Welcome to Exploring the Easter E.g.: Shifting Baselines and Changing Perceptions of Cultural and Biological “Aliens”, a major AHRC-funded research project.
Easter is the most important event in the Christian calendar, yet little is known about the festival’s genesis, when it first appeared in Britain, the origins of its component customs (such as hunting for eggs left by the Easter ‘bunny’) or how they coalesced to form modern traditions. We also know less than we think about the animals most commonly associated with Easter: brown hares, rabbits and chickens. Even the popular and widely circulated accounts of ‘pagan origins’ often turn out to be less than robust.
Now is the time for an ambitious, rigorous study into the roots of this familiar yet deceptively enigmatic festival. Our project will tackle the numerous mysteries surrounding the introduction of these iconic animals to the British Isles and explore how modern Easter traditions developed and incorporated all three animals.
To make this happen, we’ve assembled a large, cross-disciplinary team. Together we’ll be integrating evidence from anthropology, (zoo)archaeology, (art) history, evolutionary biology, law, historical linguistics, natural history and religious studies. In doing so, we’ll question the accepted truths of the origins of Easter and more generally, our project will reveal insights into the nature of shifting attitudes to religion, conservation, and nationalism.