Archaelogical Studies of Fish


Historical records from fisheries help to reconstruct past catches and how their composition has changed through time. However, studies of the fish remains themselves provide an excellent source of information, particular where not written records exist.

It is possible for archaeologists to examine which species are represented on archaeological sites – this figures for England shows that through the course of the medieval period, eels gradually decline in representation (most probably due to over-fishing) and that cod frequencies increase as deep-sea fishing technologies became available.

Above image sourced from Naomi Sykes at the University of Nottingham

The impact of human exploitation can be examined by studying the size of fish bones, which increase in size according to the individual’s age. Very often we see a decline in the size of fish as fishing becomes more intensive, suggesting that populations are no-longer able to replenish themselves

Numerous studies have been conducted on the remains of archaeological fish around the world and researchers have been able to highlight where fishery collapse is due to human over-exploitation or if other factors, such as climate change, are responsible. The overwhelming evidence suggest that humans have has a severe impact on fish stocks for longer than marine ecologists had estimated.

Above image Developed at the University of Nottingham