The status of elk during the Mesolithic


en Anthropozoologica 16 - Pages 151-160

Published on 01 October 1992

This article is a part of the thematic issue Animals and their products in trade and exchange. Proceedings of the 3rd international meeting of HASRI, Oxford, 8-11 November 1990

The distribution of elk remains during the Mesolithic suggests a genuine geographical disparity in elk population densities probably due to more or less favourable ecological conditions. In northern and north-eastern Europe the high proportion of elk bones in faunal assemblages suggests that elk was an economic ressource from Alleröd until Atlantic times. Elk remains are almost absent from the archaeological record of Western Europe. Furthermore at those sites where elk is a scarce species, only certain squeletal parts, such as teeth and foot bones, tend to be found. Several kinds of explanation are presented, some involving the mode of acquisition of the remains (hunting or exchange of elk products) and the possible symbolic status of elk. There is strong evidence for the elk symbolic status within the latest mesolithic societies of northern Europe. This suggests that we should adopt a more open research strategy when considering earlier periods when there is less clearcut evidence for elk symbolism.


Elk, Mesolithic, Europe, Symbolism, Exchanges.

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