Accessing Waterbirds: A perspective into zooarchaeological assemblages and tax records in castles Kastelholm and Raseborg in the northern Baltic Sea

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Waterbirds were important seasonal resources in the subsistence of prehistoric people in the Baltic area. However, a more detailed analysis of the importance of birds in the late medieval and early modern period is yet to be discussed. This paper aims to explore the economic value and role of waterbirds in the economy of the castles at Kastelholm and at Raseborg in the northern Baltic Sea area. The study is based on a comparison of written castle accounts from the mid-16th century and zooarchaeological assemblages recovered at the two sites. Despite easy access to water resources, the two castles had different economic interests and ways to obtain waterbirds, which is evident in the species representation of the zooarchaeological record. The accounts often refer only to waterbirds, or seabirds (sjofaglar) in Swedish, but they were mostly considered as high-status foods as larger amounts of the birds were consumed at the castle bailiff's table. From Kastelhom, waterbirds were also transported to the castle of Stockholm, the King's residence, and therefore they had a wider market value than as a mere seasonal commodity at the castle. For Raseborg, waterbirds seem only to have been consumed in the castle and no export can be seen in the accounts. Prior to transportation, the waterbirds were processed for preservation, and not only for cooking purposes. The difference in the ecological setting and habitat for the waterbirds is reflected in both the accounts and zooarchaeological assemblages of the two administrative castles of the Swedish crown.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Pages (from-to)929-938
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 615 History and Archaeology
  • Baltic Sea
  • Waterbirds
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Historical accounts
  • Castle

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