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Fish & Ships

 | 
Emmanuel Botte
, 
Victoria Leitch

Première partie. Approches historiographiques et technologiques

The fish remains from the Cardo V sewer: New insights into consumption and the fishing economy of Herculaneum

Erica Rowan

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 Gallant 1985, p. 31-44.
  • 2 Curtis 2005, p. 31-34; Marzano 2013.

1The role of fish consumption and fishing in the Roman world as an important part of the diet and food economy has, until recently, been underplayed1. However, during the past decade, renewed scholarly interest in the use and acquisition of fish during the Roman period, and in particular the production and transport of salted fish products, has demonstrated the falsity of that view2. The fish economy is much larger than was previously thought and although fish did not feature prominently in the diets of all the inhabitants of the Roman Empire, those living by the coast benefited from access to both salted and fresh fish. Wealthy individuals were prepared to pay for its transportation inland. Current debates also ask who was consuming fish and how far down the social scale they went.

  • 3 Trakadas 2005; Curtis 1991, 2001; Desse-Berset, Desse 2000; Wilson 2006; Slim et al. 2007; Botte (...)
  • 4 Giner 2010, p. 66-75; Bernal Casasola 2010, p. 87-95 ; Kron 2008, p. 205; Marzano 2013, p. 30-33.
  • 5 Pliny HN 9, 32; Oppian Halieutika; Athen. Deipnosophistae, Galen Alim. Fac. 3,6-8; Apicius De re (...)

2Fish salting factories have the advantage of leaving behind very visible archaeological traces, including large concrete vats and occasionally enormous collections of fish bones. Consequently, some of these factories are well studied and much is known about the species of fish being processed and the volume of production. Amphora studies also tell us about the distribution of fish products3. However, very little is known about the consumption of fresh fish in the Roman world. Multiple types of fishing equipment have been found at sites around the Empire, including different sized hooks and fragments of net, attesting to the widespread practice of fishing throughout the Mediterranean4. The ancient sources, including Pliny, Athenaios, Oppian, Galen and Apicius shed some light on the types of fish that were consumed, although the validity of their statements may be questioned and matching ancient terms to specific taxa problematic5. Thus while our physical evidence is widespread, it is also extremely fragmentary and our data from the ancient sources is biased towards the elite. This has made it difficult to assess the economic impact of fishing on towns and the organization of fishing in a regional sense, as well as the cost of fresh fish and the buying power of the consumer.

  • 6 Otoliths or ‘earstones’ are calcium carbonate structures in the form of aragonite located in the (...)

3This chapter utilizes fish data from the Cardo V sewer in Herculaneum to discuss the fishing economy in the Bay of Naples with a particular focus on the acquisition, purchase and consumption of fresh fish. This assemblage contained fish bones and otoliths6 and is one of the largest urban domestic collections of fish remains from the Roman world.

1. The Cardo V assemblage

  • 7 Monteix 2010, p. 288; Wallace-Hadrill 1994, p. 117.
  • 8 Maiuri 1958, p. 462-466; Monteix 2010, p. 411-420.
  • 9 Andrews 2012.
  • 10 Camardo 2006-2007.

4The Cardo V sewer in Herculaneum is located beneath Insula Orientalis II in the north-eastern corner of the site. During the first quarter of the 1st c. AD, the insula, with its combination of commercial and domestic spaces, was built to subsidize the construction of the adjacent palaestra/religious complex7. The ground floor shops of Ins. Or. II contained a bakery, a wine shop and a gem shop, amongst others8. The domestic spaces consisted of ground and upper floor apartments where people lived either above or behind their shops or in independent units. These commercial/domestic units varied in size from 57.7 m2 to 848 m2. The sewer was fed by the ground and upper floor latrine shafts of the shops and apartments above with only three small rooftop drains to allow fresh water into the tunnel9. The biological material from the sewer consequently consists almost entirely of human and kitchen waste. The absence of an exit point at the southern end of the sewer, combined with the absence of a source of running water, turned the sewer into a long cesspit that needed to be cleaned out periodically10.

  • 11 The material from Herculaneum was provided by the Herculaneum Conservation Project (HCP), a Packa (...)
  • 12 Robinson 2007a; Robinson 2007b. Recognizing the valuable nature of this material, the entire cont (...)

5In 2007 the entire contents of the north-south branch of the Cardo V sewer were systematically excavated by the Herculaneum Conservation Project using a system of one meter square quadrants11. Approximately, 10% or 1140 L of organic material was processed through the use of sieving and flotation12. Microscopic analysis of the samples revealed that there had been excellent biological preservation of carbonized and mineralized seeds as well as eggshell, seashell and bone. Hundreds of fish otoliths and fish bones were recovered as well. The flot was sieved to 0.5 mm and the residue to 2 mm to ensure the recovery of extremely small fish bones.

1.1. Identification and characteristics of the Cardo V fish remains

  • 13 The otoliths from a fifth quadrant, Q5-6, were briefly studied. In the interests of time only one (...)
  • 14 Lombarte et al. 2006; Rowan forthcoming.
  • 15 Froese, Pauly 2013.

