Something Other – Birds in Early Iron Age Slovenia
Symposium: Where the Wild Things are Not: Human-Animal Interaction in the Space Between Wild and Domestic
Sponsored by the Zooarchaeology Interest Group
Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting, 2017 – Vancouver, Canada
Human-bird relationships in Early Iron Age Slovenia are marked by apparent contradictions – birds are extremely rare in the zooarchaeological record as a whole, and completely absent from mortuary contexts that are otherwise notable for the deposition of animal remains. Yet birds are the most frequently represented animal in Early Iron Age art. Experience of birds would have been relatively constant – birds are almost always present, yet human relationships with them were likely based more on observation than direct interaction. The distinction of these animals was drawn upon and reinforced in local artistic representations, cementing their place as ideologically significant and set apart from domesticates and other wild animals. In this case study, patterns in the depiction of birds from the Dolenjska Hallstatt culture will be juxtaposed to depictions and zooarchaeological remains of horses and red deer, respectively some of the most common domesticates and wild animals depicted in Early Iron Age art. It is proposed that due to their categorization as neither wild nor domestic, birds may have played an important role in local ritual, mediating between humans and other animals as well as between humans and extra-human forces.