19 Feb 2024 17:15 - 19:00 Online & Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge


An event by the Cultures of Camouflage and Mimicry among Human and non-Human Animals research network.

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we have had to cancel the online element of this event. The in-person seminar is going ahead. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.


  • Michael Tomasello (Duke University/Max Planck Institute for Evolution Studies)
  • Maurice Saß (Alanus Hochschule für Kunst und Wissenschaft, Alfter)


Professor Michael Tomasello
‘A natural history of empathy (online interview)’

Professor Maurice Saß
‘The art of camouflage: Hunting with animal decoys in premodern and modern Europe’

The aim of my lecture is to examine the history of illusionistic hunting techniques by looking at built and painted animal decoys that were used for camouflaging, driving and luring in premodern and modern Europe. In a first step, I will propose a heuristic typology of hunting animal decoys according to their design and function. Special attention will also be paid to the different types of hunting mimesis that were involved in the use of the animal decoys and the visual attraction of the decoys to living animals. The efficiency of this hunting camouflage art not only gave rise to insightful speculation about how it worked, but also formed the basis for a variety of comparisons with the illusionary power of visual artists. The paper thus focuses on an episode from the shared cultural history of hunting and art, in which both prove to be eco-techniques for the production, configuration and appropriation of “nature” and are linked by a usurpatory understanding of mimesis. Hunting decoys are an emblematic reflection of the longue durée fascination with mimetic processes, human capabilities of illusion and, in general, the technical superiority of homo faber over other animals.

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