domingo, 8 de mayo de 2011

Animals and Otherness in the Middle Ages - Annual Meeting of the Medieval Animal


Animals and Otherness in the Middle Ages

Annual Meeting of the Medieval Animal Data-Network

February 7th, 2011
9:30: Registration
9:45: Opening remarks


10:00— Dr. Xenia Muratova (Professeur émérite des Universités, París): “The naked man and the animal's fur: Two marvels of Creation in front of each other.”

The author of this paper proposes to consider several aspects which oppose man and animal in the medieval mentality and culture: the creation of animals whose fur and skin are destined to cover the nakedness of man; the metamorphoses of the human nakedness as a metaphor of purity as well as that of the moral behaviour; the attitude of animals in front of the nakedness of man in the moral and symbolical context; finally, the theme of the Resurrection of the naked man the day of the Last Judgement when animals symbolising the Nature elements release the deceased people. These aspects are presented on the basis of the study of various medieval textual sources and are largely illustrated by iconographic material of the medieval art.

10:30—Mr. Marco Iuffrida (University of Bologna, Italy): “Dog and Human relationship between solidarity and Otherness in the Leges Barbarorum.”

Starting out from the basic fact that, in the high medieval culture inherited from Roman law, a dog was defined as a “non productive” animal, my paper will analyze the relationship between man and dog through a novel interpretative grid informed by the legal approach adopted by a complex assemblage of Barbarian peoples (Visigoths, Franks, Lombards, Frisians etc.).

Solidarity or otherness? Examination of the high medieval Leges barbarorum (V-VIII centuries) has facilitated a pragmatic and fact-based assessment of humanity's fraught and somewhat haphazard attempts at understanding and defining the status of its relations with domestic animals such as dogs. This analysis also allows us to bring to light the new roles that increased the significance of the dog in daily life (about thirty types of dogs listed, i.e. barmbraccus, petrunculus, canis acceptoricius, triphunt, hovawart, etc.).

The intrinsic peculiarity of the Leges barbarorum means we can now underscore the substantial difference between Roman civilization (which completely oversimplified the dog’s existence by stressing the antinomies of useful or useless, wild or tame animal) and the Barbarian world in the context of which the dog took on a specific role that was complementary to man’s activities, above all hunting.

11:00—Dr. Laura Fenelli (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max Planck Institut): “From the Vita Pauli to the Legenda breviarii: real and imaginary animals as a guide to the hermit in the desert.”

In the Vita Pauli, written by St. Jerome in 374-375, much space is dedicated to the journey that Anthony – the real protagonist of the story, despite the title – undertook in order to meet the hermit of Thebes.

Jerome recounts that, at the age of ninety, Anthony had a divine revelation in a dream and learned of the existence of Paul. With the aid of a walking stick, Paul set off and was guided towards his companion by various figures, bordering between human and animal: first, a centaur, half man half horse; second, a satyr with a hooked nose, horny forehead and goat-like extremities; finally, a she-wolf, who lead him to the cave inhabited by Paul. The same elements – with some important variations – were taken up again after the 11th century in a highly popular text, the so-called legenda breviari where, once again, real and fantastical animals, including a man transformed for his sins into a feral being, act as guides for Anthony in the desert.

The paper shall analyse the role that the animals – the centaur, satyr, she-wolf, and also the raven which, with biblical resonances, feeds the hermits – play in the narrative, symbolic and hagiographic construction of the appearance of the first anchorites in the Egyptian desert. A significant section of the paper will be dedicated to the forms of representation of the animals mentioned, in Italian art from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including the presentation of a rich set of examples of instances of liminal figures, which span the border between human and feral.


12:00—Dr. Kristina Jennbert (Universtiy of Lund, Lund, Sweden): “The serpent in Midgard and in Paradise.”

The serpent is an ambiguous animal, and in many religions worldwide, it often appears in different shapes. The intention in this paper is to analyse the connotations in Old Norse religion and in early Christianity. In pre-Christian Scandinavia the serpents are depicted on metal objects from the 5th century and onwards and on the Viking Age runestones from the 8th century up to early Christianity. In Old Norse mythology the Midgard serpent had a protective role. As born from Loki and the the giantess Angrboda it surrounded the world. Presumably, serpents in pre-Christian society were in contrast to the Christian cunning and sneaky serpent in Genesis.

