Ancient whale exploitation in the Mediterranean: Species matters

Ana S.L. Rodrigues, Liora Kolska Horwitz, Sophie Monsarrat, Anne Charpentier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


How did ancient communities around the Mediterranean exploit the presence of whales in their seas? Given that the whales currently present in the region are seldom found near the coast, it seems probable that ancient whale exploitation would have been restricted to stranded animals. The authors explore, however, the possibility that additional species migrated seasonally through the Strait of Gibraltar to visit coastal calving grounds, which could have supported an organised whaling industry. Classical literature provides a number of descriptions suggestive of coastal encounters with whales. New methods of whale bone identification will shed light on which species were previously present in the Mediterranean and thus on the probability of ancient whaling. This article is one of two on ancient whaling in the current issue, and should be read in conjunction with that by Darío Bernal-Casasola and colleagues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)928-938
Number of pages11
Issue number352
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2016.


This research was funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Project MORSE, CEPandS 2011-ANR-11-CEPL-006). This study is an output of the project 'Y a-t-il eu une exploitation ancienne des baleines en Mediterranee?', co-funded by the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme de Montpellier, the Project MORSE, the AniMed network (CNRS, UMR5140 Archeologie des societes mediterraneennes, University Paul-Valery, Montpellier) and the Labex Archimede (IA-ANR-11-LABX-0032-01). We are very grateful to Uko Gorter for permission to use his excellent drawings. Stimulating discussions with Arnaud Zucker, Jean Trinquier, Dario Bernal-Casasola and Armelle Gardeisen have contributed to improving this manuscript

FundersFunder number
AniMed network
Labex ArchimedeIA-ANR-11-LABX-0032-01
Maison des Sciences de l'Homme de Montpellier
Agence Nationale de la RechercheCEPandS 2011-ANR-11-CEPL-006
Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueUMR5140


    • Mediterranean
    • classical literature
    • whales
    • whaling


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