What is it about?
New scientific methods for identifying raw materials demonstrate the consistent use of whalebone- most particularly the North Atlantic Right Whale - in making gaming pieces in Iron-Age Scandinavia. Consistent targeting of these species suggests that large-scale whale hunting was taking place in Scandinavian waters, as early as the sixth century AD. The gaming pieces give us unexpected insight into a trade that is otherwise all but invisible to us.
Photo by Will Turner on Unsplash
Why is it important?
Previously it was thought that organised whale-hunting as a later phenomenon, with opportunistic strandings being the key source of whale products, but it seems that maritime expeditions fit into a broader pattern of intensifying resource exploitation in the Iron Age, with implications for the history of human impact on natural ecosystems.
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This page is a summary of: Late Iron Age Whaling in Scandinavia, Journal of Maritime Archaeology, December 2022, Springer Science + Business Media,
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