Medieval elite ate birds, new research

This video from the USA is called SHOREBIRDS: The World’s Greatest Migrants.

Fortunately, today, if people use nets to catch wading birds in Friesland province, the Netherlands, it is to ring these birds and then free them for scientific research.

Long ago, that wasn’t so.

Hans Revier writes, on the site of the Dutch Wadden Sea Association, about archaeological research near Wijnaldum village in Friesland. In the Roman age and the Middle Ages, people lived on a big mound there, to protect them from floods.

Very probably, the Wijnaldum mound dwellers were a rich family, maybe even a princely dynasty, as archaeologists discovered expensive jewelry.

They discovered remains of animals, many probably eaten, as well.

Hans Revier writes, about birds found during the Wijnaldum research:

In soil layers from the Roman period and the subsequent period of post-Roman empire migrations (1st to 5th century) duck species like teal, wigeon, pintail duck and mallard are the most numerous. In later periods also barnacle and brent geese are present. Remnants of waders are rarely found in the first centuries. From the 7th century on, that picture changes drastically. Waders like godwit, ruff, dunlin, red knot, golden and gray plover then are overrepresented in the skeletal remains.

Compared with the skeletal remains found in other mounds, only in Wijnaldum waders are represented in such large numbers. This gives rise to the theory that the inhabitants of the mound of Wijnaldum about 700 have developed a new technique to catch birds, especially waders, in large numbers. Duck species will have been relatively easy to catch during their moulting period.

The researchers think that in Wijnaldum, and later elsewhere, medieval people started using clap-nets for catching birds as food. Today, clap-nets are still in use for scientific research in Friesland.


12 thoughts on “Medieval elite ate birds, new research

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