12:30—Ms. Svetlana Tsonkova (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary): “Pernicious and Poisonous Snake: The Malicious and Dangerous Other in Medieval Bulgarian Charms.”

The main purpose of medieval Bulgarian charms is protection and restoration of the health of humans and animals. Significant numbers of charms is aimed against snake bites and poison. Some of these texts present a rather specific method of protection: the snake is expelled through a long list of names. Some of these names are adjectives, characterizing the snake as the ultimate malicious being. Other names in the lists are foreign, non-Slavic negative epithets, very often corrupted and unrecognizable.

These lists of names are meant to be memorized and reproduced in an oral or written form. The full and successful reproduction and repetition guarantees the efficient protection against snakes and the successful healing of the bitten person or animal. On the other hand, the names define the specific position of this particular animal. The snake is the most harmful and malicious being, the bringer of evil with many faces, the ultimate aggressive intruder in the world of both humans and animals.

The source material gives us an ambiguous image of the animal. It is an ordinary, usual, familiar presence in daily life. But it is also strange, dangerous and malicious. The lists of Slavic and foreign names additionally position the snake as an extremely harmful, evil and dangerous being. The focus of my paper is to point out the similarities between the lists of snake names and the lists of demon names, encountered in other charms. Further on, my aim is to outline and present the position of the snake as the most malicious being, closely related to the Devil.

13:00—Dr. Gerhard Jaritz (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary): "Draconcopedes, or a Virgin's Face."

Discourses about Eden’s serpent, its type, outer appearance, and actions can be found in a rich number. There, also the Draconcopes plays an important role: in Beda Venerabilis, Adelinus, the Liber de natura rerum, Konrad Megenberg’s Book of Nature, the Hortus Sanitatis, etc. etc. The textual descriptions of Draconcopedes tell that they are big and powerful serpents living in Greece. They can have the face of a human virgin and the body of a dragon. It is said that it was this serpent by which Eve was seduced in Paradise.

My paper concentrates on the visual representations of the Draconcopes (mainly those that can be found in the Central European areas), and their possible recipients.

13:30-16:00: Lunch break


16:00—Dr. Ángel Fuentes and Dr. Alexandra Uscatescu (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain): “On men and animals: Boundaries between human and non-human spaces in the Middle Ages.”

The most widespread paradigm among archaeologists relays on the common belief that every single bone-assemblage, no matter its human or animal nature, is related to ancient funerary practices: in the case of human remains the current interpretation is often to be ritual, while in the case of animal remains the explanation becomes even more complex. Unlike disassemblaged finds are thought to be fortuitous or accumulations of daily rubbish. In spite of the recent increasing bibliography regarding animal bone-assemblages, our knowledge is still settled on the simplest interpretation.

The archaeological site of Torrepedroso (Madrid, Spain) provides an elaborate picture of a small village inhabited from Early Roman times through the end of the Middle Ages (1st-14th centuries). The extensive excavation carried out by the authors allows the establishment of well-defined frontiers between residential and rubbish areas, and even other surrounding spaces. Some of the ancient storage pits, once abandoned ca. 10th-11th centuries, were reused as decaying pits. Around the Late Medieval village several rubbish deposits were found, as well as cemeteries and the above mentioned decaying pits, which are devoted specifically to domestic fauna. Despite the common belief, dead animal bodies must not be buried to avoid any contamination or spreading contagious diseases, but immediately forced to decay.

Therefore, some of the thoughtless religious or ritual interpretations should be avoided, instead a more pragmatic explanation, also scientifically better founded, should be assumed. So the animal role within the medieval society could be more accurately established.

16:30—Dr. Aleks Pluskowski (University of Reading, England): “The Dragon's Skull: How can Zooarchaeologist Contribute to Our Understanding of Otherness in the Middle Ages?”

