Between Landing Site and Vicus – Between Emporium and Town. Framing the Early Medieval Urban Development

Posted on March 29, 2017


Another session of videos from the EAA conference.

Session Abstract

Urban development is one of the most pressing topics within Early Medieval archaeology. Among scholars there is heated debate about how to think about and study these urban places before the emergence of “proper” High Medieval towns. Strategies range from analyses of Latin vocabulary from contemporary historical sources, to the application of Polanyis’ concept of “ports of trade”, to the use of neologisms such as “early towns” or “proto-towns” or lately the simple the designation of “Viking-age towns” or “towns of the age”. However, apart from a few exceptions (e.g. the works of R. Hodges or J. Callmer), discussions soon turn into debates over terminology rather than on the actual nature of these sites, and most studies have fail in one decisive way: the sites under discussion are treated as monolithic entities instead of dynamic environments with distinct development phases and different characteristics over their often considerable periods of existence.

Archaeologically, this misconception is often predominately based on the mid-phase of an urban development, which has been taken as representative for the site as a whole. Being covered by metres of cultural layers, a search for these settlements’ spatially limited roots can literary turn into a quest for a needle in a haystack. The latest Early Medieval developments on the other hand are often either largely disturbed in the plow layers or strongly affected by the subsequent High Medieval settlement activities, including masonry construction and cellars. This session, therefore, seeks specifically to address the inconspicuous phases of urban development at both their inception phases and up through the latest Early Medieval structures on these sites. Papers in the session will address methodological problems, but more importantly, they will seek to widen our understanding of early urbanism as a complex and utterly dynamic process.

Saturday, 3 September 2016, 09:00-18:30
Faculty of Philology, Room 118
Author – Kalmring, Sven, Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, Schleswig, Germany
Co-author(s) – Tys, Dries, Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
Co-author(s) – Fleming, Robin, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, United States of America
Co-author(s) – Van Oosten, Roos, Leiden University, Amersfoort, Netherlands
Co-author(s) – Reilly, Eileen, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Co-author(s) – Crabtree, Pam, New York University, New York, United States of America
Keywords: early medieval, urbanisation
Emergence and Downfall of Viking Towns: The Concealed Phases within the Archaeological Record Author – Dr. Kalmring, Sven, Centre for Blatic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), Schleswig, Germany (Presenting author)

Keywords: Concealed Phases, Urbanisiation, Viking Towns

In Viking studies one of the most attended field of research is – apart from the process of Christianisation and Scandinavia’s integration into the occidental Europe – the emergence of urbanism in a remote area where the concept of towns was never introduced before.Interestingly enough scholars agree on the fact that in Scandinavia itself only four sites can be regarded as urban at all. Despite their limited number these few sites tend to be conceived as chronologically rather monolithic entities taking the best preserved evidence as a characteristic for the whole settlements, which in fact have – mostly as a discontinuous phenomenon – have existed and change over a time period of some 250 to 300 years.The reason for this is due to the fact that the earliest traces of over time intensively settled communities are covered by metres of cultural layers and thus their spatially limited origins tend to be hard to trace down. And in some regard the same is true for their latest phases of development exposed to ploughing, erosion or modern construction. Despite these obstacles this paper wants to focus on just these hard to grasp phases in order to contribute to a more differentiated view on Viking urbanism in its chronological depth deserved.

Before and after the emporium. The early and late phases of Walichrum (Domburg-Oostkapelle, NL) Author – Dr. Deckers, Pieterjan, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Etterbeek, Belgium (Presenting author)
Walichrum, situated near the present-day town of Domburg (Netherlands), is often referred to as one of the late Merovingian and Carolingian emporia, an interpretation mainly based on the substantial number of coins collected on the eroding beach by 19th-century antiquarians. However, a review of the full range of evidence makes clear that this emporium did not emerge out of nothing: situated nearby a Roman temple, the site probably continued to function as a cult site throughout the Early Middle Ages and derived some of its early significance as a trading site from this. Similarly, the significance of the site following the heyday of Carolingian rule, from the second half of the 9th century onwards, has been neglected. Previously, it was thought that the site was abandoned in the later 9th century, a few decades after a recorded Viking raid in AD 837. However, the re-evaluation of the evidence brought to light late 9th- to 11th-century material attesting to continued activity. This, in turn, necessitates a renewed assessment of the relationship with the nearby ringfort of Domburg. Previously the fort was thought of as a successor to Walichrum, the refuge of the latter’s inhabitants in the politically unstable post-Carolingian period.
Thanks to new research the fort area now emerges as an integral part of Walichrum from the 7th or 8th century onwards, long before the construction of the fort in the third quarter of the 9th century. This paper will trace the life trajectory of Walichrum, with special attention to these hitherto overlooked early and late phases. The developments on the site will be framed in wider discussions of landing places and urban settlements in northwestern Europe. This will be done in reference to the dynamic coastal landscape in which this site was located, which during the period under consideration developed from a remote barrier island in the Scheldt estuary, backed by an inhospitable tidal marsh, to the dune belt of a large island rich in sheep-grazing grounds. It will be argued that the site’s occupation history, in particular its final phase and ultimate disappearance, was determined to a large part by regional socio-political developments, in turn tied to much broader cultural and political changes in the North Sea area.

