Catch of the Day! Medieval Fishing Basket Found in the Severn
Traditional fishermen have made a unique discovery, they have found a medieval fishing basket that is up to 700-years-old stuck in some silt, in a British estuary. It has been preserved in the clay of the Severn Estuary in the south-west of England. This basket is possibly the largest of its kind found from the Middle Ages in the area.
The Severn Estuary is the estuary of the largest river in England and three other major rivers also flow into this body of water. The estuary has long been a rich source of fish and eels for local people. A collective of Welsh fishermen, known as the Black Rock Lave Native Fishermen group, still fishes in the body of water using traditional methods. The Daily Mail, states that they utilize “traditional wooden lave frames to catch fish,” which is a method that has been handed down through the generations. The group is committed to protecting “the heritage and tradition of Lave Net fishing in Wales,” according to the Black Rock Lave Native Fishermen website.
Medieval Fishing Basket Unearthed
When some of the group were out on the estuary, they came across something very special. Buried in clay and silt, they found a large basket, which was made of wicker. They instantly knew they had found a medieval fishing basket and it was a type that is known locally, as a ‘kype’ or a ‘putt’. The fishermen are sure that it is medieval because similar finds have been made in the area, which “have been carbon-dated between 11th and 14th centuries,” reports The Daily Mail.
Some of the fishermen from Black Rock Lave Native group, who unearthed the medieval fishing basket in the Severn Estuary. (Black Rock Lave Heritage Fishery)
The group have posted on their Facebook page about the discovery, stating “this is by far the largest fishing basket we have found out there at low tide, and it was well preserved in the clay and mud,” according to The Daily Mail. A picture of what it was originally like was also posted on the group’s social media account. The basket was once probably several feet long and had a wide mouth, for fish to swim into, and it had a narrow base, where the fish became trapped.
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Fishing Treasures of the Severn
The rare medieval fishing basket was found in a period of unusually low tide, which is uncommon. This is what makes the find of the basket so unique. Given that the basket is almost 700 years it is remarkably preserved, and its base is still intact after many centuries in the mud and silt. However, it is very fragile, and has been left where it was found, in case it falls apart if moved.
The group is very proud of uncovering something of this nature in relation to fishing on the Severn. Previously the group found two medieval fishing baskets that were carbon tested and shown to be up to 800-years-old. These two baskets were found by brothers walking along the Monmouthshire coast. Why the fishing baskets have been left in the area is still unknown, but they may have been simply discarded or lost, and became stuck in the silt.
Other medieval fishing baskets found in the Severn Estuary in January 2019. (Black Rock Lave Heritage Fishery)
Myths of the Severn
The Severn Estuary is a storied waterway, and one of the best-known stories is referred to in a 9 th century AD work, by Nennius, a Welsh monk. He wrote a list of natural wonders that were “a mixture of the geographical and mythological” sites, reports the Herald Publicist.com. In this work, the chronicler describes a unique confluence of waves, a phenomenon that can still be witnessed, in a particularly treacherous part of the Severn. In the monk’s account, this is related to a myth about two warring monarchs, known as the ‘Two Severn Kings”. The discovery of the 14th century basket will add further to the history of the mighty Severn, which remains very important for local communities.
Top image: Left: The ancient medieval fishing basket (‘kype’ / ‘putt’) dating back to the 14th century, which was found buried in silt and clay in the Severn Estuary. Right: This is a representation of what the medieval fishing basket may have looked like. Source: Black Rock Lave Heritage Fishery
By Ed Whelan