Camellia Biswas

Orkney’s Enigmatic Seal-ationship: Mapping Dynamics of Eco-Cultural Evolution Of Human-Seal Relations In Orkney Islands

Archaeology Institute Orkney College, University of the Highlands and Islands & Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India


Camellia is a final year doctoral candidate in the Humanities and Social Sciences department at IIT Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. Her multidisciplinary thesis focuses on exploring the dynamics of human-non-human relationship in the Indian Sundarbans from the context of climate disasters.


The research aims to understand the complex and intricate relationship between humans and seals, terming it ¬†as “seal-ationship,” by investigating how these marine mammals have influenced the cultural and social fabric of Orkney in Scotland. The project explores the historical and contemporary relevance of seals in the lives of the locals, analyzing folktales, myths, and legends, alongside zooarchaeological records.

Utilizing oral histories and visual ethnography, the research captures narratives from native communities in Orkney, mapping the cultural evolution of human-seal connections throughout history. Embracing digital humanities, the project curates a narrative GIS digital story map, weaving together spatial events and historical occurrences to provide a comprehensive depiction of this unique bond.

As climate change presents new challenges to species conservation, the project seeks to shed light on the delicate balance between human activities and the preservation of seals. Furthermore, the research aims to contribute to informing conservation policies, fostering local engagement, and raising awareness about the profound impact humans have on the natural world. By harmonizing the past and the present, the researchers aim to navigate a path towards a sustainable coexistence between humans and seals, exemplifying the essence of Cluster 1: place, time, and action.


Camellia’s showcase can be viewed here.

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