Bypassing monolithic entities: diachronic and spatially informed approaches to early medieval towns Author – Wouters, Barbora, Vrije Universiteit Brussel & University of Aberdeen, Brussel, Belgium (Presenting author)
Keywords: early medieval, geoarchaeology, urbanisation

The settlement areas of early medieval towns have in the past been subject to generalising interpretations of their character, layout and function. Changes in the towns’ dynamics over generations of town dwellers have not often been addressed, while these changes are the key to a multi-faceted understanding of the daily lives of the inhabitants, and how these may have changed over time. The complex nature of urban deposits has in some cases prompted excavation using a random division in spits, while an opposite reflex is necessary to produce a clearer phasing of each separate case. Before comparisons are made, the individual life trajectory of each town should be understood to its fullest. This paper examines how geoarchaeological approaches (micromorphology, microXRF, and other techniques) contribute to a more nuanced understanding of these towns, with a focus on the earliest and latest phases of the towns under study. Illustrating this approach with case studies from the Low Countries, including Tongeren and Antwerpen, and Scandinavia, such as Hedeby and Kaupang, this paper makes a case for a particularistic examination of early medieval towns before wider comparisons are made.
With current geoarchaeological methods, it is possible to record and interpret separate phases of each town in more detail, to collect finds accordingly and source dating materials more securely. It is also possible to add information about well-dated but unclear phases of the towns, such as in the case of homogeneous deposits, so-called dark earths. The latter often occur precisely at the beginning and perceived end of early medieval towns, making their interpretation a challenging endeavour. Not every single layer, event or nuance is captured by geoarchaeological means, but more details can be added to the state of the art of each individual town, perhaps even narrowing down the scope to particular changes at the scale of generations. Not just a diachronic approach, but one that takes into account diversity on a horizontal level as well, is necessary to further grasp the complexity of
these urban entities. A combination of a diachronic approach and spatially informed one on a micro-scale yields archaeological results with the strongest interpretive value, and, if integrated into the research project design from the very beginning, provides a way to contextualise the enormous amounts of material these sites produce.

Changing Places: a comparative discussion of London and Tours in the Early Medieval Period

Author – Donnelly, Harriet, The University of Sydney, St Leonards, Australia (Presenting author)
Keywords: early medieval, settlement patterns, urbanism

The settlements of Western Europe experienced a period of significant transition following the decline of Roman control in the 5th century AD. The movement of people and ideas resulted in change and reorganisation for many communities living in what had previously been Roman settlements. Such developments occurred both within the boundaries of the old structures, and by expanding or moving beyond those existing limits. Many of those sites which saw significant change developed slowly over a longer period of time, often not taking the recognisable Medieval shape until at least the 12th century. This paper examines the developmental stages that occurred at two settlements which saw significant changes from the 5th to 12th centuries AD;
London and Tours. Both developed according to a pattern of twin towns with the two halves divided by a small area with limited occupation. London and Tours were both hugely important settlements and a comparative discussion of respective changes at each site during this period highlights the various methods by which such settlements developed as well as providing insight into both a trade driven and monastic model of the twin town phenomenon. Examination of these sites and how they changed during the Early Medieval period, will enable a deeper understand of the complexity of urban development and transitional processes.

A Subersive Urbanism: Venice in the 9th century Author – Calaon, Diego, Stanford University, Stanford, United States of America (Presenting author)
Keywords: Adriatic, Emporia, Venice

How did Venice’s urban structure look like in the 9th century? Venice suffers from its own legends. The materiality of the rising Venice has been generally perceived as sites without time and space, where a fully established myth describes the origin of city. The Venetian lagoon, in fact, was the place where the noble Romans sought refuge from the barbarian hordes: they had been forced to move to unwelcoming islands among the marshes to be free and safe. In the islands the newcomers were able to rebuilt a place that – according the historic narratives – was ideologically and materially comparable to the old Roman sites.
The uncovered wood structures of the early medieval houses, for example, have been described as a poor reaction to a sudden displacement. Recent archaeological assessment, on the contrary, has shown how these buildings were confortable and perfectly designed for the lagoon environment. Clay foundations and wood structures were technically appropriate for a cold and humid setting. The choice of the lagoon itself was not forced. The settlement patterns were not extemporary, but followed precise social and economic designs. The settlement followed the movements of the lagoon and the river mouths: the first Venetians tried to occupy the more distant islets in order to control both the maritime and the riverine sailing routes. Artisanal productions (glass goblets, parchments, metal crafts) were not subsistence economies; the emporia layout of the sites allowed the circulation of raw materials, techniques and skilled people.
Venice was a proto-capitalistic site. A large part of the production (shipyard, timber industry, glass and metal productions, etc.) was made by labour forces with a status very similar to slaves. Probably, also, slaves were one of the most value goods, which the Venetians traded with the Islamic world. But slaves, dirty workshops or labour class issues are not good ingredients for the myth of the origins or for the official history of a superpower state. Venice proudly defined itself from the very beginning as a democracy and a free republic: Venetians needed a respectable and glorious past, and they made it up, reshaping also the “idea” of the early city.
The idea of the early Venice, moreover, cannot be separated from the present. Traditional archaeology, instead, has studied it as phase of the previous roman past. The archaeological study of its urbanism should it considered in the counter light of the fluid social negations that took place around a very specific environment, creating polyfocal sites, which will be cities in the following years.

