Urbanised Nature in the Past : Site formation and Environmental Developement in Two Swedish Towns, AD 1200-1800

University dissertation from Stockholm : Institutionen för naturgeografi och kvartärgeologi

Abstract: In order to explore site formations and reconstruct environmental development in Medieval and Post-Medieval towns, urban occupational strata in Norrköping and Karlstad were studied according to biostratigraphy, sedimentology and pedology. New field procedures including continuous pilot sampling, parallel archaeological and geological stratigraphic interpretation, and on-site analysis of plant macrofossils were developed and applied at archaeological excavations in both towns. Representation of both disciplines in the field during excavations greatly contributed to more complete field interpretations.Stratigraphical analyses indicate that geological processes have been active in both towns, and reveal similarities in site formation. The earliest proto-urban phase is represented by the presence of dark earths, formed by the combination of alluvial processes and cattle tramping. Alluvial processes were common in Karlstad due to the flooding of the river delta, and in Norrköping due to the sloping topography. Both situations were enhanced by human activity, which caused drainage problems. A significant change in composition and origin of house foundation fill was also noted. The oldest foundations contained fine-grained material of local origin in contrast to younger foundations, which contained coarser material, sometimes of regional origin. This is interpreted as a professionalisation of the urban building tradition, which in Norrköping occurred during the 16th century and in Karlstad during the 18th century. Site formations of urban strata are regulated by three major factors: deposition, post-depositional soil formation and erosion/truncation, which all may occur both culturally and naturally.Plant macrofossil analyses in Norrköping and Karlstad resulted in a fossil record with a total amount of 203 and 169 different types of plant species and taxa respectively. The records indicate that site formation processes seem to have been inhibited during wintertime. The results also confirm the idea of the early Scandinavian towns as rural, also during the Post-Medieval time. The finds of cultural plants in Karlstad indicate 18th century cultivation of Fragaria moscata and 17th century import of Pimento officinalis. In Norrköping remains of beer additives confirm that the tradition of combining Humulus lupulus and Myrica gale disappeared after the 15th century, but also indicate a the use of Filipendula ulmaria as a beer addative. Finds of seeds from Nicotiana rustica suggests that tobacco cultivation occurred in Norrköping 1560-1640, which is some decades earlier than known so far in Sweden.

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