Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-tn8tq Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-22T04:36:52.809Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

A manifesto for a social zooarchaeology. Swans and other beings in the Mesolithic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 November 2013


Recent, non-anthropocentric explorations of the interaction between human and non-human animals have resulted in many groundbreaking studies. In this ‘animal turn’, zooarchaeology, which deals with and has access to the material traces of animals that existed alongside humans over the last 2.5 million years, could occupy a privileged and influential position. Despite some encouraging efforts, however, zooarchaeology's ability to contribute to these discussions is heavily limited by the subdiscipline's firm footing within anthropocentric ontologies and reductionist epistemologies. This paper outlines a framework for a new social zooarchaeology that moves beyond the paradigm and discourse of ‘subsistence’ and of representationist and dichotomous thinking, which have treated non-human animals merely and often exclusively as nutritional or symbolic resources for the benefit of humans. Building on alternative zoontologies which reinstate the position of non-human animals as sentient and autonomous agents, this framework foregrounds the intercorporeal, sensuous and affective engagements through which humans and non-human animals are mutually constituted. These ideas are illustrated with two case studies focusing on human–whooper swan interactions in the Danish Later Mesolithic, based on the faunal assemblage from the site of Aggersund in North Jutland, and the whooper swan remains found associated with the Grave 8 at Vedbæk.

Discussion Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Albrethsen, S.E., and Brinch-Petersen, E., 1976: Excavation of a Mesolithic cemetery at Vedbæk, Denmark, Acta archaeologica 47, 128.Google Scholar
Andersen, S.H., 1978: Aggersund. En Ertebølleboplads ven Limfjorden, Kuml 1978, 756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Appadurai, A., 1995: The production of locality, in Fardon, R. (ed.), Counterworks. Managing the diversity of knowledge, London, 205–25.Google Scholar
Argent, G., 2010: Do the clothes make the horse? Relationality, roles and statuses in Iron Age Inner Asia, World archaeology 42 (2), 157–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Armstrong Oma, K., 2007: Human–animal relationships. Mutual becomings in the household of Scandinavia and Sicily 900–500 BC, Oslo (OAS).Google Scholar
Armstrong Oma, K., 2010: Between trust and domination. Social contracts between humans and animals, World archaeology 42 (2), 175–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bacher, A., 1967. Vergleichend morphologische Untersuchungen an Einelknochen des postkranialen Skeletts in Mitteleuropas vorkommender Schwäne und Gänse, Munich.Google Scholar
Birke, L., Bryld, M. and Lykke, N., 2004: Animal performances. An exploration of intersections between feminist science studies and studies of human/animal relationships, Feminist theory 5 (2), 167–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bogucki, P., 1996: Scandinavian Mesolithic burials, in Bahn, P.G. (ed.), Tombs, graves and mummies. 50 discoveries in world archaeology, London, 6264.Google Scholar
Bovy, K.M., 2010: Differential avian skeletal part distribution. Explaining the abundance of wings, Journal of archaeological science 29, 965–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brazil, M., 2003: The whooper swan, London.Google Scholar
Brinch Petersen, E., Meiklejohn, C. and Alexandersen, V., 1993: Vedbæk, graven midt I byen, Nationalmuseets arbejdsmark, 6169.Google Scholar
Brown, W.A.B., and Chapman, N.G., 1991: The dentition of red deer (Cervus elaphus). A scoring scheme to assess age from wear of the permanent molariform teeth, Journal of zoology 224, 519–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bull, G., and Payne, S., 1982: Tooth eruption and epiphysial fusion in pigs and wild boar, in Wilson, B., Grigson, C. and Payne, S. (eds), Ageing and sexing animal bones from archaeological sites, Oxford (BAR, British Series 109), 5571.Google Scholar
Chatterton, R., 2006: Ritual, in Conneller, C. and Warren, G. (eds), Mesolithic Britain and Ireland. New approaches, Stroud, 101–20.Google Scholar
Clark, G., 1948: Fowling in prehistoric Europe, Antiquity 22, 116–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, A., and Serjeantson, D., 1996: A manual for the identification of bird bones from archaeological sites, London.Google Scholar
Conneller, C., 2004: Becoming deer. Corporeal transformations at Star Carr, Archaeological dialogues 11 (1), 3756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeFrance, S.D., 2009: Zooarchaeology in complex societies. Political economy, status and ideology, Journal of archaeological research 17, 105–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Derrida, J., 2008: The animal that therefore I am (tr. Wills, D.), New York.Google Scholar
Dobney, K., and Reilly, K., 1988: A method for recording archaeological animal bones. The use of diagnostic zones, Circaea 5 (2), 7996.Google Scholar
