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W. Van Neer and A. Ervynck (2004)

Remains of traded fish in archaeological sites : indicators of status or bulk food ?

In: Behaviour Behind Bones. The Zooarchaeology of Ritual, Religion, Status and Identity, ed. by O’Day S., Van Neer W., Ervynck A.. Oxbow Books, Oxford, chap. N/A, pp. 203-214.

The presence on archaeological sites of fish species that have been imported from distant areas has often been regarded as an indicator of high status. Typical examples include the Spanish mackerel (Scomber japonicus) and the fish sauces found at Roman sites from Middle and Western Europe, or the Nilotic fish found at Chalcolithic to Crusader period sites in the Eastern Mediterranean area. The available evidence in the literature for trade in those species is reviewed and also the herring trade in medieval Europe is discussed. The factors that have an influence on the price of those traded food items include the quality of the fish products, production costs and transport, but are difficult to evaluate. It appears moreover that the number of sites with exotic fish is growing rapidly now that better recovery techniques are used and the quality of the reference collections used during study is improving. Traded fish seem to turn up in numerous settlement types of varying status, thus showing that caution is needed when using these remains as indicators of high purchasing power.
Peer Review, International Redaction Board
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