How and when Venice became Venice. Framing the urban development of a trading town in Italy Author – Dr. Pazienza, Annamaria, Ca’Foscari University, Venice, Italy (Presenting author)
Keywords: Early Medieval Venice, Trading Town, Urban Identity

Venice was one of the most important cities in Europe in the late Middle Ages and the Modern era, when it formed an independent state which controlled trade across the Mediterranean and towards the Levant. A myth of Venetian uniqueness has been cultivated by local historians and international specialists which has always attributed to the town on the lagoon an innate and unique vocation for political autonomy and trade.
This in fact is only partially based on historical facts. Although some exceptional elements are observable – such as the local government of the Venetian public assembly (placitum) and the amphibian nature of the settlement – these elements have been much overestimated at least as far as the Early Middle Ages is concerned. In the 9th and 10th centuries the apparently novel appearance of Venice on the Italian political scene and the associated emergence of the Venetian public assembly presided over by the duke has numerous parallels in other parts of Italy where several urban communities, mostly represented by their bishops, started to act as social and political entities at the same time. In addition, the region around Venice demonstrated its own economic vitality with other towns competing for the control of the Adriatic sea well before the 9th century by engaging in maritime and artisanal activities remarkably similar to those of other settlements in Northern Europe, which archaeologists such as Chris Loveluck and Will Bowden usually call emporia.
Moreover, some recent reconstructions suggest that the rapid growth of Venice in the 8th and 9th centuries can be explained by the conjunction of the contemporary expansion of the Carolingian empire which increased demand for luxury goods with Venice’s special location on the sea near a great river delta (the Po). Although it is likely that the convergence of both these factors had played a major role in the sudden development of the city, it is often forgotten that Venice shared the same ecological position and the same economic system with many other trading towns at least in this earlier period.
These facts pose other challenges to the traditional triumphalist explanations. Why did Venice enjoy a more durable success in a longterm perspective with respect to other towns? What exactly made the difference in the Venetian case? Was it mere coincidence that Venice was the seat of a political authority, the doge, whereas the other emporia were not? Was the fact that this authority was secular (a duke) rather than religious (a bishop) as elsewhere the key point?
The paper will seek to answer these questions by analysing the case of Venice in a comparative context and in the light of both archaeological data and written sources, by suggesting for the city, before 1050, typicity rather than exceptionality in terms of population size, accumulation of wealth and socio-economic development.

The origins of urbanization in the forest-steppe zone of Western Siberia Author – Tsembalyuk, Svetlana, Institute of problems of devepment of the North, Tyumen, Russian Federation (Presenting author)
Co-author(s) – Anoshko, Oksana, Institute of problems of devepment of the North, Tyumen, Russian Federation
Co-author(s) – Berlin, Svetlana, Institute of problems of devepment of the North, Tyumen, Russian Federation
Keywords: fortresses, urbanization, Western Siberia

A huge archeological material testifies that the origins of urbanization in Western Siberia should be associated with the formation of ancient fortified settlements – fortresses that appeared on this territory in the Bronze Age and protocities formed in the early Iron Age.The first simple fortifications in the form of stockades or fortified dwellings in the forest-steppe zone of Trans-Urals are fixed on the materials of the Bronze Age monuments (the II millennium BC). During this period their number was insignificant, the bulk continued to be unfortified villages.The increase in the number of fortified settlements was greater in the transition period from bronze to iron (the 2nd quarter of the 1st millennium BC). They were round-oval in shape towns with area up to 4 hectares.
There were major suburbs around them. The citadels of the time were poorly fortified fences. The appearance of first fortifications is connected with the destabilization of the political situation in the region as a result of the influx of migrants from the North of Western Siberia. Then the strengthening of the village with a palisade or a fence was not defensive but probably ideological in nature. The aim was to preserve their cultural traditions within phratry.In the early Iron Age (the middle of the 1st millennium BC – the middle of the 1st millennium AD) the number of settlements increases. In the forest-steppe zone of Trans-Urals they number more than 100. One-third of excavated settlements are multicultural, from 15 to 20 fortified settlements belonged to carriers of certain traditions. Within this period the dynamics of fortification is well traced. Fortifications of early stage continue the tradition of the transition from bronze to iron time. Archaeologically they are fixed in the form of small grooves on the perimeter, holes for posts, charcoal and traces of burnt wooden structures in the embankment of the earthen rampart. They are reconstructed as a hedge of stockade fence around the residential area. Most of them could not perform a defensive function. Already at that
time there is specialization of fortified settlements as centers of metalworking, import, exchange, cooperation of multicultural
population.By the 5-3 centuries BC increasing complexity of fortifications is recorded. The number, height and power of the earthen ramparts with wooden fortifications in the form of the palisades, fences, walls, crates, towers and surrounding ditches are increased. There is not only a general tendency to strengthen the fortifications, but also to the complexity of their structure: double-, triple area settlements are emerging. The search for new forms, combinations of known elements and structures to enhance the overall defense capability is noted. The materials of some fortresses recorded import items of Chinese and Central Asian origin indicating them as centers of trade and exchange. The fortresses became the centers of origin and transmission of cultural innovation, and the process of urbanization and the resulting changes in the ancient and medieval societies to the greatest extent determined the development of the region.

