Here are five views from different angles of a single clump of recent shells. The clump comprises five European Flat Oyster shells, from at least three generations, attached to each other. Oyster larvae or spat are free-swimming for the first two weeks of their life and then they must settle on a hard object or die. In the wild, spat often cement themselves to empty oyster shells or shells of living oysters. When wild oysters are being fished to relay, for growing-on and fattening in shallower waters or man-made ponds, these naturally-occurring clumps are split up into individual oysters.
So, finding clumps of attached oyster shells in archaeological excavations of rubbish pits or middens full of food remains indicates that a natural population of oysters was probably being exploited – no farming, relaying or cultivation of oysters was involved. Simply collecting oysters by hand from intertidal locations on the seashore would have been the easiest method of gathering this type of shellfish. Any evidence for oyster fishing from deeper waters, using boats, dredges, tongs or other equipment would suggest a far greater degree of effort and sophistication in harvesting this marine resource.
You can find more photographs of clumped oyster shells if you click here.
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