Perspectives of the ‘other’ in medieval European society have been almost exclusively constructed and debated by historians, literary historians and art historians within the field of medieval studies. The result has been a lively discourse and increasingly substantial body of scholarship that has significantly developed our understanding of paradigms for the known and unknown in the Middle Ages. The other was defined, in part, through definitions of the normative. Within Christian theology, animals were separated from humans, although some were more familiar than others, and the true ‘monsters’ lived beyond the realm of individual experience; whether in a lake or some remote land. People who crossed these cosmic boundaries (or were perceived as crossing this boundary through their projected appearance or behaviour) were by definition ‘monstrous’.

Since zooarchaeologists are concerned with animals, conceptually separated from humans within medieval Christian society, they are well placed to contribute to our understanding of otherness. This paper explores how the study of animal bones, and the material practices associated with responses to other species, can build on the foundations of existing scholarship on otherness and monstrosity. This paper takes exotics as its point of departure, and moves beyond juxtapositions between Christian, Muslim and Jewish dietary regimes, to the nuanced treatments of different species within varying contexts across ‘Christendom’

17:00—Dr. Alice Choyke and Mr. László Bartosiewicz (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary): “Ottoman Camels: The Exotic Intruders.”

With their long necks and fatty humps camels look very different from the home-grown animals of Central Europe. In the Carpathian Basin as well as elsewhere in Europe they make their first appearance in Roman times as attested by numerous finds across the Western part of the empire. During the 500 or so years following the retreat of the Romans from the more northerly European parts of the empire camels, whether the two-humped Bactrian of Central Asia, the single humped dromedary of the Near East or their hybrids disappear from the consciousness of the local populations totally. In Central Europe they begin to make a re-appearance in images around the 12th century as exotic companions to ‘Easterners’ such as the Magi or the desert father St. Antony, usually in biblical stories. Curiously most of the camels are represented as Bactrian in these images well into the 15th century although the appropriate camel for these Near Eastern stories would rather be the single-humped dromedary. Both the Roman author Pliny and Isidore of Seville recognized these two different appearances of the two camel species. It is only in the 16th century that the dromedary re-enters these images, perhaps as the result of the sudden interest in naturalistic, scientific representation although surely it can be no coincidence that it was at this time that the Ottomans brought these animals with them into the territories they conquered as pack animals mostly used by the military.

Indeed it is only at this late date that skeletal remains of these animals reappear on archaeological sites in the region. Like those of medieval horses, their remains tend to be scattered and not very common. This is probably related to the fact that camels were not regularly eaten and their remains dumped in the outskirts of settlements, on the roadside or remained on battlefields where scavengers could consume them, scattering their bones. Never the less the few remains that have been found suggest that these animals were dromedaries. Although camels probably could have survived reasonably well in the Hungarian climate it is notable that after the Ottoman defeat they disappeared absolutely from the archaeological faunal record – rejected as the animal of the exotic eastern enemy. In this paper, the authors intend to present and juxtapose images of the camel with archaeozoological data to show that the camel remained an unwanted exotic easterner for people living in the European regions occupied by the Ottoman Turks despite several centuries of contact with it.

17:30—Mr. László Daróczi-Szabó and Mrs. Márta Daróczi-Szabó (Budapest History Museum. Hungary): “Horse meat ban – reality or misinterpretation?”

The prohibition of horse meat consumption is commonly dated from 732, when Pope Gregory III., in a letter to Saint Boniface, ordered the missionary to forbid the germans the eating of ritually slaughtered horses. It is considered that this ban spread through all of the Christian countries, and survived until the modern ages.

Despite being theoretically banned, horse bones with cutmarks, considered being kitchen refuse, are found regularly in medieval Hungary, not only in the country, but also in the very centre of the capital, the Royal Palace and its surroundings.

The aim of this presentation is to examine this prohibition not only through zooarchaeological records, but also through historical dates and laws from medieval Hungary and Europe.

February 8th , 2011

9:30: Registration


10:00—Mr. David González Ginocchio (Universidad de Navarra, Spain): “Remarks on Avicenna’s Philosophy of the Animal Soul.”

This paper briefly examines Avicenna’s reliance on both philosophy and medicine to explain the particularities of the animal soul. Avicenna’s animal psychology can still be used as a reference point to modern theories of animal rationality, and is still relevant to discuss the foundations of normative and intentional theories. Three main points of interest are reviewed: (1) his Neoplatonic-metaphysical account of the animal soul (underlining his similarities with the human soul, and thus disproving a purely materialistic theory of animal psychology); (2) his medical and physiological account of perception and his construction of an animal psychology (with a special emphasis on his account of perceptive intentions); and (3) a few remarks of his influence in later authors like Albert the Great and Duns Scotus.

10:30—Dr. César García Álvarez (Universidad de León, Spain): “A labyrinthine symbolic bestiary: vices and virtues in the apses’ spandrels of Leon Cathedral.”

Among the 111 spandrels carved along the apse of Leon’s cathedral, there are 78 that include animal images. If they are interpreted connected with the meanings they have in the Bestiaries of their time, the result is a complete catalogue of vices and virtues and symbolic representations of Christ and the Devil. Viewed as a whole, related with the other images of the rest of the spandrels, a complex and unitary expression of the culture of the 13th century is revealed. In fact, the form, style and disposition of this group of images, and also its iconographical and symbolical singularity, probably turn this collection, not only into the most complete bizarre and amazing sculptured Bestiary of the whole Gothic era, but into one of the most singular and complex symbolic program of all the gothic cathedrals. The aim of this paper is to show and reveal not only the existence of this collection, but also its singularity and significance for the knowledge of the role that animals play in medieval art.

11:00—Ms. Teresa Camacho de Abes (Islamic Studies, Claremont Graduate University, U.S.A.): “Animals as paradigms for the known and unknown.”

“As Frithjof Schuon has stated so elegantly, ‘that there is no possibility of religious accord in the human atmosphere, only the Divine Stratosphere,’” from an article by Seyyed Hossein Nasr speaks of the exoteric or earthly experience must be transcended in order to achieve the exoteric or that which is beyond earthly experience, that is, Divine Illumination and salvation. It is from these two poles that Farīd al-DīnʻAṭṭār’s Conference of the Birds will be examined and analyzed.

By these definitions of the exoteric and the exoteric the concepts of shari’ah or the exoteric will be analyzed and how it forms the basis of belief of a Muslim. Shari’ah will be demonstrated as the foundation or the basis from which a believer enters the fold of Muslim life and its roots are all to be demonstrated as emanating from the Qur’ān.

By application of Qur’ānic principles and the following of rituals one is a Muslim and to be a Sufi one must first be a Muslim. he roots of Sufism are to be found in the Qur’ān and it is definitely an Islamic movement which will be demonstrated in a general Sufi context as well as within ʻAṭṭār’s text

The esoteric or Divine Illumination will be seen as another level of the Islam, specifically Sufism. Within Sufism there is a focus on the non-mundane or quotidian world but rather a shift to a higher state and a turning away from that which causes sin and a turning of the adherent to that which leads to virtue. This requires purification of the heart in order to fill it with an overwhelming love that is only directed at God. By purification one is preparing himself for Divine Illumination and an openness and readiness to accept God’s special knowledge.

Conference of the Birds leads the reader through the different states that a Sufi must pass talab (yearning), eshq (love), marifat (Gnosis), istighnah (detachment), tawheed (unity of God), Hayrat (bewilderment), fuqur (selflessness) and fana (oblivion in God) to reach this Divine Illumination and the hardships faced by adherents on this quest of love and knowledge of God in working to attain the end.


12:00—Dr. Hatice Demír, (Kastamonu Üniversitesi Kastamonu Meslek Yüksekokulu/ Kuzeykent, Turkey): “An Iconographical Study: The Animals as Ornamentation in Medieval Anatolian Turkish Arquitecture.”

In this study we are going to study animals and their iconographical meanings in Mediveal Turkish Architecture. We can see the influence of Shamanist Beliefs of Central Asia upon the Anatolian Seljuk Architecture especially after the Mongol invasion in 13th century. Shamanism was the belief of Turks before they were not muslim and before they were not settled down the Anatolia. Since the human figures were prohibited by muslim religion, animal and plantal figures were largely used as ornamentation in architecture. Animals such as lion, dragon, eagle, snake, bull were used widely in architectural ornamentation. Each animal had an iconographical meaning. For example dragons and eagles were the guards of sultans and shamans. On the other hand lions were the guide and symbols of power and identified with the Sultans. There were also some imaginary animals in Mediveal Anatolia. For example “The Vak Vak Tree”. This The Vakvak Tree was believed to grown in Vakvak Island at Indian Ocean and this tree took its name from this island. This tree was believed to have utterance like “quack quack” in Turkish “vak vak”.

Furthermore it was accepted that this tree’s fruit were made up of some kinds of animals and humanbeings. This tree was also widely used in Mediveal Anatolian Architecture. “The Life Tree” as a motif was also very important in that age. And this tree was adorned with the mentioned animals above.

12:30—Dr. Yehoshua Frenckel (University of Haifa, Israel): “Animals and Otherness in Mamluk Egypt and Syria.”

Descriptions of animals and interactions between man and nature are a common topic in Islamic literature. A range of sources depict a holistic picture of universe and illustrate it by stories on mankind communication with the fauna and flora. Mamluk period (1250-1517) literature and other sources reflect the complex place of animals in society and in world view. The vision of the fauna was deeply rooted in contemporary world vision. It was believed that the universe is inhabited not only by human beings but also by mysterious creatures. Among the living things that encountered men and women were animals. The spectrum moves from deep fear to seeing the talking creatures as a source of knowledge and wisdom.

The study of haunting account, capture of animals and their staging is an appropriate point of departure to acquire a better understanding of Mamluks' outlook on fauna. This will be followed by an investigation of the in Mamluk crafts and objet d'art. The range is stretching between sculpturing of mighty lions to forbidding the backing of animals shaped dough. The third section will concentrate on animal stories, i.e. on stories that tell on talking beasts.

This line of investigation will enable me to generalize on the role of animals in Mamluk period discourse, and particularly to concentrate on their opposing functions. On the one hand animals served as a source of wisdom that confirmed the belief system. Yet on the other hand animals were depicted as a force that is threatening society.

13:00—Dr. Laura Rodríguez Peinado (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain): “Representing the Hare in Coptic Textiles of the Nile Valley.”

In Ancient Egypt the animals played an important role in the grammar of symbols. Served to create myths and legends and elicit the expression of the divine. The affection for animals led to his deification and some took a looks animal deities, in whole or part of its morphology. The hare was one of the animals whose representation is well known from ancient Egypt and continued to play a leading role in the decoration of the fabrics manufactured in Egypt for over at least the first millennium AD. In hieroglyphic writing wnn their phonetic value can be translated as “being” or “exist”, which served to give a symbolism that accompanies being dead in the Afterlife for their regenerative nature. With this meaning it can be seen displayed in the tissues that we present in this study.

13:30-16:00: Lunch break - ANIMALS AND THE IMAGE OF POWEr 16:00—Dr. Miriam Ali de Unzaga (Independent Scholar): “Textile Bestiaries? Rethinking Animal Repertories in Andalusi Textiles.”

(Abstract: withhold).
16:30—Dr. Olga Vassilieva-Codognet (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris):

“Ambiguous Figures of Otherness: Princely Badges of Redoubtable Beasts in the late Middle Ages.” During the winter of 1408, John the Fearless organized with great publicity a wolf hunt on the outskirts of Paris. It was actually both a symbolic repetition and a claim of the murder of Louis of Orleans who had been assassinated shortly before on November 23th 1407. The wolf (loup in French) was indeed Louis’ badge, and the predatory animal guise staged by the prince through his badge had been taken to the letter and Louis had been killed. This should remind us that symbolic marking by pejorative animals is not restricted to the marginal and deviant groups of medieval society. Redoubtable beasts are also very frequent among fourteenth and fifteenth century princely badges, theses latter being best seen as expressions of personal and symbolic identity of the late Middle Ages rulers.

Our study will aim at taking stock of the various redoubtable animals occurring in princely badges in order to analyze this set, both animal by animal and collectively (how many are horned? how many are exotic? etc.), and to follow its evolution from 1350 to 1550. By this date, the figure on the badge, that is the ideal self of the valiant prince, is still frequently a predatory animal, but this archaic paradigm of aggressiveness must now contend with a new comer, or rather a revenant: the definitively immortal hero of Antiquity.

17:00—Ms. Marisa Costa (University of Lisbon, Portugal): “Unexpected Animals in an Unexpected Place? Representing the Otherness in a Portuguese Medieval Tomb.”

The Portuguese cathedral of Braga owns in its treasure a tomb from the fifteenth century which commemorates Prince Afonso (1390-1400), first-born son of King João I. Although this monument is little known, it is of exceptional quality and European importance, since it combines a series of unique features. The monument comprises a gilt, cast copper-alloy effigy of the prince lying on a draped cloth. The tomb chest supporting the effigy has a wooden core entirely covered with gilded copper friezes and plaques richly embossed with vegetal elements, like trees with thick trunks and long branches, as well as anthropomorphic and zoomorphic elements, like wild men, birds, monkeys, hounds, stags, lions, mythological creatures. Yet, in this visual form, such medieval natural world is shared by a prolific variety of unexpected, peculiar hybrids and beasts. They display the characteristic marginal world that medieval imagination created and gathered in artistic repertoires rooted in sources like fables, travelogues and bestiaries, as in encyclopedias, Fathers of the Church’ texts, the Bible, and, ultimately, classical writings. Similar representations of the otherness within medieval culture normally appear in liminal spaces, like manuscripts margins and borders, ceiling bosses, stalls or misericords. In this instance, however, unexpected animals emerge in a surprising, unexpected place as it is the set of tomb chest’ plaques. The aim of this paper is therefore to examine the purposes of such animal imagery, assessing its iconography, its stylistic features and its artistic inspiration.

17:300—Dr. Anna Sharibzhanova (V.N. Karazin Kharkov National University (Ukraine): “Symbolisms of Ottoman Sultan's authority: fantastic animal images on yatagan Suleiman the Magnificent (1526 - 1527, master Ahmed Tekelü (or Beckli), museum Topkapi, Istanbul).”

According to Muslim beliefs, a fantastic animal symbolized the end of the world. Therefore, the image of such animals (the bird of prey and the dragon) on the blade yatagan Ottoman sultan Suleiman I (1520 - 1566) can talk about pre-Islamic sources of ideas about the supreme authority among the Ottoman elite, who came from the Turks nomads. Having accepted Islam, the Ottoman Turks haven't lost their old ideas which go back to the Indo-Iranian cultural and historical tradition. According to this tradition, the ruler is a earthly embodiment of God, the carrier of divine force. Hence, the main destination of the ruler is to conduct a victorious struggle against the enemies and to maintain order

The tradition of honoring weapon, decorated with "beast" motif as a symbol of supreme authority, is also associated with the culture of the Eurasia steppe nomads. Beast Style is also a source of a composition and images of fantastic animals represented on yatagan of Suleiman I.

18:00: Closing remarks.


versió Torres (santuari de Lluc), versió Noguera (parròquia de Sant Llorenç), versió Felanitx (pròpia), versió Campos (pròpia)


Centre de Cultura Sa Nostra. Dia 20 de desembre de 2010


Llibres, monografies, articles, dvd i notes de premsa


La Seu. Mes de desembre de 2008. Canta la Sibil·la: Esther Barceló


Tassa i Mitja a IB3 - 25/12/2010

Manel Fuentes a El Matí de Catalunya Ràdio

MANS (podscat - 11/12/2010),


Rosa Sureda a Diario de Mallorca (25 i 26/12/2010)

Llorenç Capellà a Brisas (11/12/2010)

 Mariana Díaz a Última Hora (20/11/2010)


Centre de Cultura Sa Nostra: 12/2008 - 02/2009

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