[Readings] The 500-Year-Old Sturgeon, By Stella Macheridis | Harper's Magazine

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The 500-Year-Old Sturgeon


From “Fish in a barrel: Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) from the Baltic Sea wreck of the royal Danish flagship Gribshunden (1495),” by Stella Macheridis et al., which appeared in the October issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

In 1495, the royal Danish ship Gribshunden sank in the Baltic Sea, near the town of Ronneby. The wreck was rediscovered by sport divers in the 1970s, and it has since been the subject of increasing scientific interest. The ship’s structure and materials have remained exceptionally well preserved because of the anoxic sediments and cool, low-salinity water of the Baltic Sea. In 2019, a dedicated interdisciplinary scientific excavation of a section of the wreck site revealed, among other things, the presence of intact wooden barrels, one of which contained numerous well preserved organic remains later identified as sturgeon. Finding almost complete remains of at least one ancient sturgeon individual in an archaeological deposit is unusual. Only occasionally have scattered and fragmented sturgeon remains previously been retrieved. A total of 129 fragments of animal remains were found in the barrel. Of these, 118 were sturgeon. Our analysis showed that all anatomical regions of the sturgeon body were represented; the sturgeon was relatively well preserved, albeit butchered. We have come to the conclusion that there was only one sturgeon in the barrel.

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