Accepted Papers:

De-objectifying animal others: considering animals 'as such' in past and traditional communities  


Gala Argent (Animals Society Institute)

Paper Short Abstract:

I here apply a human-animal studies approach to Iron Age human-horse burials by first exploring horses, themselves. Acknowledging that particular human societies may have viewed animal others as participants in joint projects and shared worlds can enrich archaeological and anthropological studies.

Paper long abstract:

There is growing recognition that contemporary anthropological and archaeological paradigms for viewing human-nonhuman animal relationships can and should be expanded. This shift is funded in part by growing awareness that some animals seem to share with humans a set of characteristics—such as intelligence, emotions and sociality—it was previously believed that humans alone possessed.

Despite recent calls for de-objectifying animals, archaeological and anthropological studies continue to spotlight animals as either inert objects with properties to be measured, or as cultural abstractions, relevant only through the meanings humans construct about them. Further, when interspecies "relationships" are examined, the prevailing means of viewing such interaction often focuses upon the human domination and exploitation of nonhuman animals. These approaches miss the importance of intersubjectivity, relationality, cooperation and communication in interspecies interactions, and how significant animals interact with humans to co-create communities, identities and social realities. Further, they disavow the agency that animals can and do assert in human-animal relationships, and leave out of the equation the consideration of an essential element—the animals themselves.

In this presentation, I explore applying a Human-Animal Studies (HAS) approach to archaeological material. Stepping away from the embedded Cartesian ontological dualism separating humans from animal others—beliefs most probably unknown to prehistoric and many traditional societies—I interpret material from the Pazyryk Iron Age human-horse burials in South Siberia by first addressing horses, themselves. I conclude that incorporating animals important to particular societies in archaeological and anthropological studies as participants in joint projects allows for fresh interpretations of their roles in human culture.

panel P15
Humans and other animals