Medieval urban agricultural land use in Flanders and Brabant (6th-13th centuries AD): phytolith research as a novel tool for the understanding of cultivated soils in towns

Project Details


This proposal focuses on medieval agricultural urban land use in
Flanders and Brabant. The overarching goal is to answer longstanding questions on the role and practice of agriculture in medieval
town development. On the one hand, the project aims to investigate
the cultivated crops on urban medieval fieldson one hand, and soil
intensification processes on the other. In addition, the spatial
evolution of these urban fields is investigated to contribute to our
understanding of medieval urbanization processes. The methods
used derive from archaeobotany and geoarchaeology. Phytolith
research (the investigation of microskeletons of plant tissues) and
micromorphological research (the study of thin sections of
undisturbed soils and sediments under the microscope) are applied.
The project is innovative from a methodological perspective as well
as from an archaeological one. It is the first study that will
systematically combine two complementary methods: 1) the study of
extracted phytoliths from bulk samples, which is a traditional method
used in phytolith research; 2) the study of phytoliths in soil thin
sections, a less frequently applied method with many benefits. From
an archaeological perspective, the study will contribute new data
from these archaeological sciences to the research of medieval
urbanism and urban agriculture fields that have previously
predominantly been studied based on historical datasets.
Effective start/end date1/11/2131/10/23


  • Urban archaeology
  • Medieval agricultural land use
  • Phytoliths and soil and sediment micromorphology

Flemish discipline codes

  • Archaeology of the Low countries or Belgium
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Landscape archaeology
  • Medieval archaeology
  • Methods in archaeology