2. Changing people’s perceptions of the human:animal relationship
Submitting InstitutionCardiff University
Unit of AssessmentGeography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Earth Sciences: Geology
Biological Sciences: Ecology
History and Archaeology: Archaeology
Summary of the impact
The Cardiff Osteological Research Group (CORG) has researched the complex relationship
between animals and people, across Britain, Europe and beyond. CORG has taken its research as
the basis for a programme of activities that seeks to challenge modern attitudes to animals through
archaeological studies, and to provoke reflection on the present relevance and future development
of animals. Their impact has built on relationships developed with artists and practitioners in
creative industries who have been influenced by the issues researched. By encouraging a range of
audiences to consider the economic, social, ritual and symbolic roles of animals, CORG has
enriched, informed and changed the perspectives of individuals who do not normally engage with
the archaeological past, including target groups traditionally excluded from, or not aware of,
The key research undertaken by members of Cardiff Osteological Research Group (CORG) has
been a series of studies that highlight the enduring economic and social importance to human
society of animals across Britain, Europe and beyond. CORG has examined the manipulation of
both the physical form and social meaning of fauna, and investigated their transformation from
hunted prey, to farmed stock, to pampered pet over the past 10,000 years.
This research has been supported by major grants (e.g. NERC Standard Grant £413,197, 2009-
13, Changing Patterns of Marine Product Exploitation in Human Prehistory, Evershed and Mulville
(Co-PI)), drawn upon a wide range of sources and techniques, from traditional and innovative
osteoarchaeological methods, to ethnography and ancient DNA, and examined case studies from
the Mesolithic and early Neolithic onwards (including now at Çatalhöyük, Turkey), up to the
medieval and post-medieval periods.
Working within Britain, for example, on the Western, Northern and Scilly Isles, CORG has traced
the ebb and flow of human and animal interactions across land and sea, with cognate studies of
birds, that have resulted in a series of substantial publications (e.g. 3.1). Comparative research into
insular and mainland societies has stimulated further research on the management of wild
resources, leading to a detailed examination of the husbanding and capture of large and small
game species (e.g. deer, whales, birds and fish) and an examination of their social and economic
significance to ancient farming communities (e.g. 3.2-3.5). Daily, seasonal and lifetime cycles have
been studied in detail through the analysis of slaughter patterns, milk production, cooking, eating
and rubbish disposal, as well as by the investigation of the foddering of stock, their periodic
movement and migration, and the role of animals in ceremonies that mark life events (3.3).
Research insights have included new understandings of the materiality and agency of animals (and
their remains) and the nature of human:animal relations. Key themes include the creation,
definition and role of `wild' versus `domestic' species (3.6), the significance of hunted animals, long-
distance trade in animals, the avoidance of marine foods, fauna in ritual and burial practices (3.3),
and diachronic studies of animal exploitation in rural (3.1) and urban societies. Outcomes have
changed our understanding of, inter alia, the nature of early whaling, the development of milk-based
economies, insular deer management and transportation (3.1, 3.5), puffin-based small
island economies (3.4), the role of animal sacrifices and subterranean burial traditions in defining
social units (3.2), the agency of antler as a symbol of regeneration, and fish-eating taboos to
highlight hitherto neglected aspects of human:animal relations from the Mesolithic and early
Neolithic to the medieval period.
The research undertaken by CORG was carried out between 2002 and 2012 (and continues). The
team is led by Dr Jacqui Mulville (Reader, 2002-on-going), with key support from Dr Jill Baird
(2000-on-going) and Professor Niall Sharples (1995-on-going). PhD students participating in the
research include Richard Madgwick (AHRC 2009-12, now British Academy Post Doctoral
Research Associate, 2013-15), Ffion Reynolds (AHRC, 2008-11), Julia Best (AHRC, 2010-13)
and Jennifer Jones (NERC, 2010-13), and Lara Hogg (AHRC 2011-), Matt Law (2010-), and Sean
Rice (Historic Scotland 2012-) (all on-going). Research was further supported by IFA interns
Madgwick (2008-9) and Roisin McCartney (2009-10).
