Fish and Ships

Weblog about pre-modern international trade in the North Atlantic

Welcome to the weblog about research into the late medieval and early modern international trade on the North Atlantic islands. It investigates the economic and cultural connections of merchants from Northern German cities, such as Bremen and Hamburg with the North Atlantic islands of Iceland, Shetland and Faroe during the 15th to 17th centuries. The research is based at the German Maritime Museum (Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum) in Bremerhaven in cooperation with the University of Highlands and Islands in Orkney. The research is carried out by four team members, each with their individual research objectives and disciplinary background. With this blog we want to provide information about the current state of our research, and create a platform to make available results and new knowledge. Read more...

Meet the team


Natascha Mehler

The project is led by Natascha Mehler, an archaeologist specializing in the remains of the medieval and post-medieval periods. Her work is characterized by a highly interdisciplinary approach and she loves travelling in the North (which may be the reason why she has an immense interest in the archaeology of Iceland, Faroe and Shetland). Natascha gained her MA at the University in Bamberg (2001), her PhD at the University of Kiel (2008) and her Habilitation at the University of Vienna (2014). She is a senior researcher at the German Maritime Museum and Associate Professor of Historical Archaeology at the University of Vienna.

Contact details, full CV and list of publications


Mike Belasus

Mike Belasus is our archaeologist, specialized in ship archaeology. He studied at the University of Kiel and graduated in 2004. After working in other maritime museums, preventive underwater archaeology, and in several marine and ship archaeological projects he joined the German Maritime Museum as researcher in 2011. He obtained a doctorate in early 2015 writing his thesis on early modern ship finds. Mike is specialized in medieval and early modern ship archaeology and is currently seeking for the ships that headed north.

Contact details, full CV and list of publications


Hans Christian Küchelmann

Hans Christian Küchelmann is a biologist specializing in archaeological bone remains (archaeozoologist). He graduated with a diploma from Oldenburg University in 1997. Hans Christian has worked with animal bones from a number of sites from e.g. Germany, Armenia, Morocco, and Turkey, ranging from the Neolithic period to the post-medieval period. In recent years he has become more and more drawn into fish bone analysis and he is hence responsible for the fishy part of this project.

Contact details, full CV and list of publications


Bart Holterman

The youngest member of the team, Bart Holterman works as a PhD student for the project. He graduated as an MA in Medieval History at the University of Utrecht in 2013. Not only does he like to travel himself physically, he also likes to accompany travellers from the past on their journeys in his mind. Bart therefore specialized in the work with medieval written sources, travel accounts and the visual representation of travellers in the Middle Ages. For this project, he will delve into the archives to unearth the written sources the Northern German merchants in the North Atlantic left behind.

Contact details, full CV and list of publications

Florian Dirks

Florian is the latest member of the team. He is a historian, specialized in Medieval Germany and Europe. He graduated in 2009 with a Magister from the University of Bremen. In 2013 he obtained his Phd at the University of Erfurt, where he researched methods of conflict settlement in feuds between Hanseatic towns and members of the nobility. His main fields of work include studies on security of Hanseatic towns. In the project, his task is to mine the historical written sources for data on catch numbers and places of cod. Florian is especially interested in the Hanseatic trade, the different types of sources and the archives where these can be found.


Philipp Grassel

Philipp is a maritime archaeologist and our associated researcher. He studied proto- and prehistory at Kiel university where he graduated with a MA in 2012. He then joined the Kiel Graduate School “Human Development in Landscapes” where he started to work on his PhD thesis on the submarine archaeological evidence of German trade in Shetland, Faroe and Iceland. He has undertaken several archaeological and geological submarine research projects. Philipp´s work focuses on researching the development of medieval and early modern seafaring in Northern Europe, and how ship building is reflected in harbour building. He is a member of the research group on maritime and limnic archaeology at Kiel university. In terms of submarine archaeology, the North Atlantic islands are terrae incognitae and he finds it extremely fascinating to work there.

Contact details, full CV and list of publications

Inga Lange

Inga works as a student assistant for the project since August 2016. Her job is to help Bart transliterating a source from the 16th century in the State Archive in Hamburg, which provides a load of information about the members of the Hamburg Confraternity of Iceland traders. She is currently a student at the University of Bremen, where she began her studies in historical science in 2012. The chief interest of her studies is in the history of the early modern period, and she has gained some experience in working with sources from that time before.


Torsten Torsk

This fine specimen of the cod (Gadus morhua) species goes by many names: Torsten Torsken, Horst der Dorsch, Cordt the Cod, Þorsteinn Þorskurinn, Karel de Kabeljauw, etc. Although Torsten is made in China, he is a far descendant of the Atlantic stockfish traded by the hanseatic merchants in the late Middle Ages, and therefore interested in his family history. Besides that, he is mainly here for ornamental purposes.

Follow the adventures of Torsten in his photo album on our facebook page