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A social perspective on the introduction of exotic animals: the case of the chicken

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Studies of animal introductions have traditionally been the preserve of ecologists and natural historians but here it is argued that exotic species are a rich source of cultural evidence with the potential to enhance archaeological interpretations relating to human behaviour and beliefs. This paper focuses on the domestic fowl (Gallus gallus), a native of East Asia that spread across Europe during the Neolithic to Iron Age and became well established by the end of the Roman period. After reviewing the evidence for the diffusion of chickens and the concept of cockfighting, this paper presents a speculative argument about the impact of domestic fowl on Iron Age and Roman Britain. By drawing upon evidence from history, anthropology and human remains analysis, the article explores how the arrival of these new creatures may have helped shape human society, particularly in terms of gender definition and attitudes to violence.
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Keywords: Domestic fowl; Iron Age; Roman; cockfighting; exotica; zooarchaeology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Archaeology,University of Nottingham,

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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