Birds of Prey pp 161-176 | Cite as

Raptors and People: An Ancient Relationship Persisting Today

  • Juan José Negro


Symbolic or religious value has been attributed to raptor feathers in many cultures. This behavior seems to be rooted in ancient times; bones and claws of white-tailed eagles have been found at many Mesolithic and Neolithic sites in Germany, which indicates these large birds may have continued to have symbolic meaning for past communities in Central Europe and other geographical areas. But fossil hominins may have also used raptor feathers as functional, ornamental, and symbolic items. Recently, the hypothesis that Neanderthals exploited birds for the use of their feathers or claws as personal items has been posed. Raptors were among the bird taxa found associated with Neanderthals in numerous archaeological sites in Italy, France, Gibraltar, and Croatia. All these discoveries provide evidence of human use for purposes beyond feeding. Ancient Egyptians also venerated raptors, and particularly some falcon species that they embalmed and buried in sacred places. Large eagles have also been widely used in heraldry for millennia until today. But perhaps one of the most fascinating relationships among raptors and people is that of falconry.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary EcologyDoñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC)SevillaSpain

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