Animals and Humans. Recurrent symbiosis in archaeology and Old Norse religion

Project: Research

Layman's description

The role of animals during the Nordic Iron Age and Viking era was functional, symbolic and metaphorical. In Old Norse mythology, animals stand out as imaginative beings with strong characters. There is a very long historical background to modern attitudes towards animals. The symbiotic relationship between humans and animals seems to have been constant even though the approach has changed.

Relations between animals and humans have never been obvious. They have been affected by social norms and values. Archaeological and osteological analyses of animals and animal images in farming environments and in graves provide clues to the various roles of animals during the pre-Christian era in the Nordic area. These roles can be related to stories in Icelandic medieval texts and to Old Norse mythology, in which animals are represented as imaginative beings with powerful properties.

The archeological material culture together with the texts show that the role of animals was functional, symbolic and metaphorical during the Nordic Iron Age and the Viking era. Not least, animals were mouthpieces for human characters and part of the survival and status of human beings with their functional and metaphorical meanings.

The long-term archaeological perspective also provides new approaches to our era’s relationship to animals and the ethical issues that it implies. Questions on hunting, animal husbandry and breeding are discussed in this project on the basis of archaeological contexts and animal bone material.
Effective start/end date2000/01/012010/12/31


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