Ancient Romans May Have Hunted Whales to Oblivion in the Mediterranean

Maybe Jonah’s Leviathan meant whale after all: Gray and right whales used to calve in Mediterranean Sea, scientists deduce, after identifying whale bones in Roman salting factories

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Aerial view of some of the fish-salting tanks (cetaria) in the
ancient Roman city of Baelo Claudia, near today’s Tarifa in
Spain. The largest circular tank is 3 meters wide, with a 18m3
capacity. These tanks were used to process large fish,
particularly tuna. This study supports the possibility that they
could have also been used to process whales.
Aerial view of some of the fish-salting tanks (cetaria) in the ancient Roman city of Baelo Claudia. The largest circular tank is 3 meters wide, with a 18 cubic meters capacity. Credit: D. Bernal-Casasola/ University
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
Aerial view of the ancient Roman city of Baelo Claudia (near Tarifa, Andalusia, Spain). The fish processing factories [red square] are placed just next to the beach. Credit: D. Bernal-Casasola/ University
Sixteenth Century interpretation of a 1st Century description by Pliny the Elder of killer whales (orcha) attacking whales (balena) and their calves near Cadiz (Spain). Credit: Olaus Magnus
North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and calf. This species was nearly extirpated by centuries of whaling and persists only as a small population off eastern North America. Credit: NOAA



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