2012-Arqueología de La Arquitectura en La Alta Edad Media


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  131J UAN  A NTONIO  Q UIRÓS  C ASTILLOARQUEOLOGÍA DE LA ARQUITECTURA, 9, enero-diciembre 2012Madrid/Vitoria. ISSN: 1695-2731. eISSN 1989-5313. doi 10.3989/arqarqt.2012.11601   ARQUEOLOGÍA DE LA ARQUITECTURA, 9, enero-diciembre 2012, págs. 131-138Madrid / Vitoria. ISSN 1695-2731eISSN 1989-5313doi 10.3989/arqarqt.2012.11601 Archaeology of Architecture andArchaeology of houses in Early MedievalEurope  Arqueología de la Arquitectura y Arquitecturadoméstica en la alta Edad Media europea Juan Antonio Quirós Castillo* Universidad del PaísVasco. UPV/EHU 1.Some years ago I prepared a monographic dossierdedicated to the study of medieval building techniques forthe fourth issue of the journal ‘Arqueología de la Arquitec-tura’ (Azkarate, Quirós Castillo 2005). The objective wasto collect together a series of articles which stimulatedanalysis and debate in relation to one of the most interest-ing topics then being tackled by the archaeology of architecture, and to propose a platform from which theinstrumental reductionism with which some then treatedthe discipline might be overcome. The project underlying our journal, after its subsequent renovation, has beennotably consolidated and enriched, incorporating new themes and experiences, as readers of our most recenteditions will have been able to observe. The motivationbehind the preparation of this dossier has been that of broadening the questions that the journal approaches so asto include ‘other architectures’ which have not until now featured greatly in its pages, and of stimulating the analysisof domestic material registers not characterised by theirmonumentality, from a broad European perspective. Oursis not an isolated case, and, for example, for some yearsnow in Italy the term ‘Archaeology of architecture’ hasbeen substituted by that of ‘Archaeology of architectures  ’, with the aim of embracing other building systems whichperiodically escape conventional analytical frameworks. Insome archaeological traditions, indeed, the very notion of  Archaeology of Architecture is primarily identified withthe study of domestic architecture (e.g. Steadman 1996,Sánchez 1998; Zarankin 1999). With the aim of delimiting and giving coherence tothe contents of this dossier we have chosen as our chrono-logical framework the early Middle Ages (5 th  to 10 th centuries), given that it was a period in which a profoundtransformation took place both in forms of dwelling andconstruction; this selection has been made in order thatthe study of its architecture can help us to put to the testthe conceptual and methodological instruments of histori-cal and archaeological analysis applied elsewhere to theanalysis of other architectures. Our study deals, moreover, with a subject matter that currently lacks a Europe-widesynthesis, although national and regional studies havedemonstrated the existence of strong patterns that act on a very wide scale (e.g. Klápšte ý , Nissen Jaubert 2007, 85 ss.).On the other hand, in the last few years a multiplica-tion of studies on the domestic architecture of this periodhas been produced, due, amongst other things, to thenotable development that the practice of preventive ar-chaeology has achieved, and to the undertaking of largearchaeological projects against the backdrop of a phase of  Abstract This paper aims to introduce the «Archaeology of Architectureand Household Archaeology in Early Medieval Europe» dossier,the object of which is to explore the different approaches,methodologies and themes analysed in the study of earlymedieval architecture in western Europe. More specifically, inwhat follows, analysis is undertaken of the contexts which explainthe recent development of studies on this topic, as well as themain contributions of the seven papers which form this dossier.In addition, the main historical and archaeological problemsraised by the analysis of this material record are also discussed. Key words:  Building Archaeology, Household Archaeology,Processual approach, Postprocessual approach, Longhouse,Sunken-Feature Buildings. Resumen En este trabajo se presenta el dossier «Archaeology of Architecture and Household Archaeology in Early MedievalEurope», que pretende explorar los distintos enfoques,metodologías y temáticas analizadas en el estudio de lasarquitecturas altomedievales en el marco de Europa occidental.Más concretamente se analizan los