Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Ancient Falconry - Ancient Falconry"Falconry has long been regarded as a noble sport, and it has a very ancient pedigree. According to traditional views, people first began to use tame birds of prey for hunting game in central Asia during the first or second millennium BC. Through trade and other contacts, the practice then extended westwards into the Middle East, and eventually to Europe.

But that theory raises a major puzzle. The first artistic views of falconry come not from the Far East, but from Turkey. Several carvings from around 1500 BC show a large bird on the fist of a human figure. Grasped in the same fist is the figure of a hare (presumably the quarry) held by the back legs.

Another, somewhat later, example has been found in northern Iraq. Dated to the period of King Sargon II (722-705 BC), this bas-relief depicts a small bird of prey on the wrist of a man. Significantly, this carving seems to show ‘jesses’ (leather thongs used to secure the bird to the human fist), tied to the bird’s feet and passing between the thumb and forefinger of the falconer. If so, it may indicate that falconry (and its paraphernalia) was well developed by the eighth century BC in the Middle East.

In both cases, some researchers have interpreted these carvings as purely religious or symbolic scenes. But if these examples do indeed depict hawking, then the sport is at least 3,500 years old in Western Eurasia."

I see there are also workshops to learn falconry: