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Nic Aoidh, Nora

Animal Iconography in Bronze Age Europe

PhD Candidate: Nóra Nic Aoidh

Supervisor: (opens in a new window)Professor Joanna Bruck and (opens in a new window)Dr Alan Peatfield

Funding: (opens in a new window)European Research Council as part of the project 'Animals and Society in Bronze Age Europe'


This PhD forms one component of the ERC project ‘Animals and Society in Bronze Age Europe’.
Drawing on work in animal studies that highlights how living with animals involves intimate
interaction and interdependency, the broader ERC project investigates the intertwining of human
and animal identities, and considers how the social and cultural significance of animals affected how
they were farmed, managed and consumed.

The PhD examines animal iconography in the project’s three study areas: Britain and Ireland; the
Low Countries and southern Scandinavia; and southern Poland. This includes material such as the
rock art of southern Scandinavia, which features a variety of wild and domestic animals, as well as
artefacts such as zoomorphic ceramics from central Europe. Horses and waterbirds figure on
Urnfield and Nordic metalwork such as the well-known Trundholm chariot, and their religious and
symbolic significance has been a topic of particular interest. In contrast, the social and cultural
significance of those animals that were probably most frequently encountered in the daily lives of
Bronze Age communities – cattle and sheep – remains poorly understood, and these animals will
therefore form the primary focus of the PhD. The treatment, depositional context and associations
of zoomorphic artefacts will be examined to consider their meaning and context of use. The
depiction of cattle and sheep in the rock art corpus will be examined (e.g. their size relative to other
images on the same rock art panels; whether certain elements of the body, such as the horns, are
emphasised; and whether they are shown undertaking particular activities such as drawing a
plough). The presence of beings that combine human and animal attributes; the content and
composition of rock art panels that include images of cattle and sheep (e.g. consistent associations
between depictions of animals and other images; the positioning of animal images relative to
depictions of humans); similarities and differences with the depiction of other animals such as
horses and waterbirds; and the location of such rock art panels in the landscape will also be
considered. This will cast light on the significance and location of cattle and sheep in Bronze Age
cosmographies, as well as their ontological status relative to humans.

Contact UCD School of Archaeology

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