contextos que explican eldesarrollo reciente de los estudios sobre esta materia, lasprincipales aportaciones de los siete trabajos que conforman estedossier y se discuten los principales problemas históricos yarqueológicos que plantea el análisis de este registro material. Palabras claves: Arqueología de la Construcción, Arqueología dela casa, Procesualismo, Posprocesualismo, Longhouse , Fondos decabaña. * quiros.castillo@ehu.esThe present contribution is part of the research project funded by the SpanishMinister of Research « The Formation of Medieval Landscapes in the Northern Pe-ninsula and Europe  », HUM2009-07079, and the activity of the ‘Heritage andCultural Landscape Research Group’ funded by the Basque Government(IT315-10) and the UFI ‘History, Thought and Material Culture’ (UFI2011/02).  132 ARCHAEOLOGY OF ARCHITECTURE AND ARCHAEOLOGY OF HOUSES IN EARLY MEDIEVAL EUROPE Madrid/Vitoria. ISSN: 1695-2731. eISSN 1989-5313. doi 10.3989/arqarqt.2012.11601ARQUEOLOGÍA DE LA ARQUITECTURA, 9, enero-diciembre 2012 expansion which has characterised the European economy in recent years. Never had so many sites been destroyed inso little time, but nor had there ever been so muchexcavation. All these records, still in the process of elabora-tion and assimilation after the shock provoked by thefinancial crisis and the application of the brakes to thepractice of preventive archaeology, are allowing for thecritical revision of problems such as the social, politicaland economic transformation that took place in the post-Imperial period, the role of barbarians in the structures of early medieval landscapes, the forms of representationmanifested by social hierarchies, and, to some extent, thevery process of the construction of a common Europeanidentity, to which B. Ward-Perkins (2005, 172) has recent-ly drawn our attention. As a consequence of all of theabove, another important new finding to have come aboutin the last few years is the discovery of early medievalarchitectures in the south of Europe with similar characte-ristics in formal, technological and functional terms tothose found in other parts of the continent. In contrast tothe north and centre of Europe, where studies of domesticearly medieval architectures can be traced back to the firstdecades of the twentieth century (see Gardiner, Peytrem-ann, Schreg) and for which areas we have at our disposalsignificant syntheses and monographical studies, archaeo-logy in southern Europe has approached this subjectmatter for a relatively short period of time 1 . In fact, in theinfluential synthesis on early medieval villages and dwell-ing places published by J. Chapelot and R. Fossier in 1980no space was afforded to sites located on the shores of theMediterranean (Chapelot, Fossier 1980, 79 ss.).In the Italian case, at the end of the 1970s animportant role was played by the at the time surprising discovery of modest domestic buildings in the midst of the forum of the Roman city of Luni, although someearlier investigations had been undertaken, above all onthe back of written documentation (Santangeli Valenzani2011, 9-14). Since then the systematic analysis of buchi di  palo and other forms of architecture has played a centralrole in the study of the process of the formation of early medieval villages (Francovich, Hodges, 2003) or thetransformation of the post-Imperial city (Brogiolo, Geli-chi 1998; Brogiolo 2011). The critical mass of availableregisters in Italy today is such that several reference studieshave been carried out. 2 In Spain, preventive archaeology has played a funda-mental role in the recognition and study of early medievaldomestic architectures, especially those constructed inephemeral materials. Although some stone domestic struc-tures have already been identified throughout the secondhalf of the twentieth century, only since the 1990s have thefirst semi-excavated constructions, delimited by post-holes, been identified, above all in the outskirts of cities.The significant qualitative step forward took place in the1990s, such that La Indiana or Gózquez in Madrid, theinterventions in Vallés (in the Barcelona area) or theproject of the cathedral of Vitoria-Gasteiz were some of thepioneering sites in which these types of architectures wereidentified. Likewise, other archaeological projects, likethose of El Tolmo de Minateda or Cerro de Peñaflor, havenotably broadened our frame of reference 3 . And although we still lack territorial syntheses, the critical mass of data