The early urban development in the steppes Author – Dr. Habil. Ochir-Goryaeva, Institute of archaeology Tatrstan academy of sciences,
Kazan, Russian Federation (Presenting author)
Co-author(s) – Dr. Habil. Sitdikov, A., Institute of archaeology Tatrstan academy of sciences, Kazan, Russian Federation
Co-author(s) – Kiyashko, Y., Volgograd State University, Volgograd, Russian Federation
Keywords: Chasarian Kaganat, steppe, urban development

The earliest urban sites in the East European steppe date to the Early Medieval Epoch and, in particular, to the time of the Chasarian Kaganat (from the 7th to the 9th cc). So far their number has been limited to several, now famous, urban developments located along the Don river such as Sarkel-Belaya Vezha, Pravoberezhnoye Tsimlyanskoye gorodishe (urban development), and Semikarakorskoye gorodishe. Numerous urban developments in the adjacent areas of the foreststeppe Podonye (the Don basin valley) and Pridneprovye (the Dnepr basin valley) dating to the Chasarian epoch are representative of the material culture of the Don Alan, Bulgar, Oguz, Pecheneg, and Slavs. Those of the Crimea and the Northern Caucasus associate with the culture of local sedentary populations who were agrarians. Only those sites that are located between the Don and the Volga belonged to the Chasarian Kaganat proper, hence it is these urban developments that can be related to ethnic Chasarians. The last decades saw simultaneous discoveries of several sites of the Chasarian Kaganat in the Volga-Don steppe. In the late 1990s at a kilometer distance from the Pravoberezhnoye Tsimlyanskoye gorodishe an urban development was opened, which contained the ruins of fortress walls of white lime stone. One of the stone blocks displayed a tamga of a typically Chasarian shape. The new fortress got the designation of Sarkel-3 as a part of the whole agglomeration complex that includes also Sarkel and Pravoberezhnoye Tsimlyanskoye urban developments. At the same time a Chasarian epoch lower layer was opened under the layers of the Golden Horde urban center on the site at the village of Samosdelka in the Volga estuary. According to the archeologists that led the exavations, the geographical position and the character of the constructions of the Samosdelka lower layer suggest that these may be the remnants of the town of Itil´. In 2008 followed the opening of the Bashanta gorodishe that contained the ruins of constructions made of white clam shell stone and tile fragments parallel to those found in late Chersonesus on the Crimean peninsula (Jacobson, 1958, 1964). One of the stone blocks also had a tamga cut in it. According to two radiocarbon dates ( 622- 655 at 68.3% and 600-662 at 95.4 %) and ( 672 – 782 at 90.6 %), resulting from the analysis carried out by Leibnitz Laboratory of the Kiel University (Germany), Bashanta turns out to be the earliest of the urban developments in the East European steppe dating to the time of the Chasarian Kaganat. The excavations of 2000-2005 of a number of late medieval urban centers and developments in the Lower Volga, undertaken by the Khalikov Institute of Archeology of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, resulted in discovering cultural layers dating to the pre-Mongolian epoch. As a number of the recovered finds show, they may also be dated to the time
of the Chasarian Kaganat. Thus, further effort along the lines will contribute to an understanding of early medieval urbanism in the archeology of Europe.

Viking age settlement networks and the rise of the early urban centers on the Upper Volga Author – academician Makarov, Nikolay, Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russian Federation (Presenting author)
Keywords: large unfortified settlements,early urbanization, Upper Volga

Early urbanization of Northern Rus’, including Upper-Volga region, is usually presented as the formation of the trading centers which emerged in IX-X cc on the river routes from the Baltic to the East in connection with the Cufic silver circulation and later developed in the centers of control over the trade networks. This vision of the early urban centers of Rus’ was strongly inspired by the studies of emporia in North-Western Europe. One of the central issues of this concept is the idea of drastic contrasts between the rural sites and the early towns, both in their economical background and cultural shape. Field investigations in the Suzdal Opolie region in the Upper Volga, which constituted the core area of North-Eastern Rus’, conducted in the two recent decades, produced extensive new data on the Viking age and Medieval settlement, cultural landscapes, rural sites and early towns with the perspective of better understanding of settlement hierarchy and social contexts.
More than 100 dwelling sites with the find material of the X-th- the XI- th cc. were mapped and surveyed in Suzdal Opolie. Most important elements of this network were the «large unfortified settlements» – extensive unfortified sites or site clusters, with the area from 4 to 15 hectare.
Dwelling sites of this category produce evidence of trade, craft production and agrarian activities, as well as of prosperity and high social status of a number of the settlers. Suzdal town, known from the written sources as the main urban center in the region, became noticeable only in the XIth century. There is no evidence of its social and political importance in the X-the c. The rise of Suzdal town didn’t lead to the collapse or decay of the «large settlements». Most of them produce evidence of development and prosperity in the XI-th c.
Large unfortified settlements of Suzdal land have much in common with the sites in different regions of Rus’, which were earlier attributed as proto-urban centers or trading centers on the river routes. The difference is that the former could hardly be regarded as the sites with the «central functions». 10 dwelling sites were concentrated in considerably small area, the distance between the neighboring sites varied from 6 to 14 km. Another important point is that large unfortified settlements couldn’t have been used for the control over the water-routes. They are located on the small rivers, often – on the watersheds.
Field work at the sites of Suzdal Opolie lead to re-evaluation of the interpretation of sites, which were formerly regarded as emporia or proto-urban centers in the Upper Volga, like Timerevo and Sarskoe near Rostov. Their status in the settlement hierarchy probably was overestimated. New investigations reveal, that long-distance trade in the Upper Volga in the Viking age was not monopolized by one single center – it developed through the formation of considerable wide network of sites.

