Late Iron Age Whaling in Scandinavia

Andreas Hennius*, John Ljungkvist, Steve Ashby, Richard Hagan, Samantha Presslee, Tom Christensen, Juuri Peets, Gustavsson Rudolf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of bone from marine mammals as raw material in the manufacturing of gaming pieces in the Scandinavian late Iron Age have been observed and discussed during the last few years.
New empirical studies have created a chronology as well as a typology showing how the design of the gaming pieces is tightly connected to different choices of raw material from antler in the roman and migration period, to whalebone in the 6 th century and walrus in the 10th century.
The ocular examination of the whalebone can, however, rarely go beyond a determination of bone from cetaceans. The following article presents the results from 68 samples of whalebone gaming pieces that have been species determined using ZooMSms. The results show a consistent use of bones from North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and is thus a strong argument for there being an active and largescale hunt for this type of whale starting inthe 6 h century. However, the manufacturing of gaming pieces was most likely not the reason
for hunting whales, but merely a by-product that has survived in the archaeological record. Of greater importance was probably baleen, meat and the blubber that could be rendered into oil. The oil might have been an additional trading product on the far-reaching trade networks developing during the period.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Maritime Archaeology
Early online date19 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Dec 2022

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