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Archaeological Approaches To North Atlantic Whale Use

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Chapter Summary

Archaeological whalebones have the potential to tell a great deal about whale exploitation. Whalebone is a strong and versatile material, a ready substitute for ivory or wood. Zooarchaeologists analyze the faunal assemblages on archaeological sites in order to reconstruct ancient environments, populations, diets and foodways. The greatest challenge in assessing the use of whales and other large marine mammals on archaeological sites originates in the differences between the butchery of whales and other animals. Large cetacean bones may be transported from one carcass and abandoned from the next. Despite all the difficulties in the analysis of whalebone, even minimal identification of species and bone type can help to discern the patterns of cetacean exploitation from various sites. Interdisciplinary analysis of text and archaeology allows great insight into local patterns of whale use in the medieval North Atlantic. The archaeology of whale use complements the insights into medieval whale uses provided.

Keywords: Archaeological approaches; cetacean; North Atlantic; whale



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