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Living with Wild Animals: The Role of Archaeologists


Red deer (Cervus elaphus) Hind, Glen Gary, Highlands. There have been discussions about the future of red deer on the Scottish southeast island. Credit: Charlesjsharp/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

For thousands of years, people in the British Isles have lived with and relied on wild animals for food and clothing. The land teems with species such as deer, boars, wolves, lynxes, and beavers. Then came agriculture, population growth, and industrialization. Many species have been hunted to extinction and have lost their habitats.

Archaeological research is going back in time to understand how humans and wild animals interact. Ancient bones and teeth reveal these complex relationships.

Today, interactions between wild animals and people are often in the news urban foxes to Beavers cutting down trees And Wild boar. Even the red stag – the king of muck, celebrated as a symbol of Scotland’s wilderness – faces widespread calls for population control and, on the Hebrid Island in South Uist, outright eradication.

Deer has been a mainstay of British diets before Agriculture And my research on carrots shows that they have remained important food source After the fifteenth century. It was only in the Middle Ages that deer became a royal hunting reserve and later the favorite prey of fee hunters.

Today they are often seen as pests by the communities they affect. A combination of factors, incl COVID-19 And Climate changeSaw deer numbers He increases And it affects both natural views and gardens. They also cause Road accidents They carry ticks that transmit Lyme disease.

As wild animals, they are He doesn’t have it It becomes someone’s property only when it has been captured or killed by persons who are legally entitled to do so. These are usually the owners of the land they inhabit. Land-owning estates manage most of the herds and may provide access to the game for a fee.

Venison can be sold, but more often goes to waste Because of the lack of sufficiently trained personnel to examine carcasses and meat markets. Skins are not generally valued and pods are sold as The dog chews.

South Uist

In March 2023, tensions between red deer and the local population have reached a boiling point Crisis point On the southern island of Scotland. There was a call to eradicate an entire herd of 1,198 animals, as their behavior negatively affected the local population. Arguments from both sides focused on their history, use, and value.

As a zooarchaeologist, my research Show that red deer were brought to the Scottish Isles to feed more than 5,000 years ago.

In the absence of any predators, their numbers were controlled by killing (and eating) both red deer calves and adults. The hides were worked and the valuable antlers, discarded annually from the elk, were used to create elaborate tools and ornaments. Red deer are represented in early art, both on and off the islands. A recent discovery of amazing rock art in Scotland highlighted its cultural significance during this period.

Unlike most of mainland Britain, deer remained an important food for the island and thrived until recently. In the twentieth century, new animals appeared foot from the mainland. Genetic analysis indicates that these deer complemented existing populations and re-established herds.

Over the past decades deer numbers across the UK have risen from 450,000 in the 1970s to 2 million currently – the highest level for 1000 years.

Modern census It found that deer numbers in South Uist had increased by a third, from about 800 in 2015 to 1,200 today. This pattern is repeated elsewhere, such as the Islands Lewis and Harris. At the same time, the spread of ticks and the disease they carry is spreading more.


Deer herds obviously need to be managed, but there is a cost. Disposal requires trained personnel, as well as care to ensure that animals do not suffer. Paying hunters provide some income, but the value of deer is not clear to all who live in deer-affected communities.

As in the past, venison, antlers and hides are all valuables. Investing in resources and training through Stòras UibhistInc., the community-owned company that operates 93,000 acres south of Uist Estate, produces venison. This as a low-cost local food and high-value delicacy. Antler is also a sustainable resource, grown and dropped every year.

Archaeological initiatives show islanders, and others, just how easy it is to work with these materials. Only with Simple toolsSellable items inspired by the island’s heritage and culture can be produced. In South Uist, the estate is looking to process and sell leather, while a wildlife-focused deer hunt with cameras could provide new tourism activities.

Deer South Uist her He got a timeout. The community voted to keep the herd, but in smaller numbers. In the absence of predators, humans need to actively manage this wildlife to maintain balance. The value of red deer, whether dead or alive, must be recognized to create sustainable wild landscapes for the future.

The deep history of human interactions with these animals could provide inspiration for their future management. Archaeologists like me possess this knowledge and by sharing the stories and skills of the past, we can reconnect people today with previous generations.

This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.Conversation

the quote: How Archaeologists Can Help Us Live With Wild Animals (2023, May 8) Retrieved May 8, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-archaeologists-wild-animals.html

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