Trade, Import and Urban Development

The PhD project “Trade, Import and Urban Development” takes an archaeobotanical approach to the interpretation of network connections and urban development in northern Europe during medieval times. The project is divided into two main parts: (1) analysis of archaeobotanical remains from urban contexts and (2) isotope analysis of these plant remains to gain insights in the provenance of exotic and economic plant foods.

Archaeobotany can give insights into food economy, environmental changes, local preservation conditions and social and economic changes. Isotope analysis, in particular analysis of strontium isotopes, can be used as a tool to indicate the provenance of archaeological materials. This project will aim to further develop methods for strontium isotope analysis on (uncarbonised) plant remains from archaeological contexts. Since isotope analysis within archaeology is predominantly focused on inorganic remains or organic remains of non-botanical origin, the field of archaeobotany provides a basis for further analysis and development.

The practical work of the PhD is currently focused on botanical remains from soil samples derived from excavations in Odense. The excavation at I. Vilhelm Werners Plads (OBM 9776) took place from May 2013 to September 2014. During that period, Odense City Museums excavated an area of 2300 m2, located centrally in the Medieval town.

Good preservation conditions, combined with the large size of the investigated area, have provided a rare insight into the development of a city quarter (late 11th century-16th century), from the street through backyards to the alleyway beyond, with an extensive assemblage of finds and well-preserved structures such as booths, houses, byres, stables, latrines, roads, fences and refuse depots.

The high research intensity of the city excavation of OBM 9776 provides an opportunity for a High-Definition analysis of changes in botanical remains in a spatial and temporal context. The high intensity of the sampling will allow for a detailed account on changes and developments in food economy and the local environment. Recent analysis of soil samples has revealed the presence of exotic plant species; grape (Vitis vinifera) and fig (Ficus carica). Fig and grape are rarely found in medieval sites in Denmark. The presence of these fruits is therefore significant for interpretations on urban economy and trade connections.

Through the city excavation at Odense, this project is connected to the PhD project by Kirstine Haase (started in 2016), which is part of a 4-year research and dissemination project “Urbaniseringens Møder og Mennesker” (People and encounters in urbanization) – a cooperation between Museum of Copenhagen and The Nya Lödöse project in Gothenburg, as well as UrbNet.

PI: PhD student Neeke Hammers