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Whales And Whaling From Classical Antiquity To The Middle Ages

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Chapter Summary

This chapter looks to the earliest accounts of whale use in Western Europe, from Anglo-Saxon whalers to the natural history of Albertus Magnus. Whales could evoke fear and fascination and had done so from antiquity. Understandings of relations between humans, wolves and wilderness in the Middle Ages are based on intense negativity, fear and insecurity driven and encouraged by Christianity. Ancient Greek and Roman authors produced the earliest references to human encounters with whales. The spectacular breaching of Sperm whales, which are known to jump almost entirely out of the water, seems to fit Nearchus? description of the water displacement created by the whales. From the Old Testament to Albert the Great, traditions surrounding human perceptions of whales reveal continuity and a measure of creativity. North Atlantic communities have relied on whales to acquire tons of whale resources in one of the most inhospitable maritime realms, the furious North Atlantic.

Keywords: Albertus Magnus; Christianity; classical antiquity; Europe; Greek; Middle Ages; Nearchus?; North Atlantic; Roman; whales



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