Salting of fish and other edible marine life at the time was normally done in barrels, though. The researchers wonder if the large size of the porpoise might have necessitated a different approach for preparing it.
“If that’s true, then obviously it was never recovered, for some reason — or perhaps it just didn’t work as a technique, so they left it in the ground,” de Jersey said.
Medieval cookbooks do include dishes with porpoise as an ingredient. The late-14th century chef’s tome Forme of Cury, for example, contains such a recipe.
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The burial still has de Jersey and his team mystified, though.
“If somebody was just wanting to get rid of the remains of a feast, why go to this trouble?” he asked. “Why not dig just a rough pit, or more likely, chuck the remains into the sea, just a few meters away? It seems an extraordinary way to treat the animal.”
While excavations continue at the site, the scientists are hoping that the porpoise’s remains can be cleaned and examined properly by an animal bone specialist. This work might at least confirm the species and provide an estimate for the animal’s age before death.
“We will have to wait some weeks for this,” de Jersey said, “as it is currently drying out and the bone hardening up before it can be properly studied.”
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