Ancient whale exploitation in the Mediterranean: the archaeological record


Darío Bernal-Casasola, Armelle Gardeisen, Peggy Morgenstern, Liora Kolska Horwitz, Gäel Piqués, Tatiana Theodoropoulou and Barbara Wilkens, "Ancient whale exploitation in the Mediterranean: the archaeological record", in Antiquity, 90 (352), August 2016, pp. 914–927


Despite a general paucity of archaeological, archaeozoological and iconographic evidence from the Upper Palaeolithic through to Late Antiquity, the corpus of whalebone finds in the Mediterranean region indicates that some level of interaction between humans and whales did indeed occur. A concentration of finds from Roman contexts suggests more active interventions in this period, especially around the Western Mediterranean and the Strait of Gibraltar—a ‘cetacean hotspot’. Whale vertebrae or scapulae were sometimes fashioned into portable chopping boards, identified from cut-marks made by fishermen or craftsmen, but whale meat and blubber may have been less important owing to abundant alternative food and fuel sources.

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