Micromorphological Approaches to the Formation and Biographies of Early Medieval Towns in Northwest Europe

Publikation: KonferencebidragPosterForskning


  • Barbora Wouters
Even after decades of intensive research, the complex stratigraphy of many early medieval and Viking towns in continental Europe remains poorly understood. Debate continues about crucial aspects such as their origins, the changes they underwent through time and, in some cases, their supposed ‘decline’. By applying micromorphology, a new set of geoarchaeological data is created to complement existing archaeological and written sources of information.

Micromorphology is an effective method for the research of complex sites and the technique is highly applicable to two types of challenging stratigraphy commonly present at urban sites: microstratified units, and thick homogeneous units termed “dark earths”. Five case studies (Kaupang (Norway), Hedeby (Germany), Tongeren, Antwerpen and Lier (Belgium)) demonstrate how micromorphology, in combination with associated geoarchaeological methods such as textural analysis, µXRF elemental analysis and phytolith analysis of thin sections, can tackle questions that range from the basic understanding of stratigraphy, site formation processes and environmental context, to the identification of different activities.

The results are grouped into seven themes, together constituting a biographical interpretive framework:
1. Pre-town environments and predecessors
2. Town foundations - earliest evidence for settlement or built environment
3. Urban living: evolution of activities through time
4. The functions of buildings
5. Spatial organisation
6. Moving on - the youngest early medieval urban phases
7. Post-depositional transformations

This framework makes it possible to gain a deeper, more detailed understanding of the sites’ evolution through time as well their spatial organisation, and to mutually compare them without losing sight of their individual idiosyncrasies. At the same time, this approach bypasses a generalising discourse of early medieval towns. By juxtaposing the results of these five case studies with existing debates on early medieval towns, a number of set historical narratives can be challenged.
Udgivelsesår4 sep. 2017
Antal sider1
StatusUdgivet - 4 sep. 2017
BegivenhedDevelopig International Geoarchaeology (DIG) Conference - University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Storbritannien
Varighed: 4 sep. 20177 sep. 2017


KonferenceDevelopig International Geoarchaeology (DIG) Conference
LokationUniversity of Newcastle

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