has grown in striking fashion in recent years 4 .In Portugal, on the other hand, the first finds coming to light truly are ‘invisible constructions’, given that housesand other such spaces characterised by domestic materialvestiges are being identified but such cases lack materialelements which allow us to demarcate buildings (plinths,channels, post-holes) (Tente 2011).2.The dossier is composed of a total of seven studies which have been commissioned with the aim of providing a broad geographical representation of western Europe by  way of territorial syntheses, but also in order to offer a  wide and multifaceted   framework with regard to theoreti-cal approaches, analytical methodologies and results ob-tained.Greater weight has been given to Iberian examples,given that this is the territory that currently lacks studiesaiming at synthesis. The three studies included here (onIberia) demonstrate, in paradigmatic form, the richness of approaches that characterises the study of this architecture. 1  The bibliography is abundant, although amongst recent studies which deservemention are: Peytremann 2003 for the north of France; Hamerow 2002 for thenorthwest of Europe; Hamerow 2011 y 2012 for Anglo-Saxon England;O’Sullivan et alii   2010 and Jones 2012 for Ireland or the work of Donat 1980and Zimmerman 1992, 1998 for the German area. For central and easternEurope see Buko 2010 and Klápšte ý  2002. 2  On the excavations in Luni, Ward-Perkins 1981; on domestic architecture inItaly see the work of Brogiolo 1994; Galetti 2011; Fronza 2011; SantangeliValenziani 2011, all of which utilise prior studies. 3  On La Indiana, Vigil-Escalera Guirado 1999; on Gózquez, Vigil-Escalera Guirado 2000; for Catalonia see Roig 2009 and Beltrán de Heredia 2009; forGasteiz, Azkarate Garai-Olaun, Solaún 2009; for El Tolmo de Minateda,Gutiérrez Lloret 2000, Cañavate Castejón 2008 and Gutiérrez Lloret andCañavate Castejón 2010; for El Cerro de Peñaflor Salvatierra, Castillo Armente-ros 2000. For the Byzantine area see Vizcaíno 2009, 387-403. 4  See, for example, Azkarate, Quirós Castillo 2001; Vigil-Escalera Guirado 2003;Quirós Castillo 2011.  133J UAN  A NTONIO  Q UIRÓS  C ASTILLOARQUEOLOGÍA DE LA ARQUITECTURA, 9, enero-diciembre 2012Madrid/Vitoria. ISSN: 1695-2731. eISSN 1989-5313. doi 10.3989/arqarqt.2012.11601 The structuralist approach followed by Sonia Gutiérrezproposes to undertake an analysis of the early medieval andIslamic domestic phenomenon on three different levels(morphological, syntactical and semiotic) and offers in-triguing results when it comes to our conception, indiachronic and cultural terms, of the formative processesof domestic spaces in the Iberian Peninsula. In his study of the north-western quadrant of the peninsula, Carlos Teje-rizo processes and systematises, for the first time, resultsobtained from an important number of preventive ar-chaeological interventions, and he makes recourse to a materialist approach when interpreting the diversity of systems of construction that he detects. Equally suggestiveis the contribution of Alfonso Vigil-Escalera, centred onhearths and ovens, which proposes an analysis of domesticspace and dwellings not solely defined by vertical struc-tures, walls and plinths, but by interactions engendered by the functioning of daily activities 5 .The rest of the contributions are structured withreference to much wider territorial syntheses. Giovanna Bianchi, in her discussion of early medieval Italian dwell-ing spaces dedicates much space to typological and cons-tructive aspects, but her reflections on the forms of dwelling and her analysis of domestic architecture in socialterms both lend the piece an assuredly innovative attribute.The apparent contrast manifested by the homogeneity of types of construction with social diversity, as evidenced by various sources, is explained in convincing fashion by thecentral significance given to the forms of dwelling asopposed to the forms of building, which has been thepreeminent approach of the practitioners of archaeology.Edith Peytremann, the author of an seminal doctoralthesis on the rural settlement of northern France (Peytre-mann 2003) organises her study in three parts; first, sheundertakes a critical evaluation of the historiography;second, she considers the principal themes analysed inFrance (the tradition of studies on rural architecture; thebirth of the village; the integration of bioarchaeologicalregisters; the ‘social reading’ of the register in