References to the research
3.1 Mulville, J. and Powell, A. 2012. Mammalian bone; Resource exploitation; Site activities;
Discussion. In N. Sharples (ed.), A Late Iron Age farmstead in the Outer Hebrides, 191-194,
226, 233-242, 246, 299-306, 339-341, 345-346. Oxford: Oxbow Books. ISBN: 9781842174692
3.2 Mulville, J., Madgwick, R., Powell, A. and Parker Pearson, M. 2012. Flesh on the bones:
animal bodies in Atlantic roundhouses. In A. Pluskowski (ed.), Animal ritual killing and burial,
205-19. Oxford: Oxbow Books. ISBN: 9781842174449
3.3 Reynolds, F. 2012. Totemism and food taboos in the Early Neolithic: a feast of roe deer at
Coneybury. In H. Anderson-Whymark and J. Thomas (eds), Regional perspectives on Neolithic
pit deposition: beyond the mundane, 171-186. Oxford: Oxbow Books. ISBN: 9781842174685
3.4 Best, J. and Mulville, J. 2010. The fowling economies of the Shiant Isles, Outer Hebrides:
resource exploitation in a marginal environment. In W. Prummel, J.T. Zeiler and D.C.
Brinkhuizen (eds), Birds in archaeology, 87-96. Groningen: Groningen University Library.
3.5 Mulville, J. 2010. Wild things? The prehistory and history of red deer on the Hebridean and
Northern Isles of Scotland. In T. O'Connor and N. Sykes (eds), Extinctions and invasions: a
social history of British fauna, 43-50. Oxford: Windgather Press. ISBN: 9781905119318
3.6 Sharples, N. 2000. Antlers and Orcadian rituals: an ambiguous role for red deer in the
Neolithic. In A. Ritchie (ed.), Neolithic Orkney in its European context, 107-116. Cambridge:
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. ISBN: 190293704-X.
Details of the impact
In an increasingly urban society often alienated from nature, CORG's impact activity is designed to
encourage an exploration of the complex relationship between humans and animals by presenting
new research on the past relationships. Since 2007 three activity pathways have have been
designed to attract audiences traditionally unaware of the type of research under scrutiny.
1. Developing new audiences for zooarchaeological research
One pathway, Guerilla Archaeology (GA) (5.3), works with creative arts organisations to deliver
interdisciplinary workshops at music and arts festivals. GA provokes public response by enabling
individuals to co-create a past rooted in CORG's research. Provocative topics and performances
(Shamans vs Goddesses, Animal Symbolism and Sacrifice, Farmers vs Hunters, Animals and
Artefacts) that relate to CORG research are used to interact with 15-35 year-olds (identified as the
group most alienated from science, Public Attitudes to Science, 2011, RCUK). The reach of GA is
documented by visitor counts, outputs and images (5.4) with over 8,000 people attending
workshops to date, and more than 5,000 participating in either a creative or discursive event. Since
April 2012 social media and digital resources have logged more than 16,000 visits to the GA
website, and hundreds regularly follow and comment on GA activities via social media (e.g.
individual Facebook posts reach 1.5K, 800 Twitter followers).
As an example, in 2012 GA created interdisciplinary workshops (Shamanic Street Preachers)
focused on research into the early prehistory of British human:animal relations, supported by online
resources, `gateway' artefacts and artistic collaborations. Our production of experimental
recreations of Mesolithic antler head-dresses engendered a broader debate among those
participating on shamanic/ritual and practical interpretations of animal remains, including a feature
within the TimeTeam `Mesolithic Tsumani' programme (broadcast June 2013). Other GA
workshops in 2012-13 (5.3, 5.4) were delivered at five British music festivals (Glastonbury, Green
Man (5.5) Secret Garden Party, Wilderness (5.6), Shambala) and to a wider urban audience in
shopping centres, museums, art centres and galleries. Research indicates that festival participants
derive from a broad array of social, economic and cultural groups with an average age of 28 years
(UK Festival Report 2012). Although GA targets 15-35 year-olds, we interact with an increasing
number of 35 plus (e.g. Glastonbury 2013 profile: 25-39 38%, 40-64 36%) and a similar proportion
of males and females (51% to 49%).
Secret Productions (who organised two of the events) attest that the response to the mixture of art,
science and creativity Guerilla Archaeology use `has been fantastic and attracted large audiences.
The collaboration between academic staff and creative artists ... provided festivalgoers with a
novel and unexpected way of encountering research and brought an entirely new dimension to our
various events. Face-to-face conversations, provocations and interactions provide a level of
accessibility, authenticity and audience impact that speakers alone cannot hope to achieve' (5.6).
The significance of our impact is further evidenced in the statements of 98% of workshop
participants who agree that CORG research (delivered via GA workshops) has changed the way
they think about animals and report an increased understanding and appreciation of the
human:animal relationship. Qualitative analysis has revealed an enhanced sense of history and
tradition — As one participant commented, `I can see now that people in ancient times were not
simply savages — they were more civilised than we are now — they had respect and never wasted a
thing, if they killed an animal they would use every bit of it (M, 40-64)' The most common words in
our feedback clouds are `interesting, inspiring, enlightening and educational' (5.3).
