University of Leicester
2012FothergillBBCPhd.pdf (10.46 MB)

The Bird of the Next Dawn: The Husbandry, Translocation and Transformation of the Turkey

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posted on 2013-02-07, 10:28 authored by Brooklynne Britannia Christine Fothergill
This thesis follows the palaeopathological and social history of the turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, over a thousand years (AD 900- c. 1900) and illuminates the evolving nature of turkey-human relationships. Interdependent analyses of zooarchaeological data and historical documentary sources were undertaken for this project. Palaeopathological and metrical data were gathered from turkey elements excavated from archaeological sites in the American Southwest, the UK and Éire; these were used with published data from other archaeological assemblages with turkey pathologies. Spanish colonial sources, European literature and ethnographic records on Pueblo peoples were also employed to explore the contingent nature and impact of human perceptions of the turkey. The zooarchaeological data from the American Southwest attest to variation in the purposes for which turkeys were kept and differences in their living conditions. Pathologies present suggest that live domestic turkeys were plucked, perhaps repeatedly, at some sites in the American Southwest. Metrical data demonstrate temporal variation in the size and proportions of domestic turkey across assemblages and differing population dynamics, including male-female ratios and percentage of juveniles. Other evidence indicates that the turkey was not consistently perceived only as a protein product and may have simultaneously occupied several strata of meaning. Once in Europe, the turkey was almost universally categorised as poultry and rapidly stripped of all but economic significance. Whilst investigating post-medieval poultry husbandry, I found an association between women and poultry-keeping. Many UK poultry keepers were female and a historical lack of interest in the post-medieval poultry industry could be linked to this. Tibial dyschondroplasia is differentially diagnosed in the turkey; this provides firm skeletal evidence for 'improvement' of the species by the 19th century. This research shows that perception-driven translocation and transitions in husbandry methods have profoundly shaped the physical and conceptual transformation of the turkey.



Thomas, Richard M.; Edwards, David N.

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD


Due to third party copyright restrictions some images have been removed from the electronic version of this thesis. The unabridged version can be consulted, on request, at the University of Leicester’s David Wilson Library.



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