18 June 2009

S Wilfrid the Fisherman

An interesting news item on the wireless; Cambridge archaeologists claim that during the first millennium we caught only fresh water fish. The middens the team spend their lives delving into demonstrate that towards the end of that millennium, such fish became smaller and fewer; so that we had to diversify into sea fish.

This provides the explanation of something in Bede that has always puzzled me. He says that when S Wilfrid (who was responsible for giving the provinces of Canterbury and York the flavour of Romanita which is so much our abiding charism) decided to evangelise the South Saxons, he found them so afflicted by famine that they were lining up to jump off Beachy Head. There was fish galore, but the only fishing they were familiar with was catching eels. So he showd them how to use their eel nets to supplement their diet. It used to mystify me that people could have been starving who had the English Channel to fish and no restrictive European quotas to hamper them. Now I understand.

The moral: in life-threatening situations, it is important to have a papalist bishop.

Can anybody supply me with the refence to the Archaeological team involved? I missed it.


austin said...

Apparently the Norse in Greenland refused to eat salmon and other fish, resorting even to dogs and ponies instead. And then extinction. There may have been an animus against fish generally among Germanic people of rank. A Norse nobleman is reported to have scorned the idea of emigration to Iceland, saying "To that place of fish will I not go in my old age."

BillyD said...

Lobsters used to be used for fertilizer and feeding the destitute here in New England.

The team was headed by James Barrett, from Cambridge University's McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.