2. Provoking reflections on past, present and future relationships with animals
Another pathway, Future Animals (started 2009, partnered with Amgueddfa Cymru National
Museum Wales (ACNMW)), led to a series of intensive workshops and exhibitions exploring
human:animal relations via the medium of art and was targeted at 14-16-year-olds. Working with
an artist, participants in three workshops were challenged to design the pets and farm animals of
the future, in response to our research that explored animal manipulation in the past. These `Future
Animal' images then formed the springboard for a discussion of the ethics of ancient, modern and
future animal breeding.
Survey and filmed interviews revealed an increased awareness of historical, biological, cultural and
ethical aspects of domestication. `Future Animal' images, accompanied by an explanatory film,
were presented to the public in a NMW exhibition (spring 2010) and the Museum Education Officer
comments that it was `a highly successful project in bringing together academics, teachers, artists,
museum staff, university postgraduates and young people. The use of art and archaeology to
explore the ethics of animal breeding was truly innovative' (5.1). The public response was captured
via an invitation to produce their own `Future Animals' for display and an estimated 1500 annotated
images of animals were produced.
Discussion has also been generated by a live-streamed TEDx 2012 talk by Mulville (5.2), with a
direct audience of more than 1600. `Future Animals' and TEDx have also featured in debates on
perceptions of wild animals at a `SciScreen' at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, a public forum that
discusses contemporary developments in science and facilitates debate on the wider social and
cultural implications of these advances. The resources created have led to participatory workshops
at scouts/guides events, and in schools (as far afield as Turkey and Kazakhstan), museums and
3. Stimulating artistic responses to human animal relationships
Alongside working with museum and festival curators (5.1, 5.5, 5.6), CORG has worked with visual
artists (e.g. Paul Evans: Future Animals, Shamanic Street Preachers, Mind in the Cave) and re-enactors,
and changed their practices. Evans (5.5) joined CORG as a Leverhulme funded Artist-in-Residence
and explored skeletal form, the symbolic meaning of animals, the zooarchaeological
process and the materiality of osteological remains, and has become an important part of the GA
Evans reports `My collaboration with Dr Mulville and Guerilla Archaeology has had a substantial
impact on my professional practice ... my understanding of the human:animal relationship has
been substantially broadened and enriched ... In fact every conversation triggers a new set of
ideas and new avenues to explore — a genuinely rhizomatic and inspiring network of knowledge
and ideas that, as long as the relationship continues, will provide enough material for a lifetime of
creative practice' (5.7). He presents his work in a series of highly successful blogs (e.g.
Osteography (Leverhulme) 32,000 hits) and has produced artworks, public exhibitions (e.g. Animal
Magic, June 2013, Derby Museum), workshops, and seminars.
CORG has also worked with musicians (Dylan Adams: Shamanic Street Preachers) and shamanic
ethnographers /practitioners (e.g. Dr Henry Droselda: SSP) whohave expanded their artistic
practices to incorporate our research themes within their work. Our interest in animals as artefacts
and materials has also inspired creativity in re-enactors, costumiers and crafts people (5.8).
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Natural History Education Officer. Testimonial (11.07.2013)
Impact claim summary: corroborates impact of CORG research in enhancing Amgueddfa Cymru
— National Museum Wales interaction with the public on the theme of the human:animal
5.2 TEDx Video (10 April 2012), Dr Jacqui Mulville at TEDxCardiff 2012. Available at:
Impact claim summary: corroborating impact of Mulville et al research on perceptions of past
present and future animals to wider audiences.
5.3 Guerrilla Archaeology. Available at http://guerillaarchaeology.wordpress.com/ and
Impact claim summary: corroborates use of innovative engagement activities to enhance public
understanding of human and animal archaeologies.
5.4 GA Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/guerilla_archaeology/sets/
Impact claim summary: provides visual evaluation of the participants in GA activities.
5.5 Curator of Einstein's Garden, Green Man Music Festival. Testimonial
Impact claim summary: corroborates innovative inter-disciplinary engagement activities
enhancing public understanding of science.
5.6 Curator of Secret Productions. Testimonial (11.07.2013)
Impact claim summary: corroborates use of innovative inter-disciplinary activities to enhance
public understanding of human and animal archaeologies.
5.7 Paul Evans Artist. Testimonial (16.07.2013)
Impact claim summary: corroborates impact of CORG research on artistic practice.
5.8 Director of GreenCrafts. Contact
Impact claim summary: reinvigorating antler craft industries as a result of Glastonbury outreach.