Oysters and fishbones

Luxury diets: produce from the Rías Baixas

Oysters and fishbones

The recent excavations have provided us with data on the presence of sea produce at the castle. Amidst the rubble, dumpsites have been unearthed where pieces of tile, animal bones and remains of molluscs have been found.

The archaeological team processed a sample from one such dumpsites and sent it to the University of León to be analysed by specialists in archaeomalacology and ictiofauna. This study provides for the first time very interesting data on the consumption of these sea produce at the castle. It also shows the intense trade existing between the Rías Baixas and Compostela. As to molluscs, the most frequently found species is oyster, followed at quite some distance by clams (grooved carpet shell Ruditapes decussatus and pullet carpet shell Venerupis pullastra), as well as mussels.

On the other hand, fish remains would consist of hake and conger eel. Both hake and conger eel were two species of great importance during the Middle Ages. Written sources provide evidence of their presence also in the city of Santiago. According to folio 87 of Red Cartulary by Lope de Mendoza, the castle had entitlement over certain sea produce that crossed the city of Santiago like hake, sardine, conger eel and, generally speaking, fresh fish. 

Both here and at other excavation sites, a tiny but most interesting detail has been documented: pre-caudal vertebrae of hike were unearthed. We know that it was in the 14th and 15th century that these vertebrae began to be removed for hake salting and drying. Therefore, the uncovering of these vertebrae is clear evidence of trade in fresh (unprocessed) hake from between the coast and the interior. The presence of fresh fish provides evidence of a diet that common people could not afford. It was a delicatessen consumed by a social elite with great purchasing power, by people like the castellan of Rocha Forte or the archbishop and his retinue.

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