaeological contexts.
|14:55 | BREAK|
15:25 | Erica Priestley, Independent researcher
Waste Not - A Re-examination of Neanderthal Hunting Strategies and their Relationships with Animals
Research increasingly supports the notion that humans and Neanderthals are more alike than originally believed. Features such as ideology and ritual, previously lauded as the defining hallmarks of humanity, are more likely shared, derived traits. Shipman (2010) proposed an additional hallmark, the animal connection, where the intensified interaction with fauna has influenced the evolution of Homo.
15:45 | Erin Crowley, University of Minnesota
Commensal Feasts with Commensal Beasts
Archaeological remains from late Iron Age and Early Medieval Irish sites (dated to ~1-1000 AD) demonstrate a strong relationship between humans and household commensal animals. Not only do we have direct evidence for dogs and cats via their skeletal remains, but we also have significant indirect evidence of their presence from gnaw marks on remains from cattle, pig, sheep, and goats. Dogs, in particular, provided assistance in the protection of the settlement and control of livestock, playing a key role in the economic and social maintenance of the community. Early Medieval texts and law tracts highlight the role of dogs as a marker of power in human-human relationships, with special status given to individuals who owned guard dogs, or árchú (Kelly 1998). In return, we know that dogs had access to valuable food scraps, such as long bones. Using the evidence that we have available, what can we extrapolate about the role and status of commensal animals at settlement sites and, more broadly, in late Iron Age and Early Medieval society? This paper explores the roles of dogs in these spaces, their agency, and their resultant status in human-animal relationships.
16:05 | Andrew Reid, UCL
Livestock, agency and the human career
In introductory undergraduate lectures archaeology typically celebrates the domestication of livestock as an early achievement of the human career and congratulates itself on having been able to reconstruct the major characteristics of the process, based largely on the analysis of animal bone remains.This construction of knowledge within archaeology tallies with more general assumptions about power and the diminished role and significance of livestock within humansocieties in the recent human past.By developing alternative approaches, focusing on the role of living animals and the spaces they occupy within and around humans, it can be shown that livestock continue to exercise agency in shaping broader human society, creating complex relationships between humans and dominating human relationships with their environment.Livestock can hence be seen to have had a considerable, active role in recent aspects of the human career such as urbanism and colonisation.More importantly this demonstrates that theoretically Archaeology has blinded itself to the continuing significance of domesticated animals.All Holocene archaeologists, not just animal bone specialists, need to develop a different and distinct approach to the past, one that enables consideration of the active roles of livestock.
16:25 | Joanna Lawrence, University of Cambridge; Andrew Reid, UCL; Claire Ratican, University of Cambridge; Laerke Recht, University of Cambridge
|17:00 | END|