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Introduction Mundane And Marvelous Whales In The Mead-Dark Sea

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Chapter Summary

The Mead-Dark Sea refers to the North Atlantic Ocean, its connected seas, and the creatures within. Within the northern sea, real and imagined species of whales abounded. Whales were equated with the wild seas that contained them or sometimes didn?t contain them, to the terror or glee of whalers and sailors. Whales were important to medieval economies and their importance varied from settlement to settlement and from period to period. Hunting and scavenging for whales was essential for survival in the Middle Ages. Medieval whaling has not yet been analyzed systematically across sites and periods. Archaeologists have taken a different approach to whale bone analysis, especially isotopic and DNA analyses, as well as techniques adapted from terrestrial zooarchaeology for cetacean analysis. The highly entertaining and complex Icelandic family sagas and high medieval Scandinavian law-codes reveal the means by which whales could be and surely were acquired by North Atlantic hunters.

Keywords: cetacean; Mead-Dark Sea; whales

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