Olaug excavating fishbones in the magazine. © OiU/Anne Karin Hufthammer

Medieval Food in Norwegians Towns

A new interdisciplinary research project – The impact of food culture in Medieval towns (FOODIMPACT) will analyse more than 30.000 items in the Cultural Museum in Oslo

This project is the first major study of urban food culture in medieval Norway. The main research question is: how did food culture facilitate the emergence of an urban identity? More specifically, the project aims to piece the information together to get a better understanding of the day-to-day life in the Norwegian Medieval towns.

The project plans to explore three sets of questions:

  • Which dishes were prepared where, by whom? And who ate them?
  • What was the interplay between the food-culture in the cities, the international trade and the inland of Norway
  • How did food-culture define and identify local identities?

Medieval Fish Bones

Some of the items in the Museum’s collection, are the numerous collections of fishbones painstakingly excavated from the mittens in the early medieval towns. One collection consists of 950 boxes with fishbones found at Oslogate 6 in the 80s. The question is: what kind of fish was available to the population at a time, when stock fish (on par with salted herring) was one of the most important commodities of trade? Was the dried cod exported? Of not: how was it cooked?

Soapstone vessels

Another item poised to reveal its information, ar the numerous fragments of soapstone vessels frome the excavations. Soapstone is form of soft stone, which is easy to carve an mould according to preferences. At Oslogate 6 where the fishbones were found, more than 540 fragments of soapstone dated from the 11th to the 16th century were found. Of these, sixty fragments still hold traces of organic material burned into the inside of the vessels. One of the studies waiting to be carried out focus on these remains and what information they hold; and whether and how the diet changed over time.

The project will be led by Professor Marianne Vedeler at the Cultural Historical Museum in Oslo, in cooperation with the Biochemical Laboratory, Nicolas Garnier Laboratoire in Vic-le-Comte, The Musuem of Natural History in Oslo, CEES at the University i Oslo, the Bergen Museum, and the University in Cambridge.

The project is supported by the Norwegian Research Council and the University of Oslo.


Olaug excavating fishbones in the magazine. © OiU/Anne Karin Hufthammer


The impact of food culture in Medieval towns (FOODIMPACT)

A blog – Food in the Middle Ages – is connected to the project.




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