Despite longstanding research on early medieval towns, several aspects of their formation and character remain poorly understood to this day. For the period between the 7-11th cent. AD, written sources documenting urban life are limited, and past archaeological studies have focused predominantly on long-distance trade and economy. In many of these towns, excavation has become impossible due to their protected heritage status or because they have remained densely occupied.
Thus, many accepted interpretations are based on the continuous re-interpretation of the same sets of material evidence. However, their actual stratigraphy, the sedimentary matrix from which finds are recovered, has remained poorly studied. Two problems commonly arise on urban sites: homogeneous deposits where no stratigraphy can be discerned (dark earths), and thick sets of micro-laminated deposits of which the individual layers are too thin to study by naked eye. Micromorphology, the microscopic study of soils and sediments, offers an ideal way to study both types of deposits. However, this approach has never been applied to important towns in key regions for the development of early medieval urbanism, with a remarkable gap in Scandinavia and the Low Countries. This project will analyse the poorly understood phases from 6 towns in both regions in order to answer questions about their formation and development, and to produce new data that will allow us to confirm, nuance or challenge existing narratives.