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Transmission of knowledge on fish and aquatic animals, texts and images

Transmission des savoirs sur les poissons et les animaux aquatiques, textes et images

Antiquity, Middle Ages, 16th century

Antiquité, Moyen Âge, XVIe siècle

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Published on Monday, October 26, 2020


The conference Transmission of knowledge on fish and aquatic animals, texts and images (Antiquity, Middle Ages, 16th century) will be the closing event of GDRI Zoomathia, which ends at the end of 2021. The Zoomathia 2021 conference in Caen, organized by the ICHTYA program of Craham, is an extension of the 2017 conference.This conference wishes to emphasize, without being limited to ichthyofauna, on the scientific contribution of ancient sources on aquafauna in the broad sense and the biological and ecological knowledge of the species that compose it; the transmission and diachronic evolution of scholarly data on this fauna through the various knowledge media (texts, iconography - mosaics, illuminated manuscripts, early printed books and engravings, etc.); the mode of representation and identification of  marine animals species permitted by old documents and related methodological issues.


Scientific background

The ICHTYA program of the Center Michel de Boüard (CRAHAM, UMR 6273) is dedicated to the history of the transmission of ichthyological knowledge, from Antiquity to the Renaissance. ICHTYA is a founding member of GDRI Zoomathia, dedicated to the cultural transmission of zoological knowledge (Antiquity-Middle Ages). The Caen colloquium will be the closing event of GDRI Zoomathia, which ends at the end of 2021. In 2017, ICHTYA organized an international colloquium in the International Cultural Center of Cerisy-la-Salle, entitled Aquatic Animals and Monsters of the Northern Seas. Imagination, knowledge, exploitation, from Antiquity to 1600, the proceedings of which were published in the journal Anthropozoologica in 2018. The Caen conference constitutes the continuation of the Cerisy meeting.


Ancient "ichthyology" does not concern only fish, but all "aquatic" enhydra animals (cetaceans, crustaceans, cephalopods, etc.), including certain amphibious species such as the crocodile or the hippopotamus, not to mention monsters and other more or less imaginary animals. There is a long tradition of transmission of knowledge about aquatic animals, from Aristotle and the Peripatetic tradition which passes through the Latin world, in particular through Pliny, Solin and Isidore of Seville, to bestiaries and medieval encyclopedias. Transmission does not mean the reproduction of old knowledge, but its reworking comprising both diversion and provision of new and "vernacular" information. This tradition continued in the Renaissance, when ichthyology experienced strong development, thanks in particular to Guillaume Rondelet, Pierre Belon, Ippolito Salviani and Conrad Gesner. In the Byzantine world, scholars are still reading the Greek texts of Elian, Oppian of Cilicia, Timothy of Gaza, the Greek Physiologos, the Exameron of Basil, etc.  The Persian and Arab-Muslim world is not to be outdone: besides transmitting and commenting on Aristotle's zoological work, it develops specific knowledge about fauna.


Periods considered: Antiquity, Middle Ages, 16th century.

Geographic and cultural areas: Greco-Latin Antiquity, Latin Middle Ages, Byzantium, Islam, Renaissance.


Papers may, in the cultural areas and periods concerned, focus on ichthyonyms, zoological classifications, descriptions of species. The sources used will mainly be encyclopedias, bestiaries, cosmographies, historical and geographical texts. This will include questioning the state of knowledge on marine fauna, in relation to birds and terrestrial quadrupeds: are aquatic animals really less well known than others? In addition, one can wonder about the contributions of medieval texts (Latin, Byzantine, Arab) to the classical tradition. The submitted studies may also relate to the transmission and orientation of technical knowledge relating to fishing (including whaling), farm fish, food and cooking, medicine (pharmacopoeia derived from fish, health).


The colloquium wishes to focus on the iconography of aquatic animals, whether in mosaics and painting or in illuminated manuscripts and Renaissance prints. Papers may attempt to answer the following questions: Which marine animals are most represented? What precise species can we identify in the images? Are there iconographic models that we can spot? How to illustrate texts describing “imaginary” animals or rare species, difficult to observe? In this context, what are the relationships between text and image? What status for images, between iconographic conventions, highlighting of anatomical details, behavioral description and spectacular production?

Submission of communications proposals

Proposals for papers should be posted on the conference website. This deposit requires registration on the site (it is possible to connect with your Hal ID). The abstract of your communication must be a maximum of 3000 characters. It is recommended to add a CV or a bibliography in PDF format as an attached file.

Languages of communications: French and English. The communications format is 25 minutes, plus 10 minutes for discussion.

Deadline for submitting contributions: January 4, 2021

The list of accepted contributions will be published in February 2021.


 Scientific Committee

  • Annetta Alexandridis (Cornell University, New York)
  • Thierry Buquet (CNRS, Craham, University of Caen Normandy)
  • Isabelle Draelants (CNRS IRHT)
  • Jean-Charles Ducène (EPHE)
  • Brigitte Gauvin (University of Caen Normandy)
  • Stavros Lazaris (CNRS, UMR Orient et Méditerranée, Paris)
  • Jacqueline Leclercq-Marx (ULB - Brussels)
  • Marie-Agnès Lucas-Avenel (University of Caen Normandy)
  • Jean Trinquier (École normale supérieure, Paris)
  • Baudouin Van den Abeele (Catholic University of Louvain)
  • Arnaud Zucker (University of Nice)


  • Université de Caen. Campus 1, MRSH, Esplanade de la Paux
    Caen, France (14)


  • Monday, January 04, 2021


  • ichtyologie, zoologie, transmission des savoirs, poisson, animal aquatique


  • Thierry Buquet
    courriel : thierry [dot] buquet [at] cnrs [dot] fr
  • Arnaud Zucker
    courriel : Arnaud [dot] ZUCKER [at] univ-cotedazur [dot] fr

Information source

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


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

To cite this announcement

« Transmission of knowledge on fish and aquatic animals, texts and images », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, October 26, 2020, https://doi.org/10.58079/15g6

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