Did ancient Romans whale the Mediterranean?

Updated 11 July 2018

Did ancient Romans whale the Mediterranean?

  • Today, there are only about 500 North Atlantic right whales left — in the western part near the American coast
  • The grey whale is found only in the North Pacific where it, too, was heavily whaled

PARIS: Ancient Roman hunters may have precipitated the disappearance of grey and right whales from the Mediterranean, a study said Wednesday, suggesting commercial whaling is much older than we thought.
Bones belonging to the two species were uncovered around the Strait of Gibraltar south of Spain, where they were never thought to have existed at all, a research team reported.
The finding suggests right and grey whales were “common” in the North Atlantic 2,000 years ago, likely navigating the strait to calve in the temperate Mediterranean Sea.
“The evidence that these two... species were present along the shores of the Roman Empire raises the hypothesis that they may have formed the basis of a forgotten whaling industry,” researchers wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The Basques of northern Spain and southwestern France who lived about 1,000 years ago, are widely considered as being the first large-scale whalers.
But the latest discovery of bones, identified as belonging to right and grey whales through DNA analysis, appear to challenge that timeline.
The bones were found among the remains of ancient Roman fish salting plants.

“The Romans may have hunted these two species in the same way the Basques did about 1,000 years later, by approaching the whales (which tend to keep to the coast) with small row boats, harpooning them, then finishing them off with spears and hauling them to land,” study co-author Ana Rodrigues of France’s CNRS research institute told AFP.
Right whales were wiped out in eastern half of the North Atlantic by commercial whaling, the researchers said, while grey whales disappeared from the entire North Atlantic in “still-mysterious circumstances.”
Today, there are only about 500 North Atlantic right whales left — in the western part near the American coast — less than six percent of the estimated original population.
The grey whale is found only in the North Pacific where it, too, was heavily whaled.
Although the findings do not prove the existence of a Roman whaling industry, such an interpretation would explain an earlier finding that the Atlantic grey whale population had already declined substantially before the onset of Basque whaling, they said.
The results “provide an ecological basis to the hypothesis of a forgotten Roman whaling industry,” the team wrote.


World’s shortest man dies in Nepal at 27

In this file photo taken on September 24, 2010 Nepalese teenager Khagendra Thapa Magar poses for a picture with Miss Nepal Sadichha Shrestha (C) and first runner-up Sahana Bajracharya (R) and second runner-up Samyukta Timilsina (L) in Kathmandu. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2020

World’s shortest man dies in Nepal at 27

  • Magar became an official face of Nepal’s tourism campaign, which featured him as the smallest man in a country that is home to the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest

KATMANDU: The world’s shortest man who could walk, as verified by Guinness World Records, died Friday at a hospital in Nepal, his family said.
Khagendra Thapa Magar, who measured 67.08 centimeters (2 feet 2.41 inches), died of pneumonia at a hospital in Pokhara, 200 kilometers from Katmandu, where he lived with his parents.
“He has been in and out of hospital because of pneumonia. But this time his heart was also affected. He passed away today,” Mahesh Thapa Magar, his brother, told AFP.
Magar was first declared the world’s shortest man in 2010 after his 18th birthday, photographed holding a certificate only a bit smaller than him.
However he eventually lost the title after Nepal’s Chandra Bahadur Dangi, who measured 54.6 centimeters, was discovered and named the world’s shortest mobile man.
Magar regained the title after Dangi’s death in 2015.
“He was so tiny when he was born that he could fit in the palm of your hand, and it was very hard to bathe him because he was so small,” said his father, Roop Bahadur, according to Guinness World Records.
As the world’s shortest man the 27-year-old traveled to more than a dozen countries and made television appearances in Europe and the United States.
“We’re terribly sad to hear the news from Nepal that Khagendra is no longer with us,” said Craig Glenday, Guinness World Records editor-in-chief.
“Life can be challenging when you weigh just 6 kilograms and you don’t fit into a world built for the average person. But Khagendra certainly didn’t let his small size stop him from getting the most out of life” he said.
Magar became an official face of Nepal’s tourism campaign, which featured him as the smallest man in a country that is home to the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.
During his stint he met other short people around the world, including the shortest woman, Jyoti Amge, from India.
In a video released by Guinness World Records, Magar is seen playing a guitar with his brother, riding a bike and sitting at his family’s shop.
The world’s shortest non-mobile man remains Junrey Balawing of the Philippines, who measures only 59.93 centimeters but is unable to walk or stand unaided, according to Guinness World Records.
The record for shortest living mobile man is now retained by Edward “Nino” Hernandez of Colombia, a reggaeton DJ who stands 70.21 centimeters tall, Guinness said.