6The author sorted material from four sewer quadrants for otoliths and any remaining fish bones (13 otolith samples and 9 fish bone samples) that had not been sorted on-site. (fig. 1, Table 1)13. Combined with material sorted on-site by other members of the excavation team, the samples produced over 300 hundred otoliths and several hundred fish bones. There were 170 otoliths (56% of the total number recovered) identified using the AFORO online database and reference material provided by Rebecca Nicholson at Oxford Archaeology14. Including Nicholson’s initial examination of the fish bones, a total of 43 different fish taxa have been identified. There are 13 taxa unique to the otoliths, 21 to the fish bones and nine which have been recovered as both otoliths and bones (Table 2). This was the first instance of the use of an online tool for the identification of ancient otolith specimens. The ability of the database to allow identification of otoliths down to species level proved to be extremely beneficial since, with certain fish families, it is difficult to differentiate between species of the same family based only on the skeletal remains. This is particularly true of the Sparidae or sea bream family, and thus the database was invaluable as the Cardo V assemblage is dominated by sea breams. MNI calculations based on the otolith material resulted in 84 Sparidae individuals which comprised 63% of the total number of fish from the four quadrants. In addition to those that could only be identified to family, the sea bream otoliths were represented by five species and three genera. The remaining 34 taxa are generally small coastal fish such as anchovies and mackerel with a few examples of larger fish such as sea bass. All of the taxa can be found in the Mediterranean and live in either shallow coastal waters or estuaries15. None of the taxa lives exclusively in fresh water and thus the assemblage represents the results of estuary and coastal fishing.

Fig. 1. Plan of Ins. Or. II and the Cardo V sewer. The arrows point to the study quadrant locations while the square indicates the entry point of the latrine shaft situated in apartment II.7. (Monteix 2010, pl. h.t. V with permission)

Fig. 1. Plan of Ins. Or. II and the Cardo V sewer. The arrows point to the study quadrant locations while the square indicates the entry point of the latrine shaft situated in apartment II.7. (Monteix 2010, pl. h.t. V with permission)

Table 1. Identified otolith and fish samples from the Cardo V sewer

Table 1. Identified otolith and fish samples from the Cardo V sewer

* Only a single otolithfrom quadrant 5-6 was photographed and identified

2. Consumption of fish in Herculaneum

7The presence of both the otoliths and fish bones within the Cardo V sewer puts us in the unique position of being able to differentiate fish consumption habits. Broadly speaking, in Ins. Or. II, fish were eaten either whole, in pieces or as fish sauce.

  • 16 While it is possible that some of the otoliths had smoothed edges due to degradation in the sewer (...)
  • 17 Froese, Pauly 2013.

8Whole fish are represented by the otoliths or by the otoliths and the bones (See Table 2). These fish were not only brought back to the apartment whole, but were also consumed whole. The passage of the bones and otoliths through the human digestive tract is observable in the flattening and smoothing of some of the vertebrae and otoliths respectively (fig. 2)16. Unsurprisingly, all of these taxa are small fish, often less than 20 cm in length17. This category includes the many varieties of sea bream as well as the damsel fish, greater weever and anchovies. These species, except for the damsel fish, are still eaten whole in the Bay of Naples today.

  • 18 At the moment, distinguishing fresh from salted fish from the faunal remains alone is not possibl (...)
  • 19 The bones of the eels and garfish recovered from the sewer were from undersized specimens and as (...)

9Fish that are larger than 20 cm and represented exclusively by skeletal remains were probably eaten as pieces of fish18. Since there is such excellent otolith preservation, in some cases the absence of an otolith suggests the absence of the head of the fish19. This category includes taxa such as eels, seabass, garfish, wrasse and mullet.

  • 20 The mosaics from the House of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus in Pompeii, the primary producer of fish sa (...)
  • 21 Carannante 2008-2009, p. 44.

10Finally, the quantity of anchovy, sardine, blotched picarel and mackerel bones suggests fish sauce consumption by the inhabitants of Ins. Or. II20. Not only were these four species the most commonly used varieties in the production of fish sauce in the Roman world, but they are the only small fish, under 20 cm, from the sewer represented by a significantly large number of bones but relatively few otoliths, or in some cases, as with the blotched picarel, are represented only by the bones21. Thus, while on occasion anchovies and varieties of picarel were consumed fresh, they were most often eaten in the form of fish sauce.

3. Economic implications of the Cardo V assemblage

  • 22 Monteix 2010, p. 255-288.

11The sewer, as a closed context, represents waste generated almost exclusively by those working and living in the shops and apartments of Ins. Or. II. It is possible that customers could have used the latrines located in the ground floor tabernae. However, none of the shops contains seating or appears to sell goods that would have promoted extended stays in the building, thus reducing customer use of the latrines22. Therefore, when we discuss fish consumption in Ins. Or. II, we are speaking about a limited number of people. By using evidence from the sizes of the various shops and apartments, we can begin to infer the socioeconomic status of the residents of Ins. Or. II and, by proxy, the fishing economy in the Bay of Naples.

