[MARMAM] Paper on Portuguese Historical Whaling

Escola de Mar - Cristina Brito cristina.brito at escolademar.pt
Sat Aug 20 07:13:31 PDT 2011

Dear colleagues,

The following paper has recently been published in the journal Anthrozoos:

"Medieval and Early Modern Whaling in Portugal"

Mainland Portugal is not renowned for having been a whaling nation of  
significance. However, preliminary studies have brought to light  
enough historical references to suggest that whaling occurred from at  
least the 13th century, and the present work identifies 38 historical  
sources documenting whale use or whaling on the Portuguese coast  
between 1201 and 1728. A peak of whale-related sources occurred during  
the 13th and 14th centuries, and almost all Portuguese accounts are  
contemporary to those found from the French and Spanish Basque  
countries, such that the beginning of the whaling activity seems to be  
coeval. No geographical cluster of whaling activities can be  
established?they seem to have been unevenly scattered along the entire  
coastline. Nor can a chronological north-south movement of coastal  
whaling activities be discerned. The geographical and chronological  
patterns give support to the assumption that whaling was not  
introduced to Portugal by the Basques, who are known to have spread  
westward from the French Labourd (11th century), via Golf of Biscay,  
to Asturias, and southward to Galicia (14th century). Rather,  
Portuguese whale use seems to have originated independently of Basque  
influence. Several of the sources specify "black whales" as the target  
species. This is consistent with modern knowledge about the  
distribution and migration patterns of North Atlantic right whales  
during Basque medieval and early modern whaling. The Portuguese  
sources are not clear as to numbers of whales taken, nor to the  
whaling technology used, but the activity was sufficiently well  
organized and developed to warrant the levying of tithes in the feudal  
system of 13th-century Portugal.


For more information about this historical whaling research please  
contact me: cristina.brito at escolademar.pt or escolademar at gmail.com



Escola de Mar
Edifício ICAT - Campus da FCUL
Campo Grande 1749-016 Lisboa


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