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Project: Medieval Bruges and its outer ports. A landscapearchaeological contribution to the Zwin-debate

2013-01-01 – 2018-12-31

Abstract

During the Middle Ages (ca.700-1500), Bruges became a leading European economic and
cultural centre. Lying inland, the city continuously searched for a navigable way to the sea. To achieve this goal natural opportunities (creeks) were combined with man-made canals: a portuary system called Zwin. In the late Middle Ages (ca.1300-1500), the region even developed into a linear, suburban extension of Bruges from the city’s heart heading east over the outer-ports of Damme, Monnikenrede, Mude to the mouth at Sluis All travellers described this portuary zone as one of the most amazing places they had ever seen. Sailing into Bruges through the Zwin must have been the medieval equivalent of entering the port of New York.
Throughout time, the Zwin’s position in the landscape shifted in space till it eventually silted up ca.1500, making its outports vanish. Scientists have debated for decades on the exact nature and evolution of this area. However, archaeology has not yet fully contributed to this debate and with the integration of historic evidence into new archaeological methods, this project will be able to add to the knowledge of one of the most intriguing European mediaeval landscapes. Without large excavations but with drones, gps, radar-waves and magnetism, new insights will be developed upon the lost ports and the early development of the Zwin. In doing so, appropriate methods suitable for detecting sites in uncovered and submerged landscapes will also be tested and developed.