Accepted Paper:

Birds in the Prehistoric Visual Culture of the Southern Levant  


Ben Greet (University of Reading)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores change in the representations of birds in the visual culture of the Epipaleolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age of the Southern Levant. It proposes that this demonstrative of a change in thought about birds, from a food resource to an attached to upper-class hunting practices.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the representation of birds in the prehistoric visual culture of the southern Levant and how it reflects the changing relationship between birds and people across these periods.

The material from the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic emphasises the use of birds as a resource, reflecting a definitive hunter-prey relationship that existed during this period. The Bronze Age material then shifts slightly, with birds represented in a wider range of material (e.g. religious, domestic, or personal items). Several types of birds can also be distinguished within this material (e.g. waterfowl, birds of prey, and ostriches).

It is possible that this change in the bird-related material reflects both the creation of animal classifications in reaction to domestication and the movement of hunting to an upper-class recreational activity, rather than a method of gathering resources. While other animals were domesticated, birds still represented a mostly wild resource. Thus, representations of birds were an expression of the distinction between 'wild' and 'domestic'. Additionally, since much of the material was made from luxury items, we can link this portrayal of the 'wild' to the upper-classes and development of hunting into a recreational activity.

Panel P003
Representing and Depicting Animals