ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202203.0210.v1
Subject: Arts & Humanities, Archaeology Keywords: oysters; eastern Baltic Sea; zooarchaeology; archaeomalacology; written sources; archaeological finds; medieval; early modern
Online: 15 March 2022 (11:23:59 CET)
Along most of the European littoral, oysters were appreciated as a wholesome and palatable food since the Stone Age, yet were transported much further from their natural habitats when long-distance trade in marine foodstuffs began in medieval times. The brackish waters of the Baltic Sea are not considered a suitable environment for this mussel, and therefore all archaeological oyster shell finds are the result of import to the eastern Baltic. In this study, over 1000 shells found in different medieval and early modern archaeological contexts in Estonia were analysed and the obtained data recorded in a data repository. Some conclusions are set out, based on shell size and shape, and breakage traces, but more detailed taphonomic studies are left for the future. The study identifies the earliest imports of oysters recorded by archaeological material and written sources. Both show records not much earlier than the 16th century AD. Although no information is preserved about the exact origin of oysters imported to Estonia, the oyster beds most probably exploited are those in the central eastern North Sea, i.e. the Wadden Sea.