Figure 1. View of Alghero, Torre Sulis (Photo by Mari Yamasaki)
Figure 2. View of Stintino, Porto Minore (Photo by Mari Yamasaki)
Among many brilliant contributions, I believe it is worth highlighting some of them for the originality of their approach. From session 1, Ambra Zambernardi's ethnological account on the relationship between the tonnarotti and their prey, the bluefin tuna, was particularly interesting. With the term tonnarotti, in fact, one does not refer to fishermen just as much as the term Tonno (tuna) does not refer to fish, or the tonnara to fishing. The connection between the tuna, the tonnarotti, and the tonnara is a unique one, something that resembles more the hunt of big game, or even war, than fishing. Traces of parallels between the capture of the Bluefin tuna and battle scenes can be dated back to classical Greece: in Aeschylus' tragedy "The Persians", the slaughtering of the enemies is described as the mattanza, the killing phase of the capture of this giant fish. In Zambernardi's account on the tonnarotti, the deep sense of respect that these men had for their catch was evident. This is also attested by the prayers of atonement recited for the dead tunas after the mattanza. Another aspect that emerged is that, sadly, this traditional practice and the cultural world related to it are rapidly getting lost with the introduction of industrialized fishing strategies.
Figure 4. A model representing the net arrangements for the tonnara. on display at the Museo della Tonnara, Stintino. (Photo by Mari Yamasaki)
Following the visit, the last session of the 19th FRWG was held in the conference hall of the museum itself. Here, Richard Hoffmann's paper addressed a very relevant matter concerning the appropriate use of scientific data to answer historical questions. In particular, he made use of stable isotope analysis performed on individuals from a mass grave dated to 15th century Rome, and compared it with the written sources from the same period referring to the fish sold in the city markets. Taken alone, the two studies depicted two rather different scenarios: on the one hand, the isotopic analysis appeared to be consistent with a diet based on Atlantic fish, and thus implied that the Roman marked imported it; on the other, the sources made no mention of such type of fish being sold in Rome at the time. However, after combining these two types of evidence with population and economic data, there emerged a much more intricate picture, where consumption habits intertwine with an increase of trade between Rome and different areas of Europe and, consequently, a more intense movement of people along with their goods and foods (including Atlantic stockfish, for example) into the Italian peninsula. Far from suggesting the import of exotic fish, the most likely explanation was that the analysed individual was probably a foreigner, possibly a trader, who died in Rome during the plague.