Early medieval farming communities in northern Francia (2017-2021)

Rural settlement, domestic space and material culture from Clovis to the Counts of Flanders in northern Francia.

Research into the early Middle Ages in Flanders was long focused on rich Merovingian cemeteries. It was only in the seventies that the first early medieval settlement was excavated. Until now, the knowledge of the early medieval rural landscape and society is still virtually non-existing. This is in sharp contrast with the surrounding regions of Southern England, Northern France, the Campine and the Meuse valley.

This lack of scholarly research is thus astonishing, especially given the geographic position of Northern Francia as cultural frontier region between the Germanic north and the Romano-Frankish south, and political frontier between the Frankish core regions of Neustria and Austrasia. Moreover, it is here that the county of Flanders, one of the most powerful states of medieval Europe, would emerge since the later 9th century.

The central objective of this FWO-funded research is thus to study the daily life, culture and socio-economy of the farming communities living in northern Francia during the Early Middle Ages (ca. AD 450 – ca. AD 1000), and their interactions with each other. Now, and for the first time, sufficient data is available, mainly thanks to the growth of rescue- and project-based archaeology during the last three decades. The research will focus on settlement forms, house-building traditions, local domestic ceramics and the man-landscape interaction. It does so to discern tradition and change in the way early medieval rural communities constructed aspects of identity, acted in the landscape, and how they provided in basic needs such as shelter, food and cooking utensils.

To study identity and socio-economic development in this region will thus contribute to international debates concerning identity-building, early medieval migration, the implementation of a surplus-economy, the feudalization of society and the emergence of the County of Flanders.


Drs. Ewoud Deschepper

Prof. dr. Wim De Clercq