Ceramics in the Zwin-Scheldt estuary (2013-2017)

A multidisciplinary investigation of the consumption of ceramics in the Zwin-Scheldt estuary during the 15th -18th centuries AD, PhD research Maxime Poulain

Since the commercialisation of archaeology in Flanders, the sector has experienced a surge in the acquisition of archaeological data. Despite this exponentially growing data set, our knowledge about the early modern past has not improved that much. The increase in number and diversity of finds challenges all those involved in modern archaeology.

Problems particularly arise in terms of a suitable methodology to determine the provenance, function and date of these large assemblages. This problem is especially pertinent in the Zwin-Scheldt estuary; an area that covers the northern parts of modern provinces West- and East-Flanders (Belgium), along with an adjoining area in the Netherlands. In the late medieval period, this area had already grown into an important economic region, with Bruges as most important city. From the 15th-18th centuries, this prosperous region became the backdrop to several international conflicts. Trade and war both formed an important stimulus for the mobility of people and products. The diversity in material culture and the different uses of these products is clearly visible in the finds of excavated sites.

This research project therefore aims to answer the following questions: which methods can help to develop an integrated methodology to successfully investigate such large find assemblages? What role can knowledge-based selection of finds add to the discussion? What can help us (now or in the future) to better excavate, study, interpret and communicate such large assemblies of finds?

The common ‘everyday’ character of the ceramics finds gives a direct view on everyday life and the socio-economic trends in the region which influenced the life of different social groups within their own specific social contexts. An extra research focus will be to evaluate the archaeological visibility of the impact of historically-known political and economic changes on material culture. In other words: what can ceramic finds tell us about the social contexts of the different consumers during a dynamic and turbulent period.

Contact

Maxime Poulain

Prof. dr. Wim De Clercq