The emergence of Odense, the third largest city of Denmark. Methods, definitions and dynamics Author – Dr. Runge, Mads, Odense Bys Museer/Odense City Museums, Odense C, Denmark (Presenting author)
Keywords: Ringfort, Urbanism, Viking Age

The Viking Age and Medieval center of Odense were before the introduction of the systematical archaeology heavily destroyed by development work without prior archaeological excavation. This means that the earliest history of the town rests on fragmentized ground.
An ongoing research project responds to this and has started the chase on the earliest history of Odense. The project is based on a dynamic model for urbanism combined with new analysis on older material, among others new AMS-datings. At the same time new large-scale excavations in the city center brings new possibilities to get the most out of the remaining parts of the city’s past.
Also a new excavation at the ringfort (trelleborg) Nonnebakken is relevant in this aspect. The paper will focus on the following questions: Why is it Odense and not one of the other late iron age central places that becomes the central city? What is the significance of Nonnebakken – the only trelleborg nearby a contemporary city – in relation to the making of Odense? Or is it the ringfort that is placed by the city? May a smaller trade- and crafts area be seen as an urban phenomenon? Or must there be more to it? These questions are essential in the context of Odense, but will be used also to address central points in a principal discussion on methodologically challenges, definitions and dynamics regarding early urbanism.

More than a landing site, less than a vicus. Medieval Gasir in northern Iceland Author – Prof. Vésteinsson, Orri, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland (Presenting author)

Co-author(s) – Roberts, Howell, Institute of Archaeology, Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
Co-author(s) – Gisladóttir, G , Institute of Archaeology, Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
Keywords: Iceland, Medieval, Trade

Gásir is well known from historical records as the main trading site in northern Iceland in the medieval period. The site has extensive ruins and a church and when large-scale excavations began in 2001 it was expected that direct evidence would be found of exchanges between foreign merchants and native Icelanders. 6 years of meticulous excavation failed to identify much evidence for trade taking place at the site, which nevertheless has several of the attributes normally associated with emporia. This has raised questions about the nature of the site and the nature of trade in a marginal economy like Iceland’s.
The paper discusses the evidence unearthed at Gasir and places it in the context of social and economic organization in the medieval North Atlantic.

From late prehistoric harbours to medieval towns in the eastern coast of the Baltic Author – Dr. Mägi, Marika, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia (Presenting author)

Keywords: development of towns in the Eastern Baltic, late Iron Age centres, trade and communication

Although several international trade routes run through the Eastern Baltic, Viking Age hill-forts and settlements are predominantly found along Estonian northern and insular coasts, while the number of them along Latvian and Lithuanian coasts was quite modest. The situation changed in the 11th-12th centuries, as several coastal settlements were taken into intensive use. Not all of them developed into medieval towns, and some medieval towns were established in places without any prior settlement. My speech focuses on the predecessors of two present-day Eastern Baltic capitals, Tallinn and Riga. Both of them were founded as medieval towns in the first quarter of the 13th century, however it is at first glimpse the two cities’ differences that stands out. Quite a number of 12th-century archaeological remains have been uncovered in Riga, while in Tallinn no pre-13th century archaeological layer has been demonstrated below streets and walls of the Old Town so far, despite of numerous archaeological excavations. However, settlement remains were recorded a couple of hundred meters away from the Old Town of Tallinn. A closer look also reveals other similarities in the natal phase of Tallinn and Riga, e. g. adjacent hill-forts and the vicinity of probable cultplaces. Their similarities also include topographic location of the those accompanying sites, and their place in an overall culture historical complex. It depends on one’s research methods, favourite theoretical schools and later history how to interpret the sites under present-day Tallinn and Riga. Looking around in the Baltic Rim, parallels can be found for the development of these sites, while comparisons to similar settlements with somewhat different later history may be drawn on Eastern Baltic coasts. Ideas of
the origin and development of prehistoric Riga and Tallinn will accordingly be presented in my speech, placing them in a broader
international context.


The rural component in the early urban development of Brussels, Belgium Author – Dr. Nicosia, Cristiano, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium (Presenting author)
Co-author(s) – Devos, Yannick, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium
Co-author(s) – Vrydaghs, Luc, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium
Co-author(s) – Charruadas, Pablo, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium
Co-author(s) – Degraeva, Ann, Head of the Department of Archaeological Heritage, Bruxelles, Belgium
Keywords: Bruxelles, Geoarchaeology, Urban agriculture

