History of Seafood and maritime Activities

Diego-CalaonInstructor: Dr. Diego Calaon

Marie Curie-Skłodowoska fellow,

Ca’ Foscari University, Venice (I), Stanford University (US)

Main goals

The course aims to provide keys for the comprehension of the history of Mediterranean Seafood and Maritime Activities from an archeological and material perspective. Connecting Europe with Asia and Africa, the Mediterranean represents the physical space where people met in the past, sharing maritime technologies, food cultures and trade routes.

The geography of the ancient Mediterranean seafaring connections was copious and complex. Scholars have highlighted the specific regional characterizations of the seafaring activities of the global Mediterranean trade and cultural network system. The course intends to explore the ancient seafaring and maritime food habits by studying the ecological complexity of representative areas that are well known through archeological data.

The students will learn how to integrate the ecological data regarding food consumption and food habits  with the technological activities that trade system and seafaring implies.


Using selected archeological documented case studies, the first part of the course intends to explore the intricate ecological and behavioural relationship between coastal settled areas, fishing activities and maritime trade activities. The objects of study will be ports and harbors and their people (sailors, fishermen, pirates, pilgrims, tradesmen, priests and slaves) from the viewpoint of marine food consumption and maritime food trade. The program will focus on three well known archeological sites: Corinth, Butrinth and Venice-Comacchio. These are complex and long lasting cities and archeological sites that well represent the Greek, Roman and Medieval Mediterranean maritime activities.

The second part of the classes will explore two global trade phenomena that have an ecological  and social impact on the Mediterranean area: the roman garum trade systems, and the medieval circulation of dried/salt cod fish. Through a series of archeological assemblages and materials (amphora evidence, shipwrecks, fish bones, domestic refuse pits, archeo-zoological reports) and historical data, the students will acquire information on the ecological impact of global trade and  global production systems on the dietary and cultural habits in the Mediterranean regions.

A third part of the course will involve a field survey of a small  fishermen’s harbor in the Catania region. Working in groups, the students will be invited to produce a historical and archeological first assessment of the port and fish market structures. Using maps and photos, the work groups will try to trace the main chronological phase of the structures still in place and visible, connecting them with provided historical information and documents.

Overview and key concepts 

  • Mediterranean seafood and maritime activities: theory and ideas on the history of the Mediterranean connections (Braudel 1949; Horden & Purcell 2000; Abufalia 2011);
  • Mediterranean Seafood through time: economic and social impact;
  • Maritime trade and food trade, anthro-ecological impact;
  • Seafood consumption and long trade routes ;
  • Seafood consumption and archeo-zoological evidence;
  • Seafood and food trade and archeological evidence;
  • Maritime activities and ancient seafaring: archeological evidence;
  • Ancient harbor areas and archeological evidence;
  • Maritime activities and social representation;
  • Heritage of the ancient maritime activities and seafood habits;
  • Maritime activities: archeological and cultural assessment.