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VITA ANTIQUA                                                               ISSN 2522-9419 (Online), 2519-4542 (Print)

Center for Paleoethnological Research

Tyt Volynskiy 1, Oleksandr Kovalchuk 2
Fishes in the Economy of Ancient Greek Colonies (600 BC – 300 AD) on the Northern Black Sea Coast – new touches to an old portrait
1Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
2National Museum of Natural History, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

DOI: 10.37098/VA-2023-14-184-210


The article presents the results of a thorough study of fish remains recovered during the excavations of three ancient Greek cities (Olbia, Berezan and Chornomorka) in the northern part of the Black Sea coast. These materials are dated in the range of 600 BC – 300 AC (in the case of Olbia and Berezan), and 500–400 BC for Chornomorka. Fish bones were processed for the identification of species used by the inhabitants of these ancient cities for food. The remains of about ten fish species are present in the studied sample. Of them, sturgeons (Acipenser spp.) were the most numerous in the region at that time. The other species which were usually caught in these ancient Greek cities are mostly represented by carp fishes (roach, common bream, white bream, blue bream, common carp, and crucian carp), but also European catfish Silurus glanis, pike Esox lucius, and pikeperch Sander lucioperca. The weight and size of some fish individuals were reconstructed based on complete bones. Comparison of the specimens from individual samples (series) showed no significant differences in their total length and weight.

The economic activity of ancient settlements of the Northern Black Sea region is of interest to archaeologists for a long time. Many of the aspects of this activity, such as agriculture, crafts, and architecture, have been explored quite well (e.g., Christodoulou 2016 and references therein). At the same time, fishery, an important direction of the economy of coastal cities providing a valuable animal protein, often falls out of the scope of research interests. A significant amount of materials collected by archaeologists in the north of the Black Sea coast during the 20th century is still not processed and remains unpublished. Therefore, it is difficult to create a holistic picture of the economy of ancient Greek cities.

A valuable information about fishing and fish consumption in ancient cities of the Northern Black Sea region according to archaeological data and osteological collections is presented in Lebedev (1960), Zhiteneva (1964), Hojte (2005), Morales et al. (2007) and Odrin (2010). A few recent publications (Katerini 2004; Bylkova & Yanish 2010; Yanish & Antipina 2013; Yanish & Kovalchuk 2013) are focused on the fish osteological material from ancient Greek cities discovered on the Northern Black Sea coast.

Archaeozoological studies can show how important fish was in the diet of people, which species were preferred, and how intensive was fishing in this region in different periods. In addition, it is possible to find out whether there was a fish trade between these cities using the ratio of cranial and postcranial elements of the skeleton. Such studies can prove or disprove the statements of Strabo or Herodotus, who wrote about the culinary preferences of ancient Greeks. Therefore, the aim of this article is to present in detail the results of the study of fish bone samples from Olbia, Berezan and Chornomorka in the range from their formation (600 BC) until the end of the Roman period (300 AC). By comparing data from different periods, it is possible to track the role of fishery in the economy of these settlements and its dynamics over time.

Key words: Olbia, antiquity, Berezan, archaeozoology, fishing, ancient Greeks, Black Sea

Language: English


Cite as:

Volynskiy, T.P., Kovalchuk, O.M., 2023. Fishes in the economy of Ancient Greek colonies (600 BC – 300 AD) on the Northern Black Sea Coast – new touches to an old portrait. VITA ANTIQUA, 14. Culture Heritage and the War : challenges and solutions.


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