Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Archaeologist, NewFields

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Cornell University
Animals, Humans, and the Creation of Neolithic Society in Prehistoric Bulgaria

This project explores how animals and their bodies co-create social life in the early Neolithic (6200-5500 BC) village of Slatina in modern-day Bulgaria. I draw upon recent theorizations of animals in the social sciences that are part of broader multispecies approaches that question the centrality of the human and shift the analytic focus to nonhuman organisms. I am particularly interested in how animals and their body parts mediate social space within the settlement as well as the larger landscape. I engage with three bodies of literature—anthropology, landscape archaeology, and geography—to investigate the role of nonhumans in bringing about Neolithic society in three key domains: exchange, consumption, and production. I combine traditional zooarchaeological analysis of the over 10,000 animal remains from the site with stable isotopic analysis to answer three research questions: 1.) How were domestic herd animals implicated in early Neolithic exchange networks? 2.) Are changes in social space throughout the life of the settlement accompanied by different modes of processing, consuming, and discarding animal bodies? 3.) What was the relationship between the physical landscape and herding practices that structured the organization of animal-based production? The Neolithic represents the beginning of many of the phenomena that capture the attention of multispecies scholars—such as cohabitation and coevolution—since domestication resulted in the unprecedented concentration of a wide range of organisms. In affording nonhumans a greater role in the creation of social space, the category of human itself is no longer clearly bounded. Therefore, the Neolithic, which is traditionally viewed in anthropocentric terms as a march of progress toward civilization, is recast as a series of mutually constituted ecologies, where human decision making is only one factor affecting social life.