Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How Old is European Falconry?

One hundred and fifty years ago a Bell Beaker warrior (c38) was excavated by Lord Londesborough in Yorkshire.  He wrote that this man was buried with a hawk before him.  In addition to the raptor, the grave included warrior gear, amber beads and a bell beaker.

The incredible state of preservation not only preserved the top of the hawk's head and beak, but some of the wooden artifacts and burial shroud or bed blanket were also partly preserved in the burial.  (excavation notes)
"The Falconer" Petrus Christus c. 1445 A.D.

Revisiting these old papers, modern archaeologists Ann Woodward and John Hunter (2011) proposed the possibility that some of the bracers on the forearm of Beaker males were in fact hawking equipment.  This argument builds from previous discussion on the excessively robust bracers compared to anything used in archery.

Several months ago, Robert Wallis challenged the non-bracer theory of Woodward and Hunter and essentially put the bracer issue to bed.  However, the possibility that c38 was a hawker is still an open matter. (Wallis, 2014)  Wallis, a hawking historian, gave a great interview [here] on the matter.

Opinion on early falconry is all-over-the-place.  I favor the view that it is much older and widespread than we might imagine.  The oldest secure dates appear to occur in the third millennium in Syria and Anatolia (Charles Brunley, 2004).  Falconry is possible in proto-dynastic Egypt or before this, however a lot of the papers on the matter are decades old.  Falconry is also apparently old in China with the same dating problems.

Enki's son with a falcon?  (Enki sometimes portrayed with an eagle from his hand or two eagles)

I think this subject will eventually come up again. 

Footnote - How to identify archaeological evidence of hawking (Wietske Prummel, 1997)

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