Project Details


This programme brings together the VUB’s internationally acclaimed expertise in urban history, archaeology, biogeochemistry and human anatomy to develop the very first platform for the comprehensive, transdisciplinary study of cities in the pre-modern Low Countries. Analysing archaeological contexts with the latest scientific methods, informed by historical questions and cutting-edge medical research, it aims to compensate for the fragmentary nature of written records and revolutionise current understandings of how urban societies functioned and evolved between
1000 and 1800. The programme’s pilot project focuses on late medieval Ieper. Despite the city’s status as an industrial giant and one of the largest urban centres of Europe during this period, its make-up remains poorly understood. For five years, a stable isotope expert and a human osteologist will study 1,200 late medieval human skeletons from Ieper’s St Nicholas parish, assisted by experts in history, archaeology, chemistry and medicine. Their work is expected to provide invaluable new insights into the city’s gender and age distribution, the origins of its inhabitants and their migration patterns, as well as their diets, living conditions and life expectancies. These results will be synthesised in a series of collaborative, peer-reviewed publications. Drawing on additional funding, the platform’s transdisciplinary approach will later be applied to urban societies in other places and periods in the Low Countries and its results placed in a comparative European context.
Effective start/end date1/11/1931/10/24


  • transdisciplinary study
  • urban society
  • pre-modern low countries
  • Stable isotope
  • Paleo-diet
  • Ypres-Ieper

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • Archaeology of the Low countries or Belgium
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Geochemistry not elsewhere classified


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