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RA 2B: Fish processing and garum trade

For centuries, the principal export of the Black Sea fisheries was salt fish (tarichos), but around the beginning of our era, the use of garum or fish-sauce spread through the Greco-Roman world. Along with northern Africa and Spain, Crimea evolved a large-scale garum production. Although archaeological evidence in the form of salting vats and installations is plentiful at Chersonesos and the strait of Kerch, the sequence of events leading to large-scale production is poorly understood. Did the demand of Mediterranean urban élites for a new fashionable cooking ingredient lead Crimean fish-salters to exploit existing marine resources for new purposes, or did a glut of fresh fish force the fish-salters to diversify into a new, more highly processed, and thus more expensive product, which could bear the cost of transport to distant markets? In other words, was the rise of fish sauce production demand-driven or supply-driven? A detailed study of the question should take into account not only archaeological and literary evidence but ecological data pointing to changes in migration patterns and localised fish "bonanzas", and possible parallels to similar events in later periods, e.g. the medieval Baltic herring bonanza and the north Atlantic cod bonanza of the early modern period.

Responsible: Tønnes Bekker-Nielsen
Main activity: International workshop in 2003
Main publication: T. Bekker-Nielsen (ed.), Ancient Fishing and Fish Processing in the Black Sea Region, Black Sea Studies 2. Aarhus 2005

Other links:

An ichthyoarchaeological survey of the ancient fisheries from the Northern Black Sea Coast by Arturo Morales, Ekaterina Antipina, Aluna Antipina & Eufrasia Roselló

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