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1 – Vellum and Vaccinium

Documentary and Archaeological Evidence in the Study of Medieval Produce

Charlotte Masemann

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1The systematic study of gardens as loci of food production during the Middle Ages has largely been overlooked by agrarian historians. Economic agrarian history is based epistemologically on the idea that human actions can best be understood through their economic foundations and consequences, and methodologically on the idea that the best and most accurate conclusions can be reached from a base of quantifiable and documented evidence. This strong epistemological and methodological base has resulted in a large body of excellent and rigorous work. Its focus on numbers and documents has, however, largely obscured the economic importance of cultivation carried out beyond large grain fields.

  • 1 Considerable debate has occurred about the relative health of the European population, particularl (...)

2Leaving gardens and their produce out of the history of European agriculture has resulted in a distorted view of the medieval diet, because the focus on grains and livestock in the existing literature has led to the impression, deliberate or not, that the medieval population was not getting its fruits and vegetables.1

3The studies carried out by agrarian historians show the importance of the documentary base for this research, namely manorial documents recording grain production on manors and demesnes. In contrast, the study of the food supply for the medieval city generally relies on urban records keeping track of small-scale land transactions, and also on the records of cities’ efforts to regulate market activities within their walls. These records are generally preserved on vellum, or scraped animal hide, a common medieval form of paper. Two medieval cities in particular, Ghent and Lübeck, offer considerable documentary evidence on urban agriculture and horticulture.

4The development of the discipline of palaeoethnobotany, or the study of archaeological plant remains, over the last thirty years, also offers an important resource for the researcher interested in medieval garden produce. Palaeobotanists are able to identify plant remains from archaeological digs dating from the Middle Ages with a precision simply not available in written documents. For example, the Vaccinium that appears in the title of this essay is a genus of wild berries. The species most commonly found in Lübeck was Vaccinium myrtillus, or blueberry. Vaccinium was selected not only because of its alliterative properties with vellum, but also because it illustrates a number of things about archaeological evidence. First, it shows the extent to which archaeologists can identify the types of seed they find. The Lübeck archaeobotanists could identify Vaccinium myrtillus quite easily, but identifications of other species of this genus remain provisional. Second, the case of Vaccinium shows how the archaeological record preserves items that might be derived from wild plants. Wild plants rarely, if ever, make an appearance in documentary evidence. Thus the combination of the more traditional study of documents and the examination of archaeological evidence provides a more complete picture than either can offer on its own. This essay will examine how both documentary and archaeological evidence contributes to a picture of garden produce in medieval Ghent and Lübeck.

  • 2 H. Bickelmann, “Oberstadtbücher,” Kanzlei Findbuch (Archiv der Hansestadt Lübeck, n.d.), 9.
  • 3 Ibid., 3.
  • 4 Paul Hasse and Carl Wehrmann, eds., Lübeckisches Urkundenbuch (LUB), Vols. 1-11 (Lübeck: Friedrich (...)
  • 5 Georg Fink, “Die Wette und die Entwicklung der Polizei in Lübeck,” Zeitschrift des Vereins fur lüb (...)
  • 6 Georg Fink, “Beiträge zur Geschichte des Lübecker Friedens von 1629. Die Lage von Michael Festers (...)

5The documentary picture of Lübeck’s garden produce comes from four types of records: records of land transactions, tithe records, records of rents paid on gardens to the city, and the regulations of the gardeners’ guild. The records of land transactions were generally preserved in one of two sources: the Oberstadtbuch, a record of transactions of movements of property, mortgages and rents within and, to some extent, outside the city of Lübeck,2 and the Niederstadtbuch, a record of all sorts of transactions between citizens of Lübeck.3 Tithe records provide a snapshot of the land that was tithed just outside the Mühlentor, the gate at the southern end of the city. The records cover the years 1428, 1444, and an unspecified year after 1451.4 The third body of documents that provide information on gardens outside the city is the Wette garden books. They consist of a series of records of rents paid to the Wette, a police-like institution that was composed of two members of the city council called the Wetteherren. The Wette also enforced the guild regulations recorded in the Àltestes Wettebuch, beginning in 1321.5 An additional responsibility was the collection of the income from gardens and meadows outside the city wall.6

  • 7 AHL (Archiv der Hansestadt Lübeck) ASA Interna, Ämter, Gärtner 1/3.

6The fourth type of document is the Willkür der Gärtner, or the regulations of the gardeners’ guild. It is undated. Correspondence concerning the existence of the gardeners’ guild from 1677 remarks that the guild is at least 300 years old and claims that its Willkür was written down in the so-called Aeltestes Wettebuch, kept from 1321.7

  • 8 LUB III, 771.
  • 9 AHL ASA Interna Markt 9/1 and 9/2 deal with apple-sellers (1614) and the sale of garden produce in (...)

7These regulations cover many aspects of the life of the guild and its members, including admission of new members, sale of produce, cultivation of produce, land management, fencing, wages, and transportation, among others. This document also expands the list of plants known to have been grown in Lübeck. These are onions (cypollen), garlic (knuflok), turnips (roven), carrots (moren), red cabbage (roden kol), and green vegetables (groene warmoos).8 It is one of the very few early documents that prove that people in Lübeck sold produce to other people in Lübeck.9 This document forbade anyone to have more than one stall in the market during Christmas and at Easter, and thus shows us that gardeners cultivating produce outside the city brought it into the city for the purposes of commerce.