  • 23 Andrews 2006.
  • 24 Id., vol 2, p. 357.
  • 25 Giornali dei Nuovi Scavi di Ercolano, 1933 ; Andrews 2006, vol. 2, p. 101-109.
  • 26 The second floor of the insula is not well preserved and it is also possible that this area was d (...)

12The shops and apartments situated above the excavated portion of the sewer, Ins. Or. II.6 to II.14, range in size from 57.7 m2 at II.10 to a possible 848 m2 at II.723. In addition to significant variations in size, these spaces also differed in function, room sizes and amount of living space. For example, the wine shop at II.9 consisted of two ground floor rooms and an upper floor room that was reached by a wooden staircase24. Despite having a front room entirely dedicated to wine sales, it is likely that the owners of the shop lived in this unit, using either the backroom or upper floor room as domestic space. On the other hand, II.7 consists of an upper floor apartment, stretching over two storeys with views over the palaestra/religious space below, a second floor latrine and a kitchen25. Moreover, at 848 m2 this apartment was larger than some of Herculaneum’s atrium houses26. Despite the fact that most of the habitation space in Ins. Or. II was on upper floors, the socioeconomic range of the inhabitants was likely similar to many of the other insula blocks in Herculaneum and Pompeii with its mix of small to medium sized shops and homes in addition to a wealthier house. How does this architectural data relate to the fish remains?

  • 27 Camardo 2006-2007.

13Patterns of fish consumption in the insula can be understood through an analysis of the ubiquity and diversity of the fish assemblage from the Cardo V sewer. The material in the sewer was deposited vertically through the latrine shafts, but the downward slope of the sewer and gentle flushing by waste water caused the material to shift slowly in a horizontal direction towards the south27. Consequently, the material situated below a latrine shaft does not directly correspond to the apartment above. Nevertheless, accounting for an increase in the density of material at the southern end of the sewer, the excavation of the assemblage, stratigraphically quadrant by quadrant, has provided both a spatial and chronological view of the material.

14Ubiquity scores simply count the presence or absence of an item in a sample, in this case fish bones and otoliths. Thus if there is a high degree of ubiquity in both the quadrants and strata, then we can conclude that fish was widely consumed across both space and time. The four quadrants (Q3-4, 13-14, 23-24, 49-50) that were analysed for their fish remains span the length of the sewer (fig. 1). Out of the 30 taxa identified from the fish bones, 59% were found in multiple quadrants and 100% were found in multiple strata. Out of the 22 taxa identified through the otoliths, 60% were found in more than one quadrant and 71% were recovered from multiple strata. Together the high quadrant and strata ubiquity scores for both the fish bones and the otoliths indicate that fish were eaten by multiple inhabitants living along the length of Ins. Or. II for the entire span of time it required the biological assemblage to accumulate, approximately 10 years.

  • 28 It is possible that boneless fillets of fish were also eaten, which would not survive in the arch (...)

15However, while fish remains were recovered from multiple quadrants and strata, the low range of taxa per sample, 2-15, clearly demonstrates that only particular species were consumed on a regular basis. Sea breams, picarels and damsel fish had the highest ubiquity scores indicating that they were the most frequently eaten varieties of fish and in the largest quantities28. The remaining types, such as sea bass and eels were eaten on a less frequent basis, for reasons which will be explained in the following section.

16Although the sewer material shifted during deposition, the unidirectional nature of the shift means that material from the quadrants can be roughly associated with a particular portion of the insula (fig. 1). As can be seen in fig. 3, Q13-14 contains both the largest range of fish species and almost twice the amount of fish as any of the other three quadrants. Q13-14 is situated six quadrants (or 6 m) downstream from the latrine drain of the large apartment at Ins. Or. II.7. The six intervening quadrants are situated beneath the bakery. Since the bakery did not contain living space is it likely that the majority of the fish material in this quadrant came from II.7. Although in theory Q13-14 could represent material deposited at any point north of this quadrant, the absence of a source of forced water to flush out the sewer means that the deposit moved slowly. It is unsurprising that the inhabitants of the largest apartment were consuming more fish and a wider range of fish than the other residents of the insula.

Fig. 2. Left and right Sparidae otoliths (sagittae) from Q13-14 in the Cardo V sewer showing varying signs of degradation and moothing due to digestion.

Fig. 2. Left and right Sparidae otoliths (sagittae) from Q13-14 in the Cardo V sewer showing varying signs of degradation and moothing due to digestion.

Fig. 3. Number of taxa and the number of fish per quadrant based on the otolith results.

Fig. 3. Number of taxa and the number of fish per quadrant based on the otolith results.
  • 29 Athenaios focuses on the rare and expensive fish, at one point complaining that the fishermen in (...)