Edmonds, M., 1997: Taskscape, technology and tradition, Analecta praehistorica Leidensia 29, 99110.Google Scholar
Fowler, C., 2004: The archaeology of personhood. An anthropological approach, London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gamble, C., and Gaudzinski, S., 2005: Bones and powerful individuals. Faunal case studies from the Arctic and the European Middle Palaeolithic, in Gamble, C. and Porr, M. (eds), The hominid individual in context. Archaeological investigations of Lower and Middle Paleolithic landscapes, locales and artefacts, London, 154–75.Google Scholar
Grant, A., 1982: The use of tooth wear as a guide to the age of domestic ungulates, in Wilson, B., Grigson, C. and Payne, S. (eds), Ageing and sexing animal bones from archaeological sites, Oxford (BAR British Series 109), 91108.Google Scholar
Grigson, C., 1990: Bird foraging patterns in the Mesolithic, in Bonsall, C. (ed.), The Mesolithic in Europe, Edinburgh, 6072.Google Scholar
Hamilakis, Y., 2002: The past as oral history. Towards an archaeology of the senses, in Hamilakis, Y., Pluciennik, M. and Tarlow, S. (eds), Thinking through the body. Archaeologies of corporeality, New York, 121–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hamilakis, Y., 2003: The sacred geography of hunting. Wild animals, social power and gender in early farming societies, in Kotjabopoulou, E.H., Halstead, P., Gamble, C. and Elefanti, P. (eds), Zooarchaeology in Greece. Recent advances, London, 239–48.Google Scholar
Hamilakis, Y., 2008: Time, performance, and the production of a mnemonic record. From feasting to an archaeology of eating and drinking, in Hitchcock, L., Laffineur, R. and Crowley, J. (eds) DAIS. The Aegean feast, Liege and Austin, 319.Google Scholar
Hamilakis, Y., 2010: Recollecting the fragments. Archaeology as mnemonic practice, in Lilios, K. and Tsamis, V. (eds), Material mnemonics and everyday memory in European prehistory, Oxford, 188–99.Google Scholar
Hamilakis, Y., 2011: Archaeologies of the senses, in Insoll, T. (ed.), The Oxford handbook on the archaeology of ritual and religion, Oxford, 208–25.Google Scholar
Hamilakis, Y. 2014: Archaeology and the senses. Human experience, memory, and affect, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hamilakis, Y., and Harris, K., 2011: The social zooarchaeology of feasting. The evidence from the ‘ritual’ deposit at Nopigeia-Drapanias, in Proceedings of the 10th International Cretological Congress, Chania, 199218.Google Scholar
Hamilakis, Y., and Konsolaki, E., 2004: Pigs for the gods. Animal burnt sacrifices at a Mycenaean sanctuary, Oxford journal of archaeology 23 (2), 135–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hanson, D.K., 1991: Late prehistoric subsistence in the Strait of Georgia region of the Northwest Coast, Burnaby.Google Scholar
Haraway, D., 2003: The companion species manifesto. Dogs, people, and significant otherness, Chicago.Google Scholar
Haraway, D., 2008: When species meet, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
Higgins, J., 1999: Túnel. A case study of avian zooarchaeology and taphonomy, Journal of archaeological science 26, 1449–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hillson, S., 1992: Mammal bones and teeth, London.Google Scholar
Ingold, T., 2011: Being alive. Essays on movement, knowledge and description, London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, P., 2009: Considering living-beings in the aceramic Neolithic of Cyprus, Journal of Mediterranean archaeology 22 (1), 7599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Knight, J. (ed.), 2005: Animals in person. Cultural perspectives on human–animal intimacy, Oxford and New York.Google Scholar
Kohn, E., 2007: How dogs dream. Amazonian natures and the politics of transspecies engagement, American ethnologist 34 (1), 324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kubiak-Martens, L., 1999: The plant food component of the diet at the Late Mesolithic (Ertebølle) settlement at Tybrind Vig, Denmark, Vegetation history and archaeobotany 8, 117–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Laroulandie, V., 2001: Les traces liées à la boucherie, à la cuisson et à la consommation d'oiseaux, apport de l'experimantation, in Bourgignon, L., Ortega, L. and Frere-Sautot, M.C. (eds), Préhistoire et approche expérimentale, Montagnac, 97108.Google Scholar
Latour, B., 2009: Perspectivism: ‘type’ or ‘bomb’? Anthropology today 25 (2), 12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McFadyen, L., 2007: Mobile spaces of Mesolithic Britain, Home cultures 4 (2), 117–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacFarland, S.E., and Hediger, R. (eds), 2009a: Animals and agency. An interdisciplinary exploration, Leiden.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacFarland, S.E., and Hediger, R. 2009b: Approaching the agency of other animals. An introduction, in MacFarland, S.E. and Hediger, R. (eds), Animals and agency. An interdisciplinary exploration, Leiden, 120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mannermaa, K., 2008a: The archaeology of wings. Helsinki.Google Scholar
