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Human-Animal Relationships in Archaeology: World Views of Hunter-gatherers in NorthernEurope

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HARA (Human-Animal Relationships in Archaeology: World Views of Hunter-gatherers in NorthernEurope)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

Human-animal relationships in archaeology: worldviews of hunter-gatherers in Northern Europe (HARA) aims to provide important new perspectives on human interactions with animals among hunter-gatherers in the ethnographic present and the archaeological past. HARA focused on how animal remains, especially artefacts manufactured on animal remains, and animal iconography reflect and construct human-animal relations. This included a multidisciplinary approach involving an innovative analysis of ethnographic materials from NE Russia, contextual analyses of archaeological materials from N Europe and an experimental archaeological approach.

The researcher studied Russian language ethnographic literature about East Siberian hunter-gathering groups that has previously not been easily accessible to English speaking audiences and the ethnographic material culture collections. Throughout the project the researcher carried out contextual analyses of the archaeological materials from the sites in Latvia, Denmark and France. The case studies allowed an assessment of changes in human-animal relationships during the introduction of domestic animals: a process which is widely considered to have been transformative of human society and human understandings of animals.
"The development of the ethnographic perspective included the study of Russian language ethnographic literature about near recent hunter-gatherer groups from the Russian Far East (Nanai, Udege, Ulchi, Nivkh) and the analyses of objects from Siberian ethnographic collections housed at Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg, Russia. The archaeological contextual analyses included the material from important Mesolithic/Neolithic sites in Northern Europe such as the burial ground Zvejnieki in Latvia, Vedbæk/Bøgebakken, Gongehusvey, Dragsholm in Denmark and Téviec in France. In order to study the archaeological material from these sites the researcher visited the National History Museum in Riga, National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen and Natural History Museum in Toulouse. The attention was given to faunal remains, artefacts manufactured on animal remains as well as animal representations, their positions alongside human remains in the graves, their mutual relations as well as relations with other deposits. The researcher commenced the development of the experimental archaeological approach. In order to gain an understanding of modes of production and use of modified animal remains and zoomorphic objects among hunter-gatherer groups the researcher studied the Russian language ethnographic literature, analysed objects from the Siberian ethnographic collections and received necessary training in experimental archaeology at the Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Ancient Technologies, University College Dublin. The development of the experimental archaeological approach will be continued through experiments in manufacturing animal tooth and bone pendants.

The researcher was hosted at the School of Archaeology, University College Dublin, Ireland. She received training in experimental archaeology, zooarchaeology, the archaeology of hunter-gatherers, and in teaching archaeology as well as in a variety of transferable skills related to different stages of project implementation. Especially significant result was the design and delivery of a 5 ECTS credit interdisciplinary module ""Human-animal relationships: archaeologies, ethnographies, anthropologies"" the researcher had an opportunity to teach. The results of the HARA project have been presented at four conferences (one more conference participation is upcoming in November 2018). This included participation at the 12th Conference on hunting and gathering societies bringing together archaeological, ethnographical and anthropological research on hunting and gathering communities where the researcher organised a conference session ""Handle with care: humans and their interactions with animals"" exploring different aspects of care in hunter-gatherers’ interactions with animals. Various stages of the HARA project have also been introduced by presentations at three different Research Seminars organised by the UCD School of Archaeology and HARA Newsletters have been published. HARA was also introduced to a general audience at a seminar held at Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg, Russia. Outreach activities included setting up a project website and FB page and creating an animation movie."
With the aim to develop new perspectives on human-animal relationships among hunter-gatherers in Northern Europe the project utilised innovative analogies and theoretical frameworks derived from ethnographic research. Insights gained from the Russian language ethnographic literature and the study of Siberian ethnographic material culture collections enabled the development of comparative frameworks which were applied to the re-examination and reinterpretation of the archaeological contextual record. This resulted in exploration of several specific themes (notions of care and control in human-animal relationships, the personhood of objects, animal tooth pendants, and childhood, gender and material culture) further developed through four archaeological and ethnographical research papers in English language which are currently in the process of publication or are forthcoming.

In the process of collecting and analysing the archaeological and ethnographic material the research project builds from, the fellow cooperated with museum workers and researchers from different countries (e.g. Russia, Latvia, Denmark, France). Such transnational collaborations enable unique research opportunities, access to local knowledge and academic dialogs as they allow research institutions to further collaborative links across regions and positively influence the cohesion of European scholarship and beyond. The study of Russian ethnographic literature about most Eastern Siberian hunter-gatherer groups, previously not easily accessible to English speaking audiences, brought together different research traditions. This approach also redressed the neglect of Northern Eurasia in major theoretical trends in the history of anthropological and archaeological inquiries. Completion of this project allowed the researcher to develop into a position of professional maturity with a specific set of transferable and unique interdisciplinary skills enabling her to pursue an international academic research and teaching career in the field of human-animal studies. Given the fact that there is still a substantial imbalance in the proportion of women in the highest positions of research careers, even though female doctoral candidates frequently outnumber male, the fellowship also contributed to the promotion of women in advanced academic research
East Siberian wooden representation of a seal with a human figure