17Taking into account the various sizes of the shops and apartments, we find that fresh fish are consumed by people of varying financial means. Economically, this suggests that particular species of fish, usually the smaller types, were both inexpensive and habitually available for purchase in Herculaneum. The ancient sources and even modern scholars have suggested that fresh fish must have been extremely expensive, unlike the inexpensive and widely available garum29. However, fresh fish in Herculaneum must have been relatively affordable, otherwise the Cardo V otoliths would be restricted to the southern end of the sewer in quadrants downstream from II.7. This is clearly not the case (fig. 3).

4. Herculaneum fish market

  • 30 Marzano 2013, p. 273.

18The composition of the fish market was dictated by financial and ecological pressures. Firstly, fishermen focused on catching fish that the market demanded. Market demands in turn were dictated by preference and cost. People preferred to eat particular species of fish due to a combination of personal taste and social expectations30. However, in a cyclical fashion, personal taste and social expectations were probably dictated by the environment of the Bay of Naples. The fish that were the closest and easiest to catch were probably the least expensive, and thus the most popular, at least amongst the middle and lower classes.

4. 1. Fishing in the Bay of Naples

19It is this combination of species habitat requirements, fishing techniques and market pressures that enable us to reconstruct fishing in the Bay of Naples. Since the habitat requirements of the 43 fish taxa, including migratory patterns, spawning grounds and feeding patterns are dictated by nature and not by man, fisherman had to operate within certain parameters. In reconstructing fishing patterns in the Bay, we must firstly recognize and subsequently also adhere to these parameters in our analyses.

  • 31 Vogel, Märker 2010; Pescatore et al. 2001. Herculaneum was situated on a tufo terrace surrounded (...)

20The fish recovered from the sewer inhabit two broad ecological areas, coastal marine waters or brackish/estuary waters (Table 2). As the Bay is fed by only a single large river, the Sarno, the estuary zone in the Bay was restricted to the marshy area south of Pompeii where the fresh water from the Sarno mixed with the salt water of the Mediterranean31. There are only three taxa that live primarily in freshwater while the remaining 40 taxa can be found in marine waters. Eleven of these taxa are migratory and thus would have been in the Bay of Naples only during particular times of the year. Excluding these migratory taxa, 29 taxa were non-migratory and thus were available in the Bay of Naples throughout most of the year.

4.1.1. Fishing in the Sarno Estuary

  • 32 Koutrakis, Tsikliras 2002.
  • 33 Froese, Pauly 2013; Olivar et al. 2001, p. 111; Ragonese et al. 2003, p. 100.
  • 34 Somarakis et al. 2006, p. 282; Vøllestad 2011.
  • 35 Whitehead 1986, vol. 1.
  • 36 Stergiou, Karpouzi 2002, p. 222; Froese, Pauly 2013 ; Whitehead 1986, vol. 2.
  • 37 Muñiz 2010, p. 42.

21Estuary waters are used by many fish species as a spawning ground. Consequently, at particular times of the year the number of species and the number of individuals that can be found in a river estuary will increase dramatically32. The environmental data for the fish assemblage recovered from the Cardo V sewer, including migratory patterns and spawning times, indicates that fishing in the Sarno estuary was a seasonal activity (Table 2). The summer would have been the peak fishing season as many valuable migratory species include anchovy, Mediterranean horse mackerel and sea bass entered the Bay of Naples and the Sarno at that time33. The other peak season would have been the winter when the pilchard arrived and the Anguillidae made their journey from the river to the sea34. None of the non-migratory taxa recovered from the Cardo V sewer lives exclusively in an estuary habitat and thus there was no need for large scale fishing to take place in the estuary outside of the two peak seasons. Young Sardinella live in estuaries, but the adults live in coastal areas. Since Sardinella live in schools it is more likely that they were caught along the coast using casting or draw nets35. The mullets and drums are families of bottom dwelling fish that can live either in coastal or brackish waters 36. While they could be caught with a simple line and hook, the easiest way to catch bottom dwelling fish is to use drag or seine nets37. It was probably easier to use drag and seine nets along the coast than in the muddy estuary waters and thus mullets and drums were also likely caught along the coast.

  • 38 Froese, Pauly 2013; Muñiz 2010, p. 41-44.

22In Herculaneum, the price of fish gathered from the Sarno estuary depended both on the season and the characteristics of the species. For example, the European anchovy, the European pilchard and the Mediterranean horse mackerel are all schooling species and therefore would have been caught in large numbers using casting or seine nets38. The majority of the catches were probably used for the production of fish sauce but as the otolith evidence from the sewer has shown, some were obviously sold fresh in the markets of the Bay of Naples. The abundance of these shoaling species during their spawning season would have made them inexpensive despite the need to transport them approximately 16 km from the Sarno to Herculaneum.

Table 2. Identified taxa from the fish bone and otolith samples recovered from the Cardo V sewer

Table 2. Identified taxa from the fish bone and otolith samples recovered from the Cardo V sewer

*Information from Whitehead 1986 and Froese, Pauly 2013.
** GN = gill net. Method of capture is based on archaeological and modern data. See Bekker-Nielsen (2002), Thomas (2010) and Muñiz (2010) for good discussions of fishing gear in the ancient world and Sassu
et al. (2001), Colloca et al. (2004), Stergiou, Karpouzi (2002) for discussions of modern fishing methods in the Mediterraneanand Tyrrhenian sea.

