The 10,000-year biocultural history of fallow deer and its implications for conservation policy

Baker, Karis H., Miller, Holly, Doherty, Sean, Gray, Howard W. I., Daujat, Julie, Çakırlar, Canan, Spassov, Nikolai, Trantalidou, Katerina, Madgwick, Richard, Lamb, Angela L., Ameen, Carly, Atici, Levent, Baker, Polydora, Beglane, Fiona, Benkert, Helene, Bendrey, Robin, Binois-Roman, Annelise, Carden, Ruth F., Curci, Antonio, De Cupere, Bea, Detry, Cleia, Gál, Erika, Genies, Chloé, Kunst, Günther K., Liddiard, Robert, Nicholson, Rebecca, Perdikaris, Sophia, Peters, Joris, Pigière, Fabienne, Pluskowski, Aleksander G., Sadler, Peta, Sicard, Sandra, Strid, Lena, Sudds, Jack, Symmons, Robert, Tardio, Katie, Valenzuela, Alejandro, van Veen, Monique, Vuković, Sonja, Weinstock, Jaco, Wilkens, Barbara, Wilson, Roger J. A., Evans, Jane A., Hoelzel, A. Rus and Sykes, Naomi (2024) The 10,000-year biocultural history of fallow deer and its implications for conservation policy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 121 (8). ISSN 0027-8424

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Over the last 10,000 y, humans have manipulated fallow deer populations with varying outcomes. Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) are now endangered. European fallow deer (Dama dama) are globally widespread and are simultaneously considered wild, domestic, endangered, invasive and are even the national animal of Barbuda and Antigua. Despite their close association with people, there is no consensus regarding their natural ranges or the timing and circumstances of their human-mediated trans-locations and extirpations. Our mitochondrial analyses of modern and archaeological specimens revealed two distinct clades of European fallow deer present in Anatolia and the Balkans. Zooarchaeological evidence suggests these regions were their sole glacial refugia. By combining biomolecular analyses with archaeological and textual evidence, we chart the declining distribution of Persian fallow deer and demonstrate that humans repeatedly translocated European fallow deer, sourced from the most geographically distant populations. Deer taken to Neolithic Chios and Rhodes derived not from nearby Anatolia, but from the Balkans. Though fallow deer were translocated throughout the Mediterranean as part of their association with the Greco-Roman goddesses Artemis and Diana, deer taken to Roman Mallorca were not locally available Dama dama, but Dama mesopotamica. Romans also initially introduced fallow deer to Northern Europe but the species became extinct and was reintroduced in the medieval period, this time from Anatolia. European colonial powers then transported deer populations across the globe. The biocultural histories of fallow deer challenge preconceptions about the divisions between wild and domestic species and provide information that should underpin modern management strategies.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Data, Materials, and Software Availability: Genetics data have been deposited in GenBank ( (see references 35 and 36 in the paper). Acknowledgements: This research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/I026456/1) with support for radiocarbon dating provided by the National Environmental Isotope Facility (NF/2012/2/3 and NF/2018/2/16). J.D. was supported by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (ECF-2015-139). E.G. and G.K.K. were employed in the project FWF 22903 at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2011-2014) when identifying the Roman specimen from Carnuntum-Mühläcker. A. Alen and F. Pigière were employed at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences when identifying and sampling the specimens from Boussu (Belgium). We are grateful to Cécile Ansieau (SPW-TLPE-AWaP-DZO) and Didier Willems (SPW-TLPE-AWaP-DZC), who excavated the site of Boussu and provided chronological data on the fallow deer remains. Our thanks also go to the non-profit Gy Seray Boussu A.S.B.L. in charge of the archaeological site. The contribution of Sonja Vuković was supported by the Science Fund of the Republic of Serbia, # GRANT no 7750265, The Holocene History of Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence: Archaeozoological, Archaeobotanical, Isotopic, Ancient DNA, Iconographic and Written Evidence from the Central Balkans – ARCHAEOWILD. We are grateful to the Ephorates of Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Sports, Dr. E. Psathi who has worked both on Chios and Antiparos material and the excavators of Greek sites for the permit to use the relevant samples, Dr. J. T. Zeiler for information on the Dutch medieval fallow deer bones, and Dr. C. Rainsford and York Archaeological Trust for fallow deer bones from Hungate, York. We are indebted to Simon Davis, Michael McKinnon, Greger Larson, and Rory Putman who read, and significantly improved, the draft manuscript, as did the two anonymous referees. Thanks also go to the members of Dama International’s steering committee, in particular Hella Eckardt and Marco Masseti, for all their guidance.
Uncontrolled Keywords: fallow deer,translocations,extinctions,zooarchaeology,biomolecules,general ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1000
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Landscape History
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Medieval History
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2024 18:24
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 18:24
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2310051121

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