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Friday, April 18, 2008

Basque whaling... much older than thought.

A. Steenhuyse mentions at Anthrosite that it's been discovered that among the many Magdalenian materials of Isturitz cave (Lower Navarre) there's a bunch of whale-bone tools. It is no new finding as such but just a correct identification among old ones.

Apparently whale bones are of better quality for tools subject to impact. It is probable that they don't represent active whaling but rather were collected from beached animals but it still means that the people of Isturitz, some 50-60 km inland, were in contact with the people of the coast. and/or travelled that far to forage themselves. This is pretty obvious, specially for hunter-gatherer peoples, but still...

It's not totally impossible though that there could be active whaling anyhow. If stone-age Inuits did it, why not Basques?

Anyhow, it reminds me of the people that object to the indirect evidence of Basque whaling in the 7th century. They say that a huge shipping of whale oil to a monastery near Paris is not evidence enough of active whaling, while the ones in favor (most historians) say that the monks would not have made such a huge order from such a distant place, would not they know that the providers were reliable.

A curious historical fact is that, seemingly, medieval Basques did not like whale meat and they sold it to the French and Castilians instead. They whaled apparently only because of the blubber - and the money, of course.

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