  • 39 Martial 2.37.4.
  • 40 Gallant 1985, p. 67; Whitehead 1986, vol. 2.; Nicholson 1997 ; Froese, Pauly 2013.

23Sea bass, on the other hand, especially fresh, would have been a far more rare and expensive item than mackerels and anchovies. The ecological characteristics of this species would have driven up the cost, further enhancing the Roman belief that it was a prized item39. Sea bass are solitary creatures and can grow up to 1 m in length, which meant that could only be caught using either a single line and hook or a seine net40. The use of a line and hook is a very time consuming activity while the operation of a seine net requires the participation of multiple people. Although sea bass spend the summer months in coastal water or in river mouths they do not come right up to the shore and would probably have had to have been caught from boats. The presence of sea bass bones in only one sample from the Cardo V sewer suggests that the majority of the inhabitants of Ins. Or. II could not afford this type of fish. The absence of sea bass otoliths further suggests that only a portion of a sea bass was purchased and not a whole fish (though we must remember that only 10% of the excavated material was sampled). Thus unlike anchovies and sardine that could be quickly caught in their hundreds from the shore, the effort and equipment required to catch a single sea bass was considerably higher, making them an extremely expensive foodstuff.

4.1.2. Coastal Fishing

  • 41 Pinardi et al. 2004, p. 1244-1246.
  • 42 In Italy today, the majority of small coastal fish are still caught on the continental shelf by i (...)

24The Mediterranean Sea is characterized as having a narrow coastal shelf that descends into deep basins. The coastal shelf of the western coast of Italy is particular narrow, extending only 10-20 km from the shore before the sea level reaches depths of more than 200 m41. All the taxa, except for the Anguillidae and Percidae, inhabit the coastal shelf for at least a portion of the year. As regards fishing, even fishing from boats did not need to be done far from the shore nor in deep waters42. Again, similar to the estuary fish, the price of fish caught in coastal waters depended on migratory patterns and species characteristics.

  • 43 Froese, Pauly 2013.
  • 44 Froese, Pauly 2013; Ragonese 2003, p. 101.
  • 45 Sbrana et al. 2007; Desse-Berset, Desse 2000.
  • 46 Whitehead 1986, vol. 2; Froese, Pauly 2013.
  • 47 Whitehead 1986, vol. 2; Stergiou, Karpouzi 2002, p. 223.
  • 48 It should be noted that seine and gillnets are not designed to catch a single species and many of (...)
  • 49 Froese, Pauly 2013.

25Eight of the coastal fish are migratory including three species of Sparidae, the horse mackerel and the European conger eel43. Adult horse mackerel live in large schools, coming closer to the coast and the surface during the summer but moving out into deeper waters, up to depths of 600 m, in the winter44. As a schooling species they were caught in large volumes using seine or gillnets and sold fresh as well as for fish sauce and salting45. Bogue and black sea bream are characterized as gregarious species and, similar to horse mackerel, were also probably caught using seine nets, gillnets and even long lines46. Red porgy, like bogue and black sea bream, live in inshore waters for most of the year47. However, there are solitary species and thus could not be caught in large numbers in nets, but instead were probably caught using either a single line and hook, long lines, or occasionally in seine nets48. These four taxa were probably inexpensive when in season, especially as they could be fished right from the Herculaneum shore. Ecologically, the conger eels are very different, living near the coast during their juvenile stage but moving out to deeper waters as adults49. It is probably for this reason that all the conger eel bones found in the sewer were from small individuals.

  • 50 Whitehead 1986, vol. 2.

26The remaining 21 taxa are all non-migratory coastal fish. This does not necessarily mean that all the taxa were available throughout the year, simply, that they were present in the Bay of Naples in steady numbers for multiple seasons. Winter, particularly January, would have been the time of least availability as some of the species, including hake and the pearly razorfish spend the winter in deeper waters50.

  • 51 Whitehead, vol. 2. 1986; Froese, Pauly 2013.
  • 52 Muñiz 2010, p. 34-36.

27During the warmer months these non-migratory fish can be found in three broad environmental habitats, which, in turn, determined fishing methods and cost. Seven of the taxa can be found in benthic environments; living primarily on the sea floor51. All seven types could be caught using tridents or spears (although with the exception of skates, that was probably not the preferred method)52. Using drag nets or seine nets from the shore was a more effective and efficient way of capturing these fish as many could be caught at once. However, unlike using a casting net from the shore to catch small anchovies, the use of these drag and seine nets would have required the cooperation of multiple people and much larger nets. The increase in equipment and manpower no doubt increased the cost of these taxa and it is not surprising that the majority of the bones of these benthic species recovered from the sewer are from small specimens. The greater weever, the smallest of the seven, is the only taxon found in significant quantities, with otoliths recovered from four samples.

