About the Project

Our project is exploring the accepted truths of the origins of Easter as well as the animals that have come to be associated with the festival (namely the brown hare and the rabbit). More generally, our project will reveal insights into the nature of shifting attitudes to religion, conservation, and nationalism. Our aims are to establish:

  1. Where and when did modern Easter traditions first begin, when did they arrive in Britain, and how closely correlated are the arrival of religious traditions and the brown hare?
  2. What were the bio-cultural, political and religious mechanisms by which:
    • The derivatives of Latin Pascha and Germanic forms of Easter spread and interacted with each other in Christian communities in early medieval Europe?
    • The rabbit diffused across Europe and replaced the hare as the main Easter animal in later British traditions?
  3. Whether ancient interactions between the native mountain hare, the introduced brown hare and the rabbit can be reconstructed to provide a deeper-time perspective on the impact of 'alien’ species?
  4. How the filling of knowledge gaps about human-animal bio-cultural history can transform 'native' versus 'alien' discourse at both a societal level and within wildlife management policy?


To answer these questions, 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.

A methods statement for our scientific research can be found here: Easter Project Methods.pdf


Our team


Research Network

Prof. Miranda Aldhouse-Green (Cardiff), Dr Cecile Callou (Paris), Dr Alasdair Cochrane (Sheffield), Dr Hella Eckardt (Reading), Prof. Martin Henig (Oxford), Prof. Garry Marvin (Roehampton), Dr Fiona Matthews (Exeter), Dr Rebecca Nicholson (Oxford Archaeology) Prof. Joris Peters (Munich), Dr Robert Symmons (Fishbourne Roman Palace), Prof. Jean-Denis Vigne (Paris), Dr Fay Worley (Historic England).