The archaeological record of domesticated and tamed birds in Sweden

The archaeological record of domesticated and tamed birds in Sweden

Tyrberg, Tommy

Acta zoologica cracoviensia, 45 (special issue): 215-231, Kraków, 29 Nov. (2002)    


This paper summarizes information on domesticated birds in Sweden up to the end of the Middle Ages. It is based on data from subfossil remains but also incorporates information from art and early written sources.The most important domestic bird in Sweden has always been the Domestic Fowl. It was probably introduced to Sweden during the Pre-Roman Iron Age and by the Migration period it had become common and spread as far north as Jämtland. During the Late Iron Age and the Middle Ages remains of Domestic Fowl are very common throughout the farming areas of southern and central Sweden. The only other common domestic bird was Domestic Goose. When this was first kept in Swe- den is uncertain since Greylag Geese occur naturally in the area but it was probably intro- duced (or domesticated locally?) at approximately the same time as the Fowl. It is difficult to determine when domestic Duck was introduced, or how common it was since remains of wild Ducks are also common, but it seems that domesticated Ducks were of minor importance in Sweden. There is no definite proof that Pigeons were kept in Sweden until post-medieval times. Turkeys seem to have reached Sweden remarkably quickly and were apparently well established by the end of the sixteenth century. Falconry was probably introduced during the sixth century AD and, judging from remains in graves, it was wide-spread in aristocratic circles at least in Eastern Sweden up to the end of the Iron Age. The predominant species was Goshawk. An interesting aspect of the “falconry graves” is the frequent occurrence of Eagle Owls, almost certainly used as decoys to attract birds. Both literary and archaeological sources on Medieval falconry are sparse and it is uncertain how widespread it was, but it seems likely that it was less common than during the Late Iron Age.

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