Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TSH (The Spirited Horse: Human-equid relations in the Bronze Age Near East)
Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-09-30
The main data explored in TSH broadly falls into three categories: ancient texts, ancient faunal remains of equids, and ancient iconography. These do not exist in a vacuum, but are part of contexts, both individually and wider social contexts. Other aspects, such as evidence for stables, harness and tack are also part of the overall research. Each type of data offers information about certain aspects of human-equid interaction in the past: it is important to bring these together to achieve as complete a picture as possible. Each helps answer questions concerning which equids were present, differences in species, and how humans and animals negotiate their relationships.
Modern relations with equids is used to help illustrate and understand possible ancient practices, and modern equine experts and centres have therefore also been part of the project.
Significantly, animals – including equids – have great impact on social structures, short and long distance networks, and negotiation of identity. This is something that is best studied when acknowledging the agency and active engagement of equids. This acknowledgement of equids as beings with agency offers an important perspective on the role of animals in human lives and how they influence and transform society. This also has implications for how we relate to equids and other animals today.
TSH has three overall Research Objectives:
RO1: To provide an overview of available data pertaining to equids from the Bronze Age Near East, through comprehensive collection, entry into a purpose-built database and analytical assessment, and to consider differences in human-equid relations during the Bronze Age and across the study region.
RO2: To synthesize and compare different types of data (faunal, artistic & textual) within their archaeological context and evaluate them individually and against each other. The key questions asked of the empirical data and species are: how does including three types of empirical material change our understanding, compared to use of only one or two? What patterns can be discerned concerning different equid species and hybrids? Are some more valuable or prestigious? Are some only used for certain activities?
RO3: To apply Human-Animal Studies theory and method, with special emphasis on equids as social actors. This involves analysing how equids were perceived by and influenced humans, along with, for example, concerns about gender (both human and equid: is one gender of equid valued above another? Is there a gender bias in the association of equids with men or women?) and social status (again, both equid and human: what social beings were allowed to interact with equids, and what kinds of status might an equid have?).
These objectives have been reached through extensive research, training, networking, presentation of research, public engagement and academic publication.
- Collection and analysis of a large body of data relevant to equids in the ancient Near East in three customised databases (with 300-800 detailed entries each)
- Training in Akkadian, Zooarchaeology, GIS, 3D modelling, Sumerian, archaeological theory, Mesopotamian archaeology
- Participation in weekly seminars and discussion/reading groups
- Supervisions and lectures for undergraduate and postgraduate students
- Training in transferrable skills such as project management, administration and leadership skills
- Research visits and study of objects and faunal remains in seven different museums
- Research visits to equine centres and consultation with experts (equine veterinarians, equine dentist, carriage driver)
- An active project website with 12 blog posts by the ER and three guest blog posts by colleagues
- An active social media account (Twitter: @tspiritedhorse)
- Organisation of a 2-day international conference with 32 speakers from 15 countries at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
- Organisation of session at EAA conference
- Organisation of Human-Animal Relations Reading Group at University of Cambridge
- Presentation of TSH project research at 12 conferences and invited lectures
- Participation in Festival of Ideas and Science Festival in Cambridge
- Public dissemination through online interviews
- Scientific peer-reviewed publication of results (one article published, one article submitted, one book chapter in preparation, one monograph accepted, one edited volume accepted, one edited volume submitted)