The study of the early development of Brussels, Belgium, has shown to be a challenge. Over the last century historians have heavily debated on the scarce existing – often very questionable – historical sources, trying to explain the emergence of this city situated along a steep slope bordering the Senne river. In the last decades, a new generation of historians underlined the importance of agricultural development and expansion as an important factor for the early development of Brussels (Charruadas, 2011).
Of course the question should be raised whether there are any archaeological data supporting this hypothesis. Despite the many interventions taking place over the last decades in the centre of Brussels, no remains of farmsteads have been recovered. But archaeologists do almost systematically encounter dark earth dating from the 10th-13th century AD, period where the historians situate the early town development.
An interdisciplinary approach has been developed to study these dark earths, involving not only historical research and archaeology, but also geoarchaeological (including soil micromorphology and physico-chemical analyses) and archaeobotanical studies. These studies highlight that several human activities can be hidden behind complex formation processes, some related to the development of an agro-pastoral system (Devos et al., 2009; 2011; 2013; Vrydaghs et al., 2016).
The present contribution will discuss the results of the study of these dark earth units, and demonstrate how they contributed to the understanding of the early town development and the importance of agricultural activities, the location of crop and pasture land, and the cultivated crops.
Charruadas, P., 2011. Croissance rurale et essor urbain bruxelles. Les dynamiques d’une société entre ville et campagnes
(1000-1300) . Académie royale de Belgique, Brussels.
Devos, Y., Vrydaghs, L., Degraeve, A., Fechner, K., 2009. An archaeopedological and phytolitarian study of the “Dark Earth”
on the site of rue de Dinant (Brussels, Belgium). Catena 78, 270-284.
Devos, Y., Vrydaghs, L., Degraeve, A., Modrie, S., 2011. Unravelling Urban Stratigraphy; the Study of Brussels’ (Belgium) Dark
Earth. An Archaeopedological Perspective. Medieval and Modern Matters 2, 51-76.
Devos, Y., Nicosia, C., Vrydaghs, L., Modrie, S., 2013. Studying urban stratigraphy: Dark Earth and a microstratified sequence on
the site of the Court of Hoogstraeten (Brussels, Belgium).
Integrating archaeopedology and phytolith analysis. Quaternary International 315, 147-166. Vrydaghs, L., Devos, Y.,
Charruadas, P., Scott Cummings, L. & Degraeve, A., 2016. Agricultural Activities in the 10th–13th Century CE in Brussels (Belgium):
An Interdisciplinary Approach. In: Retamero, F., Schjellerup, I. & Davies, A. (eds.), Agricultural and Pastoral Landscapes in Pre-
Industrial Society: Choices, Stability and Change. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp. 221-234. (=Early Agricultural Remnants and
Technical Heritage (EARTH): 8000 Years of Resilience and Innovation, 3).

An agrarian town? – understanding the earliest phase of the medieval town Odense in Denmark Author – PhD student Haase, Kirstine, Aarhus University, School of Culture and Society, Kolding, Denmark (Presenting author)
Keywords: Medieval archaeology, Urbanization

This paper will discuss how to understand the early development of Odense seen through the archaeological record. Is it possible to see if, how and when the town transformed from agrarian to urban during the 11th to 16th Century? Untill now the evidence of the earliest history of Odense has mainly been based on the sparse remains of a Viking Age ring fortress and written sources testifying to Odense as a place of significance from around 1000 CE. Recent large-scale excavations have offered the opportunity to study this early phase of the town from an archaeological point of view emphasizing the physical remains and change in use of space.
Up to several meters of well-preserved stratigraphy were excavated applying a strictly managed contextual method, reflexive interpretation of the formation of the cultural deposits and sampling for macro botanical, zoo archaeological and micromorphological analysis. With an extensive finds assemblage and well-preserved structures such as booths, houses, byres and stables, latrines, paths, roads, fences, manureheaps and much more the site data forms the basis for addressing the question if certain features can be distinguished as agrarian or urban and how these features change over time.

Craftspeople in emporia – the original cast. Non-ferrous metalworkers in eighth century Ribe Author – Prof. Sindbaek, Soren, Aarhus University, H jbjerg, Denmark (Presenting author)

Co-author(s) – Neiss, Michael, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
Co-author(s) – Croix, Sarah, Aarhus University, H jbjerg, Denmark
Keywords: 3D laser scanning, Crafts, Urbanism

This paper argues that the organization of crafts had an imperative significance for the emergence of urban environments in early medieval emporia in Northern Europe. This is demonstrated in a re-assesment of a non-ferrous metal workshop from the eighth century excavated in Ribe, Denmark. 3D laser scans are used to classify previously unidentified mould fragments, and new identifications are offered as a result. The results show that the workshop produced a range of items including bits for horse harness, chests with elaborate locks and dress ornaments. In each case the finished product demanded a range of specialized materials, and thus presumably the skills and expertise of a group of craftsmen. This need for collaboration between specialized artisans was a vital reason why permanent communities of an urban character emerged in ports with privileged access to imported materials. This offers the basis of a revised model for the emergence of urbanism in the North Sea region.

