Call for papers: Aquatic Animals and Monsters of the Northern Seas (Cerisy, Normandy, 31 May-3 June 2017)

Carta Marina, Olaus Magnus, 1539

Carta Marina, Olaus Magnus, 1539

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

Deadline for abstract submission: May, 31st 2016
Place : Centre culturel de Cerisy-la-Salle (France, Normandy), May 32st – June 3rd 2017

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:

  1. Knowledge and the Transmission of Knowledge : Medical Knowledge, Zoological Knowledge, Descriptions, Identifications
  2. Savoir-faire and Exploitation: aquatic farming, fishing, cooking, medicine
  3. 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.

Colloquium website :

Scientific comitee


  • 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

Argument and topics

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, encyclopaedias, 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

Abstract submission

Abstracts have to be submitted on the conference website : You will have to create an account on the website to submit your paper. The abstract has to be under 3000 characters. You should upload with your abstract an attached file of your CV or bibliography in PDF format.

Language of  papers: French and English

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

Cite this blog post
MAD (2016, March 4). Call for papers: Aquatic Animals and Monsters of the Northern Seas (Cerisy, Normandy, 31 May-3 June 2017). Medieval Animal Data-Network. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from

You may also like...

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search