Presentation on theme: "The Prehistory of Intensive Sea Fishing Dr. James Barrett McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research."— Presentation transcript:
The Prehistory of Intensive Sea Fishing Dr. James Barrett McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Why Study the Early Development of Sea Fishing? Implications for social and economic history Implications for historical ecology
To dispel two opposing popular misconceptions: ‘modernity’ and the ‘static past’ To introduce the archaeological study of fishing To illuminate the early growth of intensive sea fishing in Northern and Western Europe – focusing on cod as a case study To introduce efforts to detect any associated early impacts on marine ecosystems Today’s Objectives
Base of Viking Age midden Top of marine zone Quoygrew Chronology Base of marine zone 10 th century 11 th – 12 th century
The Fish Middens of Atlantic Scotland Robert’s Haven St Boniface Quoygrew
Dried Cod Production Decapitation Removing the anterior vertebrae Based on cut marks and element distributions Similar cut marks occur on possible imported specimens around the Baltic and North Seas. ‘Stockfish’ trade?
England Very little sea fishing until near the end of the first millennium Rapid expansion of cod and herring fishing within a few decades of AD 1000 – the fish event horizon Continued intensification over the long term, with increasing diversity of species exploited and expansion to new fishing grounds (e.g. Iceland and Newfoundland)
Cod Provenance: Control Samples Possible to distinguish approximate location of catch using reliable stable isotope analyses
Causal Variables Temperature Salinity Length and type of food web in each area, and consequent trophic level of cod temp salinity TL
Cod Provenance: Target Samples Arctic Norwegian cod at Hedeby (9 th -11 th century)? Traded cod at Wharram Percy (13 th century)? Local dried cod production in the Baltic (15 th century)
Uppsala, Sweden: 13 th Century Vertebrae All appear to be imports from Arctic Norway or the North Sea
Uppsala, Sweden: 14 th -15 th Century All but one specimen appear local
Poland: 13 th -14 th Century Vertebrae All appear to be imports, perhaps from Arctic Norway
All but one specimen appear local Poland: 14th-15th Century
Estonia: Late 13 th -14 th Century All appear to be imports, perhaps from the North Sea
Commercial Fishing: Potential ‘Drivers’ ‘Socio-economic’: The Viking Age diaspora Rapid urban expansion The development of long- range trade in staple goods (cf. ship capacities) Changes in Christian fasting practices (e.g. the Benedictine reform of c.970) ‘Environmental’: The Medieval Warm Period (increased agricultural production & population) Human impacts on freshwater ecosystems The MWP may also have increased cod & herring abundance in northern fishing grounds – a Butterfly Effect
But can we detect the impact of this early commercial fishery on marine ecosystems?
Downward shift in trophic level between past and present? Eutrophication of S. North Sea evident in Middle Ages? S. North Sea Modern δ15N N. North Sea Modern δ15N Long Term Human Impacts? A North Sea Example
Acknowledgements Leverhulme Trust Historic Scotland British Academy Census of Marine Life English Heritage Heritage Lottery Fund History of Marine Animal Populations McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Society for Medieval Archaeology York Archaeological Trust Project collaborators: especially Jennifer Harland, Cluny Johnstone, Anton Ervynck, Michael Richards and Wim Van Neer
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