Byzantines cast spells with dolphin oil, says expert
The Byzantines hunted dolphins and used dolphin oil in the pharmaceutical industry, in oil lamps and in some superstitious works, said Vedat Onar, professor at Istanbul University, examining animal bones unearthed in archaeological excavations at Istanbul’s Haydarpaşa, a historic train station on the Asian side.
They used dolphin oil to cast spells, according to Onar.
“While the knucklebones were widely used in this regard, they were also used for multiple purposes,” the expert said. “They were used for fortune telling, blessing, playing games, divination, preparing the whips used to torture themselves, leaving the gifts on graves and gambling.”
“We are trying to understand the dietary habits, living conditions and subsistence economy of that day’s society, by examining these bones,” he said, adding that they examine each period separately in terms of their dietary habits, which animals they prefer, and which cooking method they use.
“When we look at the marks on the bones, we see that most of these animals were cooked by boiling.”
“In addition, processed bones were also discovered, which means they didn’t throw away the bone after eating the meat, they were thinking about how to make a tool out of it,” he added.
“The remains of both cats and dogs were found,” Onar said, while emphasizing that the cats in other Byzantine settlements were of African origin, but there were also cats of Asian origin in [the neighborhood of] Yenikapı.
When people move to a place, they take their animal either for food, for work or as a partner, he said.
“Some animals of that day also determine the status in social life.”
“Just as the toy dogs are carried today, they were carrying weasels and marten at first, then other animals became popular, in Byzantium,” he added.
The excavations, which have been continuing for nearly four years, shed light on the history of the district of Kadıköy, which was known as Chalcedon (the Land of the Blind) in ancient times, from the 5th century BC to the early era of Türkiye.