  • 53 Whitehead 1986, vol 2; Froese, Pauly 2013.
  • 54 Froese, Pauly 2013.
  • 55 Id.
  • 56 Oliver, Massuti 1995, p. 184.

28There are 9 taxa which live in a demersal or benthopelagic habitat, just above the sea floor53. This group includes the majority of the Sparidae and thus most of the fish found in the Cardo V assemblage. Long lines and seine nets would have been efficient and effective ways to catch the Sparidae. Since they are all approximately the same size and live above rocky or sandy bottoms in inshore waters they were likely caught at the same time, especially if casting nets were use 54. Their abundance and ease of capture right off the Herculaneum shore no doubt drove down the cost, making them one of the most frequently available and inexpensive types of fresh fish for sale. Hake are larger than the Sparidae and live in deeper waters, often between 70-370 m55. They too could be caught using long lines, seine and gillnets but since they lived farther from the shore more effort was required to catch them or they were a more rare catch if fisherman had to wait until they swam into shallower waters. Today they are caught primarily by trawling in the Mediterranean although gillnets are used in the Tyrrhenian Sea56.

  • 57 Charbonnel et al. 2002; Guidetti 2004 ; Domingues et al. 2005, p.4052 ; Froese, Pauly 2013.
  • 58 Wallace-Hadrill 2011, p. 103; Cinque, Irollo 2008.
  • 59 Guidetti 2004; Froese, Pauly 2013.
  • 60 It is possible that the inhabitants of Ins. Or. II caught these fish themselves since little equi (...)

29The final category of coastal fish are those that tend to inhabit rocky reefs or man-made underwater structures including artificial reefs and breakwaters57. Shipwrecks and the underwater concrete structures of the many harbours in the Bay of Naples would have increased the available habitat space for these species. Herculaneum’s harbour was likely located east of the palaestra, where one of its two surrounding rivers emptied into the sea58. Thus if the harbour had a breakwater or permanent underwater structures, it is likely that these rocky reef species could be caught there. Although blotched picarel usually inhabit coastal pelagic waters, it too has been found to live on the external side of man-made breakwaters59. A single hook and line or traps and weirs would have been used to collect these fish from the reefs. It would have been impractical to use nets on the reefs as the risk of damaging the net would have been quite high. Dip nets and a single line and hook would have been effective when fishing from the harbour. The tendency of damsel fish to inhabit artificial structures may explain their large presence in the sewer assemblage60.

  • 61 De Sena, Ikämeimo 2003.

30Using the Cardo V fish data, combined with the ecological habitats of the fish we can create a broad reconstruction of the fish market in Herculaneum. The market would have been dominated by smaller coastal non-migratory fish that had been caught that day or the previous night, particularly the sea breams. Migratory fish, such as anchovies and horse mackerel would also have been available fresh when they were in season. Larger non-migratory fish, such as garfish or rays would have occasionally been for sale fresh, although probably divided up and sold as portions. It is likely that larger fish were also salted. Finally, in addition to fresh and salted fish, the inhabitants of Herculaneum could purchase either locally made or imported fish sauce from Spain and North Africa61.

31The cost of fish varied considerably and underwent significant fluctuations depending on the time of year. In general, small schooling species were the least expensive while large migratory species such as the sea bass were the most expensive as they were most difficult to catch. Fish were least expensive in the summer, when the coast and the Sarno estuary benefited from the arrival of numerous migratory species. At this time, people could choose between the migratory varieties and those that were available year round such as the non-migratory benthopelagic coastal fish, further driving down the cost. The migratory nature of some of the larger fish, including the eels and mackerels, would have made them widely available and thus inexpensive for a short period of time. Estuary fish such as sea bass, because of the distance they had to travel to Herculaneum, were probably always slightly more expensive than the coastal species and this is reflected in the rarity of these species in the Cardo V assemblage. Thus overall, each fish species must be considered in light of its habitat requirement, migratory tendencies and the methods and equipment necessary to capture it.

Conclusions

32The ubiquity and variety of fish recovered from the Cardo V sewer clearly demonstrates that fishing and the sale of fish were important parts of the Herculaneum economy. In order to obtain all 43 fish taxa, fisherman had to fish from the shore, from boats along the coast and in the Sarno estuary. In addition, they had to use a range of equipment that included hooks and lines, spears, traps and a wide variety of nets such as casting nets, drag nets and seine nets. It is illogical to think that so much time, effort and investment would have been put into an activity if it was not economically viable. Clearly there was a market for these catches and the people of Herculaneum could not only afford but obviously enjoyed the variety of fish that was made available for sale. The inhabitants of Ins. Or. II were of middle to lower socioeconomic standing and yet had the desire and the financial means to purchase a wide variety of fish and fish sauce. The presence of otoliths and bones suggests that many of these fish were bought fresh and then taken home to be fried or included in soups and stews, and thus were consumed whole. The notion that fresh fish was too expensive a commodity for all but the very rich clearly does not apply to Herculaneum.

