The transition to a commercial economy: Lofoten fishing in the Middle Ages, a preliminary report


Anthropozoologica 25-26 - Pages 505-510

Published on 01 June 1998

This article is a part of the thematic issue Proceedings of the 7th ICAZ International Meeting, Constance, September 1994

Archaeological investigations in Arctic Norway for the past 40 years have provided an excellent foundation for our understanding of the interaction of humans with this rich environment over several thousands of years and offer important insights into the complex inter-cultural relationships between the Narse and Sami populations. Research directed by Prof Reidar Bertelsen of the University of Tramsø ( 1975-present) has documented the evolution of a proto-urban center ca. AD 1200 at the site of Vagan near the center of the modern fishing industry in the Lofoten. The center developed into an important node in the growing codfish trade of the Middle Ages, acting to funnel resources south to Bergen and ultimately to the Hanseatic trade network. The site is a key to understanding the transformation of a self-sufficient northern maritime society into a periphery of the evolving European core. Extensive studies of stratigraphy, structures, and artifacts have been carried out but no systematic analysis of the zooarchaeological evidence for investigating this economic transition has yet been completed. Large (approx. 60,000 identifiable fragments) archaeofauna collected from 1985-1992 are now under analysis and the preliminary results are compared with material availablefrom the Helgøy region.


Northern Norway, Medieval period, trade, coldfish fishery.

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