With TimeTeam we explored how the red deer of Aston Court responded to the head dresses. These are a herd habituated to human company so the results are somewhat biased, however this provides some clues as to how the head dresses operated.
The stalking involved dressing up a presenter, Alex, in skins and a head dress and setting him off to sneak up on the deer.
The results were interesting, not least in watching an amateur attempt to stalk deer. In general, the deer spotted him from a long distance away, with a few wary hinds keeping a careful eye on him until he came too close. At this point they would bark – all the herd was alerted, up on its feet and ready to flee when he came close. Alex could not get with 20 metres of any individual from the main herd.
The stags however were a different matter, generally more curious and confident than the hinds, they hung around generally ignoring us whilst we filmed.
However when Alex donned his antlers they become much more interested and tended to come over to get a new look at this new creature. Some ethnographic accounts describe luring stags in using antler head dresses and calls, and based on our experience using the head dresses in this manner could have been very effective. The experiment also proved that lashed on with only a small amount of plant cord the head dresses could be attached to a hunter and used to actively stalk deer.
The use of these head dresses to lure in, or to hunt deer does not however preclude their role in other, possibly shamanic activities and we will discuss this, and other aspects of the head dresses in more detail in another post.
Full set of photos on Flickr….http://www.flickr.com/photos/guerilla_archaeology/sets/72157631421656808/