  • 62 DE 5.
  • 63 I would like to thank Dr. Sammy De Grave for his generous help in sorting out the fish taxa and t (...)

33In the Edict of Maximum Prices fish are categorized as being from the sea, from rivers or sold as salted products ; somewhat helpful yet extremely broad categories62. In the absence of actual prices, the cost of fish will have to remain relative, but that does not mean that prices cannot be understood in relation to both other fish and other goods. Determining the relative costs of these many fish species requires a careful examination of the individual characteristics of each taxa and an understanding of the effort required to catch them. The geographical and ecological characteristics of a region and factors such as seasonality must always be considered. Much of this information comes from modern research into fish stocks, spawning patterns and fishing methods63. Fresh fish was an important part of the diet and the economy in Herculaneum. Understanding the importance of fresh fish in other coastal regions of the empire will require a similar combination of archaeological, scientific and ecological research at other sites.

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Notes

1 Gallant 1985, p. 31-44.

2 Curtis 2005, p. 31-34; Marzano 2013.

3 Trakadas 2005; Curtis 1991, 2001; Desse-Berset, Desse 2000; Wilson 2006; Slim et al. 2007; Botte 2009.

4 Giner 2010, p. 66-75; Bernal Casasola 2010, p. 87-95 ; Kron 2008, p. 205; Marzano 2013, p. 30-33.

5 Pliny HN 9, 32; Oppian Halieutika; Athen. Deipnosophistae, Galen Alim. Fac. 3,6-8; Apicius De re coquinaria 9-10; Wilkins 2005, p. 27-28.

6 Otoliths or ‘earstones’ are calcium carbonate structures in the form of aragonite located in the skull of bony fish. Each fish has three pairs of otoliths, the sagittae, asteriscus and the lapillus that function together to provide the fish with a sense of orientation in the water. In most bony fish, the sagittae are far larger than the asteriscus and lapillus and thus are the type most frequently used for identification, sizing and aging (Harvey et al. 2000). The shape of an otolith is highly species specific with the left and right sides often acting as mirror images of each other (except in the case of the flatfish) (Campana 2004).

7 Monteix 2010, p. 288; Wallace-Hadrill 1994, p. 117.

8 Maiuri 1958, p. 462-466; Monteix 2010, p. 411-420.

9 Andrews 2012.

10 Camardo 2006-2007.

11 The material from Herculaneum was provided by the Herculaneum Conservation Project (HCP), a Packard Humanities Institute initiative in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei and the British School at Rome. For further information see: Stanley-Price, 2007; Herculaneum Conservation Project 2009- 2010. For the excavation of the Cardo V sewer by HCP, see: Wallace-Hadrill et al. 2008.

12 Robinson 2007a; Robinson 2007b. Recognizing the valuable nature of this material, the entire contents of the sewer were retained and the remaining 90% is currently in storage in Herculaneum.

13 The otoliths from a fifth quadrant, Q5-6, were briefly studied. In the interests of time only one otolith from the sample was identified as it belong to a taxa (Merluccius merluccius L.) that had not been previously identified in the other four quadrants.

14 Lombarte et al. 2006; Rowan forthcoming.

15 Froese, Pauly 2013.

16 While it is possible that some of the otoliths had smoothed edges due to degradation in the sewer, degradation due to digestion is the more likely cause. Otoliths will not survive in acidic conditions, instead requiring alkaline conditions for their long term survival in the archaeological record. The otoliths would have spent far more time in the sewer than they did passing through the human digestive tract and if there had been acidic conditions in the sewer then the otoliths would probably have broken down entirely. Jones 1986; Jones 1990, p. 143.

17 Froese, Pauly 2013.

18 At the moment, distinguishing fresh from salted fish from the faunal remains alone is not possible and it is likely that some of the fish recovered only as bones were originally salted.

19 The bones of the eels and garfish recovered from the sewer were from undersized specimens and as these taxa already have small otoliths the absence of eel and garfish otoliths in the sewer may have been due to preservation issues.

20 The mosaics from the House of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus in Pompeii, the primary producer of fish sauce in the region, specifically mention the use of mackerel in his garum (Cooley, Cooley 2004; Curtis 1984). In Portugal, at the fish salting factories of Quinta do Marim, Travessa de Frei Gaspar and Troia, sardines and anchovies dominated the faunal remains. Desse-Berset, Desse 2000, p. 86-91.

21 Carannante 2008-2009, p. 44.

22 Monteix 2010, p. 255-288.

23 Andrews 2006.

24 Id., vol 2, p. 357.

25 Giornali dei Nuovi Scavi di Ercolano, 1933 ; Andrews 2006, vol. 2, p. 101-109.

26 The second floor of the insula is not well preserved and it is also possible that this area was divided into smaller units. Nevertheless, these units were probably owned by slightly wealthier residents since all the space would be dedicated to living quarters unlike the commercial/domestic units below.

27 Camardo 2006-2007.

28 It is possible that boneless fillets of fish were also eaten, which would not survive in the archaeological record. However, boneless fillets could only come from larger fish, which would be more difficult to catch and therefore more expensive.

