Life is a pig: animals, archaeology and social justice

Tuesday, 15th June 2021

5:30 pm



Professor Umberto Albarella (Department of Archaeology) will deliver his virtual inaugural lecture on Tuesday 15 June.

Whether we like it or not, human life on earth would not be what it is without pigs. As much as we may disparage pigs, and regard them as lazy, dirty, greedy and fat animals, we owe them a huge amount, as they have helped us to create our societies. Pigs are often and deeply misunderstood – the typical representation of the sty-pig that occupies much of our imagination only represents a small aspect of the greatly variable range of interactions that exist between humans and pigs. I have studied pigs in archaeology for almost four decades and have found them to be a subject of endless fascination – pigs have contributed to our diet, economy, settlement, mobility, social structure, rituality, religion, politics, art, literature and family life. In other words, there is no aspect of human life that has no connection with pigs, and I will present some case studies of our shared history with these fascinating creatures.

Though I have studied many other aspects of the history of our relationship with animals, pigs have always remained close to my heart because they are unfairly vilified. Far from being only a subject of academic interest, pigs have for me become a powerful symbol of my parallel work in social justice and in supporting the underprivileged of this world. My inaugural lecture seems to be the best possible context to reflect – together with my audience, colleagues and students – on this unlikely connection. I am looking forward to sharing my pig stories with you.