Detecting the medieval cod trade: a new method and first results
Barrett, James × Johnstone, Cluny Harland, Jennifer Van Neer, Willem Ervynck, Anton Makowiecki, Daniel Heinrich, Dirk Hufthammer, Anne Karin Enghoff, Inge Bodker Amundsen, Colin Christiansen, Jorgen Schou Jones, Andrew K. G Locker, Alison Hamilton-Dyer, Sheila Jonsson, Leif Lougas, Lembi Roberts, Callum Richards, Michael #
Journal of Archaeological Science vol:35 issue:4 pages:850-861
This paper explores the potential of stable isotope analysis to identify the approximate region of catch of cod by analysing bones from medieval settlements in northern and western Europe. It measures the delta C-13 and delta N-15 values of cod bone collagen from medieval control samples collected from sites around Arctic Norway, the North Sea, the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea. These data were considered likely to differ by region due to, for example, variation in the length of the food chain, water temperature and salinity. We find that geographical structuring is indeed evident, making it possible to identify bones from cod caught in distant waters. These results provide a new methodology for studying the growth of long-range trade in dried cod and the related expansion of fishing effort-important aspects of the development of commercialisation in medieval Europe. As a first test of the method, we analyse three collections of cod bones tentatively interpreted as imported dried fish based on a priori zooarchaeological criteria. The results tentatively suggest that cod were being transported or traded over very long distances since the end of the first millennium AD. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.