Faunal & Cultural Invasions: zooarchaeological and linguistic perspectives on the Easter 'Bunny'
Britain has a very different natural and cultural landscape today compared to that before the sea cut it off from mainland Europe. As such, very little we see around us today can be considered native. Interestingly, ancient non-native people, traditions and fauna are nevertheless praised and treasured as part of our cultural identity. More recent introductions, however, are rejected and criticised as being 'alien' or 'invasive'.
This is a phenomenon known as "shifting baselines". This term describes the trend for people to consider the environmental and social circumstances of their childhood as natural and morally absolute. These nostalgic ideals are then applied to decision-making, affecting both individual attitudes to people and our environment and matters of public policy, such as conservation and biodiversity.
Easter is a perfect example of this. The tradition itself is a hugely important Christian and secular festival but very little is known of its origins - what we do know, however, indicates that it is neither native to Britain nor originally Christian. Similarly, its iconic animals - the brown hare, rabbit and chicken - are deeply embedded in our culture but their non-native origins are ignored because they were introduced in the long-forgotten past.
My research integrates (zoo)archaeological, historical and linguistic evidence to explore the arrival of the brown hare and rabbit in Britain. I will investigate the chronology and circumstances of these introductions, along with their cultural impact and role in the development of the modern Easter tradition and the Easter 'Bunny'.
This research is funded by the AHRC-Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership.