ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
[personal profile] ossamenta
I had a great time at the EAA conference, although I really would have liked a clone or two just for the extensive programme. How do you choose between so many interesting talks? I decided to go for the ”useful” option rather than the ”interesting” option. Obviously, it’s always better when these two categories mix. So in the end, I decided to go to the sessions ”Baltic urbanism”, ”Life in the city”, ”Famine, murrain and plague”, ”Settled and intinerant craft people” and sneak into the Scandinavian-related talks in ”War and warfare” and the wear traces talk in ”From bone to bead”. Obviously not all taks were relevant to me or memorable, but luckily, several were.


Baltic urbanism
- Anders Andrén talked about medieval Visby and why - despite the ubiqutous associations with the Hansa today - it is not a typical hanseatic town. Mainly, all what we today associate with medieval towns: the stone magazine houses, the sewage system, the ring wall, were constructed well before the Hansa became an important economic power. Further non-traditional ”medievalness” include things like the absence of a four estate system on Gotland. Instead the countryside was occupied by free landowning farmers, of varying levels of wealth, ruled by a system of aldermen, who were literate and well educated in the Gotland law. Visby itself was settled by merchants, often either foreigners or part of farmer families from the countryside. While Gotland was part of the Linköping bishopric, the bishop visited only once every three years! Visby is not unique in not being atypical, and we should not automatically impose general ideas on how medieval social structure worked (feudal system, Catholicism, serfs, class based literacy etc) on Medieval settlements.

- Hanna Dahlström talked about the Metro excavations in Copenhagen, and that they will have to revise the extent of the early Medieval settlement.

- Anna Grezak’s Ph.D. study on animal bones from Kolobrzeg in Poland found two different cattle/sheep/pig frequencies (one with 60-75% cattle and one with 40-55% cattle), and speculated that the first one represents agricultural economy and the second one represents urban economy. I’d love to hear more about this, and I hope I can get hold of either her thesis (hopefully not written in Polish…) or articles.


Life in the city
- Probably the most commented upon talk was David Orton’s talk about fish in London. MoLA had just had had isotope results back so we got the really fresh results. The isotopes confirm what the fish bone analyses have suggested: that after 1250 cod is increasedly imported to London as dried or salted fish from the north Atlantic. Prior to that they are mostly from the North Sea. Possibly the North Sea cod became depleted and the fishermen had to go further away. In the future they would like to extend this to other cities, and to other species. Is the reduction of North Sea cod corresponding to an increase in say, North Sea herring, or do both species get caught elsewhere?


Famine, murrain and plague
14th century Europe is categorised by several upheavals, such as calamitous weather, famine 1315-1322 when (estimated) 15% of the population in Europe died, cattle and sheep epidemics in the same years which of course didn’t help, and just as things seemed to be going better, the black plague hit Europe in 1349/50… The short session only included four talks, but all were very interesting.
- Richard Thomas, Kerstin Pasda and Ptolemaios Paxinos talked about size increases of sheep and cattle in London, Nürnberg and Runneburg. These were probably connected to deliberate restocking policies after the livestock epidemics, more controlled breeding by larger animals, possibly increased incentives for productivity increases among the new class of landowning peasants (since land had become more available after the black plague).
- Caroline Arcini discussed the human population in Sweden, where she could see an increase in height post-1350. This suggests that the plague struck harder among the poor, who would also have been shorter due to the impact of nutritional stress to their potential optimal height.
- Julia Gamble talked about two Danish cemeteries which showed reduced numbers of people affected by TB and leprosy post-1350. As these diseases are infectuous, their reduction is likely connected to the general decrease in population density.
- Carenza Lewis talked about her community outreach work in eastern England where villagers dug 1x1m test pits in their gardens. Normally archaeological research work is only done in abandoned villages, and we therefore know very little about the medieval villages which survived the plague. Her data (and the project will run for a few more years) show that while the villages show no obvious signs of post-plague decline, there is a distinct reduction of pot sherds in the second half of the 14th century for almost all villages in the project.


Settled and itinerant craft people
This session concentrated on metal working and on pottery. It was the last day of the conference, and my notes were rather bullet-pointed (possibly a connection there…). Still, lots of interesting talks.
- Nancy Wicker discussed Migration period metalwork in Scandinavia, specifically transmission of knowledge. To do this, she looked at mistakes in the artefacts (non-matching decorative wires, punched too hard, solder bubbles, bouncing hammers creating double imprints, etc) and finds of artefacts with identical central motifs and/or border motifs. These latter finds might represent inherited tools, master/apprentice or itinerant craftsmen.
- Unn Pedersen talked about degrees of permanence among Viking Age craftsmen, being more nuanced than the usual settled vs. itinerant. She also included semi-settled craftsmen who returned to his/her home base at regular intervals. Using metalwork as an example, perhaps the mouldmaker was permanently settled and the persons who made objects from the moulds were itinerant or semi-settled?
- Continuing with the mould making, next talk by Annemarieke Willemsen jumped forward to the late Middle Ages, and discussed the production and sale of small metal accessories in Netherlands. Cheap bling, but the moulds would have been (comparatively) quite valuable. She also mentioned two hoards of moulds, one from Coventry (150 moulds) and one from Magdeburg (over 450 moulds).
- Katarina Botwid researches transference of skills in Bronze Age pottery making, and I now have a ”proper” term for something I’ve been aware of: ”embodied knowledge”, i.e. knowledge that you only can get from long experience and that you just know, often without being able to explain just how you know it. Katarina has been a professional potter for 20? years, so she’ll be able to use some of that knowledge in her studies.


War and warfare
The two war talks concerned the battle of Mästerby 1361, part of the Danish invasion of Gotland, which culminated in the much more well-known Battle of Visby the same year, and the battle of Getaryggen, near Jönköping in Sweden, during the Nordic Seven year war (1563-1570). Interesting since I knew about these regions, but otherwise perhaps not so relevant for my research interests. The Getaryggen-talk discussed not so much the tiny battle itself, but things like how to find the route of the army (check the tax records, which listed farms as burned or abandoned).


It was a good conference, and I managed to do some touristing too among all the conferencing, networking and socialising. I went on a day trip to Tallinn (gorgeous medieval city which made me miss Visby very much) and took a boat out to the 18th century fortress Soumenlinna (a great way to spend some hours). A visit is recommended.
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ossamenta

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