Multimetal smithing – An urban craft in rural settings? Author – Svensson, Andreas, Lund University, Lund, Sweden (Presenting author)
Keywords: Complex metalworking, Multimetality, Urban package

Multimetal smithing should be defined as the use of more than one metal and/or different metalworking techniques within the same crafts-milieu. This complex metalworking has long been linked to centrality, central places and urbanity in Scandinavia. It has been extensively argued that fine casting and smithing, as well as manufacture utilizing precious metals was exclusively undertaken within early urban settings or the “central places” pre-dating these. Furthermore, the presence of complex metal craftsmanship has been used as a driving indicator of the political, social and economic superiority of certain sites, thereby enhancing their identity as “centralities”.
Recent research has come to challenge the universality of this link between urbanity, centrality and complex metalworking as sites in rural settings with evidence of multimetal smithing are being identified. This shows that the relationship between the craft and centrality (urbanity) must be nuanced and that perhaps multimetal craftsmanship should be reconsidered as an urban indicator.
The thesis project “From Crucible and onto Anvil” started in 2015 and focuses on sites housing remains of multimetal craftsmanship dating primarily from 500-1000 AD. Within the project a comprehensive survey of sites will be used to evaluate the presence of multimetal craftsmanship in the landscape. Sites in selected target areas will also be subject to intra-site analysis focusing on workshop organisation, production output, metalworking techniques and chronological variances.
A key aim in the project is to elucidate the conceptual aspects of complex metalworking. The term multimetality is used to analytically frame all the societal and economic aspects of multimetal craftsmanship. Through this inclusive perspective both the craftsmanship and the metalworkers behind it are positioned within the overall socioeconomic framework. The metalworkers, their skills and competences as well as the products of their labour are viewed as dynamic actors in the landscape and on the arenas of political economy of the Late Iron Age.
The survey has already revealed interesting aspects concerning multimetal smithing and urbanity. Although the multimetal sites do cluster against areas of early urban development there are also other patterns emerging. Multimetal craftsmanship – both as practice and concept – was well represented in both rural peripheral settings and urban crafts-milieus. This means that the role of multimetality as part of an “urban conceptual package” is crucial to investigate. Such an approach will have the dual ends of properly understanding the craft and its societal implications, but also further the knowledge of the phenomenon of urbanity as a whole. Was multimetal smithing part of an “urban package” that spread into the rural landscape? Did the multimetality differ between urban and rural crafts-milieus? How does early urbanity relate to the chronology of multimetal craftsmanship?
This paper aims to counter these questions using examples from the survey of multimetal sites conducted within the thesis project. A comparison between selected sites will be presented. The purpose of this is to evaluate the role of multimetality within the “urban package” and discuss the role of complex metalworking in the establishment of urban arenas of interaction in Late Iron Age Scandinavia.

The Trajectory of the Productive Limfjord Region AD 600-1100 – Exploring Changing Economic Patterns Author – Christiansen, Torben Trier, Aarhus University, Arden, Denmark (Presenting author)
Keywords: Metal-detector finds, Regional spatial analysis, Socioeconomic change

Until the western exit sanded up in the early 12th century, the Limfjord (Northern Jutland) had played a central marine infrastructural role. Prior to the closing of the western exit, the fjord offered a comfortable shortcut for anyone sailing between the Kattegat and the North Sea, and the significance of the region during the Viking Age is clearly reflected in written sources as well as in the archaeological record. During the late 10th century Aggersborg, the largest of the Danish ring fortresses, was erected at the centre of the Limfjord region; and at approximately the same time the first activity is traceable at what was to become the capital of the region, the town of Aalborg, close to the eastern exit of the fjord. In addition to this, large metal-rich settlements are situated on every hill by the fjord – a dense system of villages that were presumably led by local magnates. However, despite clear signs of high economic activity and increased specialization of some crafts, there is little evidence of a regional settlement hierarchy
and centralization prior to the existence of Aggersborg and the urban development at Aalborg; and parallel to the growth of the latter, activity seems to increase in most of the neighbouring coastal villages. The general impression left by the archaeological record is one of a remarkable regional productivity during most of the first millennium AD and during the following centuries too.
This paper discusses the socioeconomic development of the region and seeks to illuminate the dynamics behind the broad regional productivity during the centuries prior to and parallel to the first urban development. Fresh results from spatial and chronological analysis of a large corpus of metal-detector finds challenge previous notions of settlement continuity and emphasize the presence of distinct regional patterns of socioeconomic change.

No town is an island Author – PhD Jessen, Mads Dengs , National Museum of Denmark, Kbh. K, Denmark (Presenting author)

Keywords: Architecture, Aristocracy, Production site

The current paper aims to highlight the differing strata of localities on which the establishment of the network of Viking Age towns rested. This is to be understood as the possible developmental dependency the bigger and perhaps more centrally positioned early towns might have had on the smaller and more resident types of localities. Special attention will be paid to the different kind of production sites which has been registered in South Scandinavia. Quite often these sites are characterized by a special type of archaeological structures and by being topographically interwoven with the more elaborate agenda of the (local) aristocracy.
The newly excavated sites of Toftum N s, Jutland (Denmark), will be presented as case in point, and the special features that have been registered here will be discussed. In particular the conspicuous architecture will figure prominently; a very sturdily built and thus high structure which can only be interpreted as a tower is placed in companion with a succession of larger hall-type buildings, and a possible ritual building. This ‘aristocratic quarter‘ is in direct contact with another area characterized by a larger pit-house cluster of more the a 100 units, and placed in the vicinity of two conjoining streams. The different structures mentioned and their internal, topographical distribution as well as architectural features will be incorporated as the main base for a functional interpretation of and motive behind the buildings and the activities pertaining to the site in general.
The topic of commercial control and what type of influence the aristocracy had on the early development on these types of sites will be included. Furthermore, the structural fluctuation of the site at Toftum N s, and in particular the changes which seems to have taken place during the 7th and 8th century, both at the site in question, but also with regards to the overall development of the Viking Age towns, will be debated in the paper.