8All of the records examined here demonstrate that there were plots of land called gardens by the people who kept records. The gardens that appear in these records are located just outside the walls of the city and in the villages of the surrounding area, known as the Landwehr, Citizens of Lübeck, men and women, members of the city elite and artisans, were engaged in paying tithes on them, paying rents from them to the city, and engaging in various other transactions involving them. They ranged in size from small to large; an absolute determination of size is not possible. The primary crop of these gardens was hops; these records also mention apples, cabbages and other vegetables, and berries. Tithe records show that items grown in gardens changed over time, and that some gardens went out of production and became bleaching grounds. The Wette garden books show that the average income paid to the city from gardens outside the city walls remained fairly constant throughout the approximately 200-year period covered by these records.

9Questions regularly asked by agrarian historians will generally go unanswered by the documents concerning Lübeck gardens that appear here. Little quantitative material is available, and no records allow us to calculate the productivity of these gardens or to assess if crop rotation took place. Hops and fruit trees obviously do not lend themselves well to such farming systems. The tithe records show that land use did change over time; the reasons behind these changes are not clear, but could have been made based on analysis of prices. Figures for hop and cabbage prices during the fifteenth century are unfortunately not available. The documents also do not specify cultivation techniques; one must assume that hard work with a shovel and hoe was the primary method of cultivation.

10While records concerning gardens in Lübeck do not address well the use of technology, crop rotations, or yields of these parcels of land, they do reveal that plots of largely unknown size, often called gardens, existed outside the city walls and were cultivated for both industrial and food crops. They appear to have been a normal part of the life of the city and its inhabitants.

11The documentary evidence for garden produce in the city of Ghent is somewhat different. Empirical evidence of production of crops around Ghent is drawn from a variety of sources. Some tithe evidence enters the picture here as well, though it involves records of disputes over the payment of the so-called green tithe, paid on garden produce and animals. Rent records, concerning land both inside and outside the city, are useful here as well. Records of the sale of fruit to fruiterers within the city provide evidence about trade in garden produce.

  • 10 RAG (Rijksarchief Gent) 01771 1425 August 9.
  • 11 A. de Vos, Inventaris der Landbouwpachten in de Gentse Jaarregisters van de Keure. Verhandelingen (...)

12Records of tithe disputes provide the names of some of the types of vegetables grown around Ghent, particularly in the Akker at Ekkergem, an area now within the city limits.10 These vegetables included various types of cabbages, members of the onion family including garlic, leeks, parsley, parsnips and carrots, as well as the seeds of turnip, rape, onion, and cabbage. The dye plants madder and weld, used for red and yellow dyeing, were also grown. Pachtcontracten, or lease contracts, also provide evidence for the cultivation of various food crops around the city of Ghent.11 Payments in kind included in these contracts reveal that fruit, vegetables, and flax, as well as various animal products and animals were produced in the city of Ghent to a distance of about thirty-five kilometres. Apples, pears, peas, beans, rapeseed, and flax were all paid as part of lease payments, in all cases along with a cash payment. The most common form of payment in kind was in flax, since the linen industry in Ghent had begun to flourish at the end of the thirteenth century.

  • 12 SAG (Stadsarchief Gent) Reeks 152.2.

13Material relating to the use of land within the city is found in the socalled landcijnsboeken, records on the payment of leases on land within the city to the city government.12 These records specify land use to some extent; they reveal that rent was to be paid on a garden, for example, or a house. There are many examples in which rent was paid on gardens, walled or unwalled, and with or without houses. However, these records do not state the use to which the garden was put. We are left to wonder whether these were pleasure gardens, with flowers and a place to sit, or small orchards and vegetable plots within the city?

  • 13 SAG Reeks 301. Most of these records were identified by Victor van der Haeghen, a past archivist o (...)
  • 14 Their guild was suppressed and merged into the guild of the grocers in 1540, and their guild hall, (...)

14Records of sale show that fruit was sold by residents of the surrounding villages to fruiterers in Ghent.13 Over twenty-five varieties of apples and over twenty varieties of pears were sold and consumed within the city of Ghent. Nuts and cherries were also sold. The prices of these commodities fluctuated a great deal. Contracts were struck throughout most of the year, but fruit delivery mainly took place in October and November, revealing a trade in seasonal fruit. The people selling fruit within Ghent were often identified as fruiterers and as such would have been members of the corresponding small guild.14

15The documentary material discussed above will be familiar territory for many medieval historians. While documentary sources can provide useful information on cultivation, the range of plants that appears in them is often quite restricted. Archaeological evidence can expand this range considerably and add to our knowledge of plant consumption.

16Palaeoethnobotany is the study of plant remains that survive in an archaeological context, and their relationship to human behaviour. Paleobotany and archaeobotany are its synonyms. These plant remains can take the form of macrofossils, also called macroscopic plant remains (e.g., pieces that are visible to the naked eye) and microfossils (those that have to be examined under a microscope).

  • 