Exploring the Easter E.g.

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Exploring the Easter E.g.

April 13 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm



Exploring the Easter E.g. – Shifting Baselines and Changing Perceptions of Cultural and Biological ‘Aliens’.

by Dr Naomi Sykes FSA

Easter is the most important event in the Christian calendar. Despite its global reach and cultural significance, Easter has attracted minimal academic attention since the 1970s.  Astonishingly little is known about the festival’s genesis, when it first appeared in Britain, the origins of its component customs – e.g. the gifting of eggs purportedly delivered by the Easter ‘bunny’ – or how they coalesced to form current practices. Equally obscure are the timing and circumstance by which animals that have come to be associated with the festival – notably the brown hare and the rabbit but also the chicken – arrived in Britain. As a result, Easter is a high-profile natural and cultural history puzzle.

This talk, timed to coincide with the festival, will bring together the results of an AHRC-funded project on the subject. Evidence from (zoo)archaeology, linguistics, (art) history and evolutionary biology, will be integrated to informs on patterns of human diasporas (both physical and ideological) and processes of religious syncretism in ancient, early modern and present-day societies. In addition, it will refine the natural history of the brown hare, rabbit and chicken, charting their impact on ancient biodiversity. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the talk will use Easter as a lens for examining and highlighting shifting baseline syndrome.

”Shifting baseline” refers to the phenomenon whereby people consider the socioenvironmental

circumstances of their childhood to be natural and morally absolute. In the absence of deeper historical and archaeological understanding, these nostalgic ideals are adopted blindly (and often erroneously) as the foundation for decision-making both at a personal level and more broadly in science and policy. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in discussions about ‘native’ versus ‘alien’ status, be it in relation to animals, people, or religious ideologies.

While Easter and its animals are all ‘alien’ to Britain, they are viewed positively because they arrived in the long-forgotten past. Easter is therefore an excellent example to highlight the impact of shifting baselines and challenge negative attitudes to cultural and biological aliens.

Please note that due to COVID 19 restrictions this event may be online only. 

Attendance by Live Stream:

  • Registration is essential.
  • Open to anyone to join, Fellows and Non-Fellows.
  • Once you have registered we will be in touch regarding how you can join via Zoom video-calling.
  • The event will also be live-streamed to YouTube here, so you can watch along if you prefer
  • Places through zoom will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The event will begin at 17.00, GMT.
  • You will recieve an email with the link to join the day before the lecture.
  • Attendees’ cameras and microphones will be off throughout.

If you have any questions please contact our Communications Manager on [email protected]

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April 13
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London, W1J 0BE United Kingdom
020 7479 7080


Society of Antiquaries of London
020 7479 7080