hierarchicalterms; new approaches to domestic space) and lastly shesuggests some case studies by way of example.Mark Gardiner firstly discusses the five approachesthat have been followed in Great Britain in the study of this architecture (the regressive approach, the study of  waterlogged structures, the reproduction of woodcraft,experimental reconstruction and the study of archaeologi-cal excavations) and he goes on to analyse the ethnicdimension of the different recognised traditions of build-ing, as well as the regional and constructive diversity documented on the islands. Lastly, Rainer Schreg carriesout an interesting historiographical analysis of the study of rural settlement and early medieval domestic architecturein Germany, relativising the importance of ethnic tradi-tions and information provided by written documenta-tion. Then he studies the principal types of construction,differentiating between main houses, ‘functional’ buildings(which served some economic purpose) and constructionsdesigned to demarcate (such as fences), all the whilestressing regional differences. He concludes his study by reminding us of the need to analyse in greater detail spatialorganisation, forms of dwelling, and social hierarchies, by means of the realisation of studies based on phosphateanalysis and the systematic treatment of the bioarchaeolo-gical record.3.The framework proposed by all of these studies ismultifaceted and striking, due to the fact that they synthe-sise the fundamental achievements of the different tradi-tions of national studies, propose significant trans-territo-rial analogies and differences, and suggest new avenues of future development. Accordingly, it is befitting to under-line some of the principal lines of discussion.First, the role of preventive archaeology has beenfundamental to the rising number of studies on early medieval domestic architecture which we have seenthroughout all of western Europe in recent decades,although perhaps its impact has been more important inthe south of the continent. While the British Isles or thecentre of Europe could already lay claim to a tradition of studies on early medieval domestic architecture based onthe utilisation of myriad approaches and instruments of analysis (such as regressive approach, experimental archae-ology, etc.), in Spain and in other countries the practice of preventive archaeology has been the catalyst for the appre-ciation of this sort of architecture because it has allowedfor the analysis of extensive areas of villages and towns. Asa consequence, the different ways of managing archaeolo-gical heritage, which differ greatly from one Europeancountry to the next (and even from one region to the next within these countries), have conditioned the study of domestic architecture. A second consideration to have emerged from many of the studies already published is that the quality of theavailable archaeological record is of crucial importance when it comes to the detection and interpretation of this 5  This centrality has been equally emphasised in the study of prehistoricdomestic architecture (Vela Cossío 1995, 260-261).  134 ARCHAEOLOGY OF ARCHITECTURE AND ARCHAEOLOGY OF HOUSES IN EARLY MEDIEVAL EUROPE Madrid/Vitoria. ISSN: 1695-2731. eISSN 1989-5313. doi 10.3989/arqarqt.2012.11601ARQUEOLOGÍA DE LA ARQUITECTURA, 9, enero-diciembre 2012 sort of material evidence (S. Gutiérrez, A. Vigil-Escalera,E. Peytremann). The very nature of early medieval domes-tic architecture, characterised by relatively short periods of use, transformation and re-use, by its distribution over wide surface areas generating a low intensity of verticalstratigraphy, and by the use of fragile materials and simpletechniques, means that its material attributes are very different to those from other periods, and, moreover, thatthey present certain similarities with protohistoric domes-tic architecture. Post-depositional processes also condition,in large measure, the levels of conservation of thesebuildings: in the case of abandoned sites, the mechanisa-tion of farming practices has caused notable destruction, while many sites which have been occupied until contem-porary times have been affected by more recent building activity. 