Pike (Esox lucius) in late medieval culture: from illiterate empiricism to literate traditions

Richard C. Hoffmann

Department of History, York University, 4700 Keele St, North York, Ontario. Canada M3J 1P3. medfish@yorku.ca

Cite this as: Hoffmann, R. C. (1997). Pike (Esox lucius) in late medieval culture: from illiterate empiricism to literate traditions. Internet Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.3.10


Remains of Esox lucius (pike) are familiar to archaeologists working on medieval European sites, but the attention medieval Europeans gave to the capture and culture of this species is revealed in different ways by extant written records. Until the fourteenth century chance references by the literate minority suggest something of how the then-illiterate majority had learned to obtain pike. Widening of practical literacy during the later Middle Ages resulted in intentional written compilations of this information. The kinds, purposes and contents of the texts changed. By the sixteenth century a body of European knowledge about catching and rearing pike had become part of a cumulative literate culture.

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The text of Professor Hoffmann's contribution was completed in 1988 and last revised by the author in 1992. Statements in it do not necessarily represent the knowledge and views of Professor Hoffmann in 1997. More complete treatment of most medieval texts mentioned in this article is now to be found in Richard C. Hoffmann (1997) Fishers' Craft and Lettered Art: Tracts on Fishing from the end of the Middle Ages. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, Buffalo, London.



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Last updated: Thu Aug 14 1997