29 Athenaios focuses on the rare and expensive fish, at one point complaining that the fishermen in Roman sold tiny fish for a high price (6.244c). Apicius’ recipes are directed towards the middle to upper classes. In many cases, the sale and consumption of fish is only noted in the sources when the prices are exceptionally high. For example, Macrobius tells the story that a mullus was purchased for 7000 sesterces (Sat 3.16.9). Corcoran 1963, p. 99-102; Gallant 1985, p. 39-44; Déry 1998, p. 94-97; Wilkins 2005, p. 30; Bekker-Nielsen 2010, p. 198-199.

30 Marzano 2013, p. 273.

31 Vogel, Märker 2010; Pescatore et al. 2001. Herculaneum was situated on a tufo terrace surrounded to the east and the west by two small rivers. (Jansen 1991, p. 146). Although both rivers drained into the Bay they were probably too small to act as suitable habitats for estuary water fish.

32 Koutrakis, Tsikliras 2002.

33 Froese, Pauly 2013; Olivar et al. 2001, p. 111; Ragonese et al. 2003, p. 100.

34 Somarakis et al. 2006, p. 282; Vøllestad 2011.

35 Whitehead 1986, vol. 1.

36 Stergiou, Karpouzi 2002, p. 222; Froese, Pauly 2013 ; Whitehead 1986, vol. 2.

37 Muñiz 2010, p. 42.

38 Froese, Pauly 2013; Muñiz 2010, p. 41-44.

39 Martial 2.37.4.

40 Gallant 1985, p. 67; Whitehead 1986, vol. 2.; Nicholson 1997 ; Froese, Pauly 2013.

41 Pinardi et al. 2004, p. 1244-1246.

42 In Italy today, the majority of small coastal fish are still caught on the continental shelf by independent fishermen using small boats. Colloca et al. 2004.

43 Froese, Pauly 2013.

44 Froese, Pauly 2013; Ragonese 2003, p. 101.

45 Sbrana et al. 2007; Desse-Berset, Desse 2000.

46 Whitehead 1986, vol. 2; Froese, Pauly 2013.

47 Whitehead 1986, vol. 2; Stergiou, Karpouzi 2002, p. 223.

48 It should be noted that seine and gillnets are not designed to catch a single species and many of the taxa recovered from the Cardo V sewer would have been caught at the same time during a single fishing event. Modern studies of gillnets have shown that, in attempts to catch hake, horse mackerel, bogue and common Pandora were caught as well. Sbrana et al. 2007.

49 Froese, Pauly 2013.

50 Whitehead 1986, vol. 2.

51 Whitehead, vol. 2. 1986; Froese, Pauly 2013.

52 Muñiz 2010, p. 34-36.

53 Whitehead 1986, vol 2; Froese, Pauly 2013.

54 Froese, Pauly 2013.

55 Id.

56 Oliver, Massuti 1995, p. 184.

57 Charbonnel et al. 2002; Guidetti 2004 ; Domingues et al. 2005, p.4052 ; Froese, Pauly 2013.

58 Wallace-Hadrill 2011, p. 103; Cinque, Irollo 2008.

59 Guidetti 2004; Froese, Pauly 2013.

60 It is possible that the inhabitants of Ins. Or. II caught these fish themselves since little equipment and effort would be required.

61 De Sena, Ikämeimo 2003.

62 DE 5.

63 I would like to thank Dr. Sammy De Grave for his generous help in sorting out the fish taxa and their habitat requirements.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Plan of Ins. Or. II and the Cardo V sewer. The arrows point to the study quadrant locations while the square indicates the entry point of the latrine shaft situated in apartment II.7. (Monteix 2010, pl. h.t. V with permission)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pccj/docannexe/image/1645/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 548k
Titre Table 1. Identified otolith and fish samples from the Cardo V sewer
Légende * Only a single otolithfrom quadrant 5-6 was photographed and identified
URL http://books.openedition.org/pccj/docannexe/image/1645/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Titre Fig. 2. Left and right Sparidae otoliths (sagittae) from Q13-14 in the Cardo V sewer showing varying signs of degradation and moothing due to digestion.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pccj/docannexe/image/1645/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Fig. 3. Number of taxa and the number of fish per quadrant based on the otolith results.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pccj/docannexe/image/1645/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 84k
Titre Table 2. Identified taxa from the fish bone and otolith samples recovered from the Cardo V sewer
Légende *Information from Whitehead 1986 and Froese, Pauly 2013.** GN = gill net. Method of capture is based on archaeological and modern data. See Bekker-Nielsen (2002), Thomas (2010) and Muñiz (2010) for good discussions of fishing gear in the ancient world and Sassu et al. (2001), Colloca et al. (2004), Stergiou, Karpouzi (2002) for discussions of modern fishing methods in the Mediterraneanand Tyrrhenian sea.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pccj/docannexe/image/1645/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 802k

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St. Cross College. St. Giles’. Oxford, UK. OX1 3LZ. ericaskrowan@gmail.com.

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