6  Due to all of these disturbances it is very often thecase that floors or srcinal levels of occupation of suchbuildings have not been well conserved, or that srcinallevels have been lost entirely, with the changes of surfacecolouration that have been preserved allowing us to identi-fy the position of posts or paraments of various sorts. Thisbeing the case, the conditions of conservation of domesticdeposits determine the sort of analyses which can beundertaken, as the work of Alfonso Vigil-Escalera, dedica-ted to hearths and ovens, or the work on Portuguesedomestic architecture already discussed, makes clear. Onecan thus establish a direct relationship between the im-provement, in qualitative terms, of archaeological practicethat has taken place in recent decades, and the evaluationand study of this sort of architecture, given that it is ourmethod of working which determines the visibility of thematerial evidence and our capacity to understand critically the formative processes of archaeological deposits, or theintegrated study of the bioarchaeological record, whichtogether allow us to offer certain social or functionalhypotheses. Accordingly, the archaeological visibility of architecture and of associated domestic deposits are thefactors that determine the sort of interpretations that onecan make in each case.Thirdly, it is striking that the greater part of thesyntheses on domestic architecture have been dedicatedsubstantially to material related to forms of construction,extended to include morphological, taxonomic, and tech-nological aspects, and, in the second instance, to thefunctional aspects of architecture (e.g. Brogiolo 1994, 7-11; Hamerow 2002, 12-51; Peytremann 2003, 274-295;Tipper 2004; Brogiolo 2008, 10-19). Beyond the under-standable need to identify and systematise different typesof structure, I believe that this prevalence could be ex-plained – at least in part – by the fact that many archaeological schools in western Europe, especially inthe south, are very influenced by materialist theoreticalapproaches, the roots of which tap in to processualistanthropological approaches which emerged in the 1970s,the foundational phase of postclassical archaeology in theMediterranean.Fourth, while bearing in mind the existence of nota-ble geographical and chronological diversity, it is nonethe-less surprising that certain techniques and types of domes-tic constructions are found in practically all of westernEurope, although there are also lacunae and differences which are very significant. Almost all studies show that wood was the dominant building material throughout theearly Middle Ages, with the exception of the most souther-ly areas of Italy or Iberia. The use of clay and stone was alsofrequent, although differences in this respect are bestbrought out on a regional scale. Although in some Europe-an areas buildings with plinth foundations and stoneelevations identify churches, palaces, or elite spaces, as isthe case in the well known two-storey buildings in Italiancities (Santangeli Valenzani 2011) or British and Germanchurches, in sites such as El Tolmo de Minateda this sort of material is used in ordinary dwellings.Equally compelling is the pre-eminence of dwellingsbuilt with supporting frame posts situated at floor leveland the notable frequency of Sunken-Feature Buildings  , which have been recognised in all of the territories ana-lysed, although their presence is as of yet less frequent insouthern sectors, such as those that were under Byzantinedomination (Arthur, 2010; Quirós Castillo 2011). On theother hand, large buildings known as longhouses,  very common in central Europe, seem to be absent from moreperipheral continental areas, given that they are unknownin Great Britain, only furnish three examples in Iberia (inthe Basque Country) and the few Italian examples we haveare located in Tuscany alone. However, in the absence of systematic phosphate analysis it is not always easy toidentify the specific function of these large buildingslocated in the south of Europe. It is for this reason, forexample, that Giovanna Bianchi proposes in her study toanalyse some of these buildings with regard to theircommunal aspect as opposed to an interpretation whichidentifies these buildings as elite residences. This notwith- 6  At any rate, the explanations are very variable; in many rural contexts in theBasque Country rural sites are heavily devastated due to recent agrarian activities while in the project of the Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria-Gasteiz very wellconserved structures have been recovered (Azkarate, Solaún 2009), perhapsbecause the area has been preserved thanks to its later religious use.
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