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Archaeological remains accounting for the presence and exploitation of the North Atlantic right whale Eubalaena glacialis on the Portuguese Coast (Peniche, West Iberia), 16th to 17th Century.

Authors
  • Teixeira, António
  • Venâncio, Rui
  • Brito, Cristina
Type
Published Article
Journal
PLoS ONE
Publisher
Public Library of Science
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
Volume
9
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085971
PMID: 24505251
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

The former occurrence of the North Atlantic right whale Eubalaena glacialis on the Portuguese coast may be inferred from the historical range of that species in Europe and in NW Africa. It is generally accepted that it was the main prey of coastal whaling in the Middle Ages and in the pre-modern period, but this assumption still needs firming up based on biological and archaeological evidence. We describe the skeletal remains of right whales excavated at Peniche in 2001-2002, in association with archaeological artefacts. The whale bones were covered by sandy sediments on the old seashore and they have been tentatively dated around the 16th to 17th centuries. This study contributes material evidence to the former occurrence of E. glacialis in Portugal (West Iberia). Some whale bones show unequivocal man-made scars. These are associated to wounds from instruments with a sharp-cutting blade. This evidence for past human interaction may suggest that whaling for that species was active at Peniche around the early 17th century.

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