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Deer and identity in medieval Ireland

By Fiona Beglane

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The concept that identity is inextricably linked with places, landscapes and objects has become familiar in archaeology (Thomas 1998, 80, 90; Bradley 2000, 155-61; O'Keeffe 2001). It is only recently however that this idea has been extended to animals and their interaction with human society (Crabtree 2007, 237). This paper examines how deer hunting was used to maintain identity in medieval Ireland, a country in which two very different cultures co-existed. Until the twelfth century Ireland was predominantly Gaelic with the coastal cities such as Dublin and Limerick having been founded by the Vikings. This changed with the coming of the Anglo-Normans in the late twelfth century when they settled in Ireland and introduced their own culture (Barry 2003, 35- 6). The paper will discuss the different arenas in which hunting took place in Gaelic and Anglo-Norman society before providing an overview of what is known about fallow deer and deer parks in Ireland. To illustrate the differences in approach between the cultures two case studies based on the author’s analysis of the faunal assemblages are presented, with Kilteasheen being a Gaelic site and Greencastle being AngloNorman.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2010
Publication Title Bestial Mirrors: Animals as material culture in the Middle Ages
Volume 3
Pages 77-84
Series Title Using animals to construct human identities in Medieval Europe
Publisher Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science
Location of Publication Vienna, Austria
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animals in culture
  3. Archaeology
  4. Culture
  5. Deer
  6. History
  7. identity
  8. Ireland
  9. Landscape
  10. Mammals
  11. Physical environment
  12. Societies