Here is an extract from a forthcoming chapter on medieval Fish consumption.
"Excavated remains of fish are identified by the zooarchaeologist to species
defined by modern taxonomy, while historical records refer to the purchase
of fish described in terminology which is often now obsolete. Fresh and
preserved fish of the cod family were known by a range of names, including
stockfish, klipfish, greenfish, milwell, haberdine (originally dried fish
imported from the region of Bayonne), skreyth (dried fish), dryling,
cropling or ling, while the modern fish species to which these refer
include cod, saithe, ling, haddock and hake. The medieval buyer used terms
reflecting the type of cure, the size or freshness of the fish; modern
archaeozoologists may be able to identify species, but have developed only
limited techniques for establishing whether bones are from fresh or
This introductory paragraph sets out the problem of associating medieval
fish terms with modern Linnean species and with their methods of treatment.
Later in the chapter we touch on what names are used for which process, not
just for the gadids but also for whiting, flatfish, etc. but we certainly
have not succeeded in giving neat answers!
The book is with the publishers and should be published next year:
Woolgar, C. M. and D. Serjeantson, Chapter 8 Fish Consumption in Medieval
England. In, Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition. (eds) C. M.
Woolgar, D. Serjeantson and T. Waldron. Oxford Studies in History and
Archaeology. Oxford, Oxford University Press. The book is written by (and
for) both historians and archaeologists.
Happy fish suppers to all,
Visiting Research Fellow
School of Humanities
University of Southampton
Southampton SO17 1BJ
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