Production and Distribution networks in the Diocese of Tuam, West of Ireland, AD 500-1000 Author – Tighe, John, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland (Presenting author)

Keywords: Church/Secular, Economic development, Trade

The discussion of early medieval urban development in Ireland is dominated by the coastal emporia of the Vikings at Dublin, Waterford etc. As vigorous the Vikings were in facilitating broad social and economic change, they were still an ethnic minority in Ireland, so it is imperative to look at sites with little or no Viking connection. There are pre-Viking ‘ports of trade’ which while similar to English wics, although seem to develop slightly earlier and not to have an organised plan.
These include sites such as Doonloughan, a coastal site where exchange happened in the eighth century. The primary mode of the production of crops is thought to have been by buying in the grain, as there is a lack of evidence for on-site production with the grain samples excavated being entirely free of chaff. The site, and possibly others like it were not permanently used, but seems to have been occupied between late spring and early autumn, the very same as the main sailing season for much of Europe.
This form of exchange may have been brought into fruition as increased specialisation of production coupled with increased opportunities to exchange. This may have had a direct impact on the decline of the importance of the cow can be seen as a move away from the type of economy, widespread in pre-Roman Europe, where an items value was bestowed upon it not because of its intrinsic value, like that of the silver economy which the Vikings helped to develop, but in its cultural value. The silver bracelets found at places like Cushalogurt, Co. Mayo and Portumna, Co. Galway could indicate a much richer trade network through peripheral Ireland, or at least a heavier Viking presence in the area than previously thought.
While the terminology of ecclesiastical sites, particularly the use of ‘civitas’ to describe sites such as Kildare, has smudged the idea of what constituted urban in this context, it is clear that these establishments acted as centres of production and distribution, in a way that ringforts could not in the unstable political milieu of the day. This research is focused on the Diocese of Tuam, centred on Tuam, which was a centre of exchange in this period, with a high cross being erected to delineate the boundary of the secular and the ecclesiastical. The role of the church in providing centres of production and manufacture cannot be doubted, especially in the unstable and fragmented political milieu of early medieval Ireland.
While market exchange was seen as primarily an urban phenomenon, sites such as Doonloughan and Tuam have shown that despite the west of Ireland being largely ignored when talking about the Early Medieval Irish economy, its peripheral nature then and now, mitigates the problem of modern urban development that is common, particularly among the environments of formerly Viking emporia. I hope, through this work, to provide a framework for further investigation of the early medieval economy, not only within Ireland, but also for other comparable regions of Europe.

Early medieval urban life in the Low Countries before the 10th-11th c.: approaches and problems Author – Professor Dries, Tys, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium (Presenting author)
Keywords: diversity, Low Countries, Research

The Low Countries were together with Northern Italy the most heavily urbanized regions of the medieval world. The origin and understanding of this phenomenon has been debated in a long and impressive historiographical debate, involving famous scholars like Pirenne, Weber, Verhulst and others.
Today we agree that the take-off of the successful towns can be related to the organisation and stimulus of trade in the context of power in the 10th and 11th centuries. The debate remains however on how to understand the evolution and character of the urban phenomenon before the 10th-11th century. This debate will always tend to suffer from both teleological thinking towards the road of success and the stress on the question of continuity between Roman centres and later towns. The main problem regarding our archaeological understanding of urban life, fabric and functions seems to be that they can have totally different material translations that might be not always be recognisable from the modern perspective. The question is therefor maybe what different forms urban life and functions could have and which methods we need to identify these.

A town in the making – exploring early urbanity of Copenhagen through the study of social practices Author – MA Dahlström, Hanna, Aarhus University, Højbjerg, Denmark (Presenting author)
Keywords: iron processing, social practices, urbanity

Classical ways of defining urbanity are ill-matched with the early  phases of a developing town, and indeed often with the archaeological source material at hand. New ways to describe urbanity in a way that is easier to recognize through archaeology are called for. In my PhD-project I explore some new aspects to this problem by studying urbanity through social practices in the first phases of the developing town of Copenhagen, Denmark. One of these areas concerns crafting, specifically iron processing. Through four areas of study, I analyse the material remains of social practices undertaken on the site of Town Hall Square c. AD 1050-1300. This paper will discuss the two questions: What can the study of social practices connected to the iron processing activities, in combination with technical analyses, reveal of urban development, of people and networks involved in the iron handling? And what can the role of iron processing have been for the early development of Copenhagen?

Small town in medieval Russia: the ratio of agricultural, craft and administrative functions Author – Koval, Vladimir, Institute of archaeology RAS, Voscow, Russian Federation (Presenting author)
Keywords: administrative function, agrarian towns, small towns

Small towns in medieval Russia remains one of the most mysterious phenomena. Unlike the cities of Europe and the Orient, the medieval (11-16 cc.) Rower structures founded towns in Russia primarily as administrative points. Therefore agricultural component of their life was most vital.
However, these towns soon transformed to centers of trade and crafts. If this transformation did not occur, town became unviable died quickly. But the ruralization of life persisted in many towns to the 20th c.

Posted in: Uncategorized