Human Impacts on Ancient Marine Ecosystems: A Global Perspective

By Torben C. Rick; Jon M. Erlandson | Go to book overview

11
Twenty Thousand Years of Fishing
in the Strait
ARCHAEOLOGICAL FISH AND SHELLFISH ASSEMBLAGES
FROM SOUTHERN IBERIA

Arturo Morales-Muñiz and Eufrasia Roselló-Izquierdo

ALONG THE SHORES of southern Iberia, extensive fishing enterprises developed during classical times. Their testimonies are reflected in the many fish factories that dot the present-day coastline and in the thousands of southern Iberian amphorae that distributed fish products throughout the Mediterranean and beyond (Arévalo et al. 2004; Curtis 1991; Étienne and Mayet 2002; Ponsich 1988; Ponsich and Tarradell 1965; Van Neer and Ervynck 2004). From such data one may get the impression that the bounty from the waters on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar was endless and that the inhabitants of southern Iberia have been making their living from the sea since time immemorial. Indeed, when one reads some of the general works it appears that most of the details concerning these ancient fisheries, the species exploited, and the reasons behind episodes such as the one that in the third century AD wiped out more than half of the fish factories operating along this coast are well known matters (Consejería de Agricultura y Pesca 2004). As it turns out, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Archaeological records of fishing and shellfish collecting from southern Iberia are scarce, patchy, and often of poor quality. This is because until a few years ago there were few attempts to retrieve small faunas in a systematic way and also because most researchers in Spain and Portugal lacked adequate comparative collections for their analysis. Recently, both these problems have been at least partially resolved, and many truly interesting faunal assemblages are currently being studied. Some of the assemblages reported in this chapter appear for the first time in print, although the data and our interpretations are preliminary in more ways than one.

The issues that can be addressed with these assemblages are varied in terms of cultural and environmental questions, thus it is tempting to put forward some hypotheses, however preliminary, to pave the way for future studies. Although the poor and patchy

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