‘The Eagle Huntress’ And The Ancient History Of Falconry

Over at the Forbes blog this week, I discuss the ancient and medieval history of falconry in the Mediterranean. After seeing the new documentary film ‘The Eagle Huntress,’ about a 13-year-old girl named Aisholpan learning to become an eagle hunter with her father in Mongolia, I went back to some class notes on Greco-Roman attitudes towards the eagle and the later development of falconry. This post was a good excuse to emphasize that there is little material evidence for falconry in the Roman world until the period of Late Antiquity. It is possible that the Vandals or Visigoths popularized the sport within the late Roman world. During the early middle ages, falconry and particularly the use of not only falcons, but also hawks, became popular among both male and female elites. Falconry was a courtly sport and in the late medieval period, we even have writings from women on the topic. I am certainly not a bird expert, but writing this piece was one way to commemorate the majesty of birds of prey and to establish humanity’s long connection to them.

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“Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a lady observing her hawk bringing down a duck, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 73v.” Image and caption via the British Library Blog and is in the Public Domain.

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