Natasia Duhau

Natasia Duhau

Natasia Duhau (PhD Candidate)

Wild Animal in the Late Prehistoric Ireland: a zooarchaeological investigation of foraging, fishing, fowling and hunting in a world of farmers

Supervisor: Prof William O'Brien
Early Medieval and Viking Research Group


This project will research the contribution of wild Irish fauna to domesticate dependent communities of the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age Ireland. Zooarchaeological techniques will be utilized to investigate a breadth of possible uses of wild animals, including cuisine, diet, ritual and as secondary products. The animal species of primary interest will include fish, birds, deer, and shellfish. New and existing data will be used to explore the broader implications of human co-existence and exploitation of wild animals in different environments.

The majority of work regarding animals in Late Prehistoric Ireland has been conducted exclusively on domestic species, while little attention has been given to the wild species found in archaeofaunal assemblages. Zooarchaeological research that has considered wild fauna focuses mainly on coastal foraging of shellfish from material derived from midden sites. Lack of focus on birds and fish is largely the result of minimal findings and small assemblage size. However, the large number of archaeological excavations undertaken during the years of the Celtic Tiger economy (1998-2007) has produced significant amounts of environmental material as yet unstudied. This material has potential to greatly contribute to mapping a previously neglected component, and provide a holistic understanding of economy and society in early Ireland.

Presently, the absence of any overview limits a broader interpretation of wildlife use in later farming communities. A primary goal of this work will be to create a catalogue of sites that have produced wild animal remains encompassing the broad time frame of interest (c. 4000 BC – 40 AD). Additionally, a portion of this project will focus on mapping species representation at Irish archaeological sites by location and site type in order to better understand the distribution of species and gain more information regarding environmental ecology in Prehistoric Ireland. My project will be the first to fully compile and review excavation data on wild faunal remains for comparative purposes, and to reveal how early Irish farming communities interacted with their environment. Also, a significant portion of this project will focus on primary research from archaeological sites, with zooarchaeological data collection and analysis constituting the principal and fundamental component. This project will be the first multi-site and diachronic zooarchaeological investigation of wild animals from early Irish archaeological sites.

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