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Anglo-Saxon whale exploitation : some evidence from Dengemarsh, Lydd, Kent

Anglo-Saxon whale exploitation : some evidence from Dengemarsh, Lydd, Kent

By Mark Gardiner, John Stewart and Greg Priestley-Ball

Medieval Archaeology, Vol.42 (1998)

Introduction: There is very little evidence for the hunting of whales in early medieval England. The near silence of English sources contrasts, however, with the numerous references to the practice in Continental Europe dating from at least the 9th century. One of the few comments on whale hunting occurs in AElfric’s Colloquy, probably written c. 1000 at Cerne Abbas in Dorset, not far from the south coast. The author was evidently aware of the practice and refers to the use of a number of boats in whaling. The fisherman of the Colloquy agreed that ‘many catch whales and … make great profit by it’, but says that he himself was too timid. How far this may be used as evidence for hunting in England is uncertain. It may merely reflect a knowledge of the practice on the opposite side ofthe English Channel.

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