"From animal exploitation to human-animal relations. Rituals, cosmology and animal materiality in the Mesolithic of Scandinavia."
Stipendiat ved Institutt for arkeologi, konservering og historie
The aim of my ongoing PhD-project is to investigate the relationship between humans, animals and environment in the Mesolithic (10 000-5000 BP), using animal bone remains and bone artefacts as a starting point. Animal bones from settlement sites and bone artefacts are usually studied separately, by specialists working with fundamentally different scientific methods and theoretical perspectives. Human-animal interactions in the Mesolithic are conventionally perceived as a one-way relationship, focusing on human exploitation of animals and equating bone remains with meat, meals and calories. This may have contributed to why the Mesolithic period has earned a reputation of the being ”…one of the dullest periods of prehistory, a backwater of research and theoretical innovation” as argued by Jordan (2007:84). Animals were not exploited exclusively for calories: Animal body parts also constituted a significant part of Mesolithic material culture; in particular for the manufacture of hunting and fishing equipment, with bones and body parts of animals found in a variety of contexts; both utilitarian and ritual/symbolic. In addition to providing sustenance, animals appear to have been deeply embedded in Mesolithic world-view and ritual practice. In my thesis I will discuss a theoretical approach inspired by models and theories derived from anthropology and sociology, which emphasises the close connection between ideological, cosmological and religious aspects, on one hand and economy, social organisation and material culture on the other. I will argue that animals were not considered to be objects separated from Mesolithic ‘society’, but were, in fact, deeply embedded in it.