Fish and fishing are foodstuff and an activity that humans have consumed and performed since time immemorial. In diachronic studies, technical developments of fishing in the sea as well as in fresh water can be understood and reconstructed. The preference of certain consumer groups for specific fish will equally be elucidated, as will developments in fish farming and fish breeding.
During renovations of the council house of the market town of Hadersdorf-Kammern (Lower Austria) an old well was brought to light in 1991. Before its infilling, the shaft was most recently used as a latrine up until the 17th century. Corresponding to the particular find circumstances in a latrine are the finds which, on the one hand brought to light in the course of excavations, and on the other hand obtained from numerous sediment samples, can be described as very well preserved. The particularly favourable circumstances of preservation and the partially direct insertion make latrines a very special repository, also for fish remains.
At all events, fish were an important foodstuff in the Mediaeval and modern periods, not only due to the strict rules for the period of fasting. The latrines, often full of digested and undigested fish remains, provide evidence for the entire spectrum of fish types in the diet. In addition to the fishing in natural waters, fish farming played an important role; at that time the most important fish was, as today, the carp. As ecological indicators, fish can also provide evidence, whether they were caught in fast-running waters, such as the common barbel, or in standing waters, such as the common roach. Small bones which can be preserved in latrines provide evidence of an intense usage of very small and also very young fish, often less than 10 cm in size.
The intensive fish farming activity and the fishing of such small fish may be an expression of an at least temporary very high demand for fish. Accompanying both of these strategies of provision, preserved marine fish were imported in large quantities and purchased for the household. Although remains of stockfish could not be identified in this latrine, bone remains of salted herring are present in the finds in large numbers.
The settlement on the south-west shore of the lower lake is evidence of one of the oldest late Neolithic settlement phases at the Bodensee in south-west Germany; here, fish were an important source of nourishment. The processing of the fishbones is carried out in the course of cooperation with E. Stephan (State Office for Monument Preservation in the Regional Authority of Stuttgart). To date, a total of more than 10,200 fishbones with a weight of ca. 0.5 kg could be processed.
A high proportion of the fishbones is charred and strongly fragmented, and could therefore not be more precisely identified. Nevertheless, the distribution of the caught and consumed fish is thoroughly species-rich. The ensemble of finds is clearly dominated by pike, whereas the other types of fish are present only in smaller find density. The second most common group are the types of carp, whereby the small bone remains were mostly not precisely determined; common barbel, common rudd and the bones of a tench could, however, be identified. In addition to the numerous perch, only one single bone of a pikeperch was found. Due to the lack of certainty in identification based on the fragmentary and mostly badly burned state of preservation of the vertebra, whitefish and trout could not be determined; the more complete bones ought, however, to originate rather from whitefish than from trout. Finally, fishing of wels catfish can occasionally be proven.
Hornstaad-Hörnle 1A: late Neolithic fishery
Mooswinkel am Mondsee: fish remains