Mannermaa, K., 2008b: Birds and burials at Ajvide (Gotland, Sweden) and Zvejnieki (Latvia) about 8000–3900 BP, Journal of anthropological archaeology 27, 201–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marvin, G., 2003: A passionate pursuit. Foxhunting as performance, in Szersyznski, B., Heim, W. and Waterton, C. (eds), Nature performed. Environment, culture & performance, Oxford, 4660.Google Scholar
Møhl, U., 1978: Aggersund-Bopladsen zoologisk belyst. Svanejagt som årsag til bosættel. Kuml 1978, 5775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nilsson Stutz, L., 2003: Embodied rituals and ritualized bodies. Tracing ritual practices in Late Mesolithic burials, Lund.Google Scholar
Noe-Nygaard, N., 1974: Mesolithic hunting in Demark illustrated by bone injuries caused by human weapons, Journal of archaeological science 1, 217–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Overton, N., 2010: Meetings in the Late Mesolithic of northwest Europe. An exploration of human–whooper swan relationships at Aggersund, Denmark, MA dissertation, University of Southampton.Google Scholar
Price, T.D., 1983: The European Mesolithic, American antiquity 48, 761–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Richter, J., 2005: Selective hunting of pine marten, Martes martes, in Late Mesolithic Denmark, Journal of archaeological science 32, 1223–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rowley-Conwy, P., 1987: Animal bones in Mesolithic studies. Recent progress and hopes for the future, in Rowley-Conwy, P. (ed.), Mesolithic northwest Europe. Recent trends, Huddersfield, 7481.Google Scholar
Russell, N., 2012: Social zooarchaeology. Humans and animals in prehistory, Cambridge.Google Scholar
Schmid, E.F., 1972: The atlas of animal bones, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
Serjeantson, D., 1996: The animal bones, in Needham, S. and Spence, T. (eds), Runnymede Bridge Research Excavations. Vol 2. Refuse disposal at Area 16 East. Runnymede, London, 194223.Google Scholar
Serjeantson, D., 2000: Good to eat and good to think with. Classifying animals from complex sites, in Rowley-Conwy, P. (ed.), Animal bones, human societies, Oxford, 179–89.Google Scholar
Serjeantson, D., 2009: Birds. Cambridge manuals in archaeology, Cambridge.Google Scholar
Sutton, D., 2001: Remembrance of repasts. An anthropology of food and memory, Oxford.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sutton, D., 2010: Food and the senses, Annual review of anthropology 39, 209–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sykes, N.J., 2007a: Animal bones and animal parks, in Liddiard, R. (ed.), The medieval deer park. New perspectives, Macclesfield, 4962.Google Scholar
Sykes, N.J., 2007b: Taking sides. The social life of venison in medieval England, in Pluskowski, A. (ed.), Breaking and shaping beastly bodies. Animals as material culture in the Middle Ages, Oxford, 150–61.Google Scholar
Sykes, N.J., 2010: Deer, land, knives and halls. Social change in early Medieval England, Antiquaries journal 90, 175–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ubelaker, D.H., and Wedel, W.R., 1975: Bird bones, burials and bundles in plains archaeology, American antiquity 40 (4), 444–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Verhart, L., 1988: Mesolithic barbed points and other implements from Europoort, the Netherlands, Oudheidkundige Mededelingen uit het Rijiksmuseum van Oudheden te Leiden 68, 145–94.Google Scholar
Vivieros de Castro, E., 1998: Cosmological deixis and Amerindian perspectivism, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 4 (3), 469–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Von den Driesch, A., 1976: A guide to the measurement of animal bones from archaeological sites. Peabody Museum Bulletin 1, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
Weil, K., 2010: A report on the animal turn. Differences. A journal of feminist cultural studies 21 (2), 123.Google Scholar
Whatmore, S., 2002: Hybrid geographies. Natures, cultures, spaces, London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Willerslev, R., 2004: Non animal, not not-animal. Hunting, imitation, and empathetic knowledge among the Siberian Yukaghirs, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 10, 629–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Willerslev, R., 2007: Soul hunters. Hunting, animism, and personhood among the Siberian Yukaghirs. Berkeley.Google Scholar
Wilmore, S.B., 1974: Swans of the world, New York.Google Scholar
Wolfe, C. (ed.), 2003: Zoontologies. The question of the animal, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
WWT (Saving Wetlands for Wildlife and People), 2008: Research., consulted on 15 August 2010.Google Scholar
Young, P., 2008: Swan, London.Google Scholar
Zhilin, M.G., and Karhu, A.A., 2002: Exploitation of birds in the Early Mesolithic of Central Russia, Acta zoologica cracoviensia 45, 109–16.Google Scholar
Zvelebil, M., 2003a: The enculturation of Mesolithic landscapes, in Larsson, L., Kindgren, H., Knutsson, K., Loeffler, D. and Åkerlund, A. (eds), Mesolithic on the move, Oxford, 6573.Google Scholar
Zvelebil, M., 2003b: People behind the lithics. Social life and social conditions of Mesolithic communities in temperate Europe, in Bevan, L. and Moore, J. (eds), Peopling the Mesolithic in a northern environment, Oxford (BAR S1157), 126.Google Scholar