The significance of others: A prehistory of rhythm and interspecies participation

Nick Overton, Marcus Brittain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The understanding of relations that bound humans and animals together during prehistory is undergoing a radical transformation in archaeology from broadly economic to social models. A reconsideration of the role of material culture in the production of social worlds is integral to these new approaches. The following article argues, however, that it is unhelpful to begin with separate human and animal domains that are mediated by symbols and material signifiers. Instead a plea is outlined for an integrated approach to species cohabitation and coevolution that focuses upon situated assemblies of material bodies and the intra-action of all participants within these spaces. It is suggested that scales of rhythm serve to regulate these intra-actions. Using examples from the Danish Mesolithic and the British Bronze Age, particularly of swan hunting and horse riding, this article shows how archaeology may be ideally equipped to articulate these phenomena, and for defining the varied and dynamic means by which species get along as significant "Others" in local contexts of cohabitation. © 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-149
Number of pages15
JournalSociety and Animals
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Bronze Age
  • cohabitation
  • intra-action
  • Mesolithic
  • rhythm
  • zooarchaeology


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