HomeAquatic Animals and Monsters of the Northern Seas Imagination, knowledge, exploitation, from Antiquity to 1600

HomeAquatic Animals and Monsters of the Northern Seas Imagination, knowledge, exploitation, from Antiquity to 1600

Aquatic Animals and Monsters of the Northern Seas Imagination, knowledge, exploitation, from Antiquity to 1600

Animaux aquatiques et monstres des mers septentrionales : imaginer, connaître, exploiter, de l’Antiquité à 1600

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Published on Wednesday, March 16, 2016


The Colloquium is devoted to the history of fish, aquatic monsters and mammals in the northern seas (the English Channel, North Sea, Baltic Sea, Norwegian Sea, the North Atlantic), from antiquity to 1600. The colloquium is based on three themes: knowledge and the transmission of knowledge (medical knowledge, zoological knowledge, descriptions, identifications); savoir-faire and exploitation (aquatic farming, fishing, cooking, medicine); explorations – real and imaginary.


The event is organised by the Centre for Research in Archaeology, Ancient History and the Middle Ages (CRAHAM, University of Caen Normandy, UMR6273) as part of the research programme ICHTYA and that of the International Research Group, GDRI Zoomathia. It belongs to the cycle of colloquia on Medieval Normandy, organised by the Office Universitaire d’Etudes Normandes in partnership with the Centre Culturel International of Cerisy la Salle


Following the seminal works by Aristotle and Pliny the Elder on ichthyology, their successors favoured mostly the study of the aquatic fauna of the areas these authors knew, from the Atlantic to the Ganges and from the Nile to the Rhine. By making efforts to consider more and more the animals in their own habitats (to be found in the most northern areas), the Middle Age scholars show the importance of aquatic animals in their daily lives and of their motivation to describe the species they know using observation and their experience; in this way, they open up a new field of study in ichthyology. The 2017 colloquium will follow this evolution and will be devoted to the animals and monsters of the Boreal seas.

I. Knowledge and the Transmission of Knowledge : Medical Knowledge, Zoological Knowledge, Descriptions, Identifications

A first approach will be that of knowledge concerning the fish and the animals in the northern seas and the transmission of these data, both on the spatial plane, from one region to another and chronologically. Which animals were known? What is known about them? How are they described? How are they named? In what type of discourse are they found? What is the role of tradition and novelty? Is there evidence of some classification? From this point of view, one could also look at the information content of the sources we possess, not only in the zoological but also, for example, in the therapeutic and geographical domains.

II. Savoir-faire and Exploitation: aquatic farming, fishing, cooking, medicine

But fish could not just be a literary subject, they are part of the daily activity of men who learnt how to take advantage of the resources in the sea and the rivers. A second approach will therefore focus on the various areas of exploitation, namely, amongst others, fishing, aquatic farming, consumer habits, cooking and also medicine.

III. Explorations – real and imaginary

Finally, the aquatic world, little known and difficult to observe, is an area in which man has always given vent to his curiosity. For example, we shall take a look at the animals to be found in the accounts provided by explorers who sailed across the northern seas and pushed back the limits of the known world to the north. We could also study the fantastical side of these quests, of which the Voyage of St Brendan is the prototype, and the creatures which men have imagined existing in the northern seas, from the island-sea monster Jasconius to the Kraken described by Olaus Magnus. We will consider these problems over the long period; from Antiquity to the Renaissance (up to 1600); during which the zoological discourse remains very much under the influence of Aristotle and Pliny.  These considerations will benefit from the different approaches and the various sources examined: archaeological and archaeozoological studies; texts (travel stories, fables, technical books, encyclopedias, account books, in a variety of domains -- Latin, Romanesque, Scandinavian, Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, etc.); material objects, iconography (manuscript illuminations, sculpted column capitals, etc.).

Geographical areas examined

  • English Channel
  • North Sea
  • Atlantic (from the Bay of Biscay to the North Pole)
  • Norwegian Sea
  • Baltic Sea

The event is organised, as part of the cycle of colloquia on Medieval Normandy, by the Office Universitaire d’Etudes Normandes in partnership with the Centre Culturel International of Cerisy la Salle. It forms part of the research programme ICHTYA, conducted by the Centre for Research in Archaeology, Ancient History and the Middle Ages (CRAHAM, University of Caen Normandy, UMR6273) and the International Research Group, GDRI Zoomathia. It is a follow-up to the Study Days held at the University of Caen in 2011, 2015 and 2016.

Abstract submission

Abstracts have to be submitted on the conference website : http://ichtya2017.sciencesconf.org. To submit an abstract, you will have to create a personnal account on the website. The abstract has to be under 3000 characters. You should upload with the abstract a short bibliography or a CV.

The list of the accepted papers will be published on the 20th June 2016.


  • March, 7st, 2016 : Beginning of abstracts submission
  • May, 31th, 2016 : Deadline of abstract submission

  • June, 20th, 2016 : Final selection of papers
  • May, 31th - June 3rd 2017 : Conference hosting at Cerisy-la-Salle

Scientific comitee




  • Le château
    Cerisy-la-Salle, France (50210)


  • Tuesday, May 31, 2016


  • animal, monstre marin, mer, zoologie, poisson, pêche, exploration, Nord


  • Thierry Buquet
    courriel : thierry [dot] buquet [at] unicaen [dot] fr

Information source

  • Thierry Buquet
    courriel : thierry [dot] buquet [at] unicaen [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Aquatic Animals and Monsters of the Northern Seas Imagination, knowledge, exploitation, from Antiquity to 1600 », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, https://doi.org/10.58079/uma

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