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The Vikings

The Vikings are said to have first discovered the Gadus morhua cod.

Since they had no salt, they only dried the fish outdoors until it lost almost a fifth of its weight and hardened like a piece of hardwood that would be eaten in tiny pieces in the long journeys that they made across the oceans.

The study examined five cod bones dated from 800 to 1066 AD found in the mud of the old quays of Haithabu, a former trading port.

The DNA of these cod bones contained genetic signatures seen in Arctic stocks swimming off the Lofoten coast: the northern archipelago is still a hub for Norway’s fishing industry.

Researchers say that the findings show that the supply of “cod” – an ancient dish of dried cod popular to this day – was transported over 1,000 kilometres from northern Norway to the Baltic Sea during the Viking era.

The Basques and Salting

Basques: people living in the Western Pyrenees, on both the Spanish and French sides of the border, who mastered the technique of salt for preservation.

The Basques knew a great deal about salt, and there are records that show that they traded cured, salted and dried codfish as early as the year 1000.

They were too far away to fish for whales and found a trading opportunity in codfish. Therefore, it was on the coast of Spain that codfish began to be salted and then dried on the rocks in the fresh air so that the fish could be better preserved and sailors could continue their journeys on the seas.

“… the Basques are not only shepherds, but also sailors, famous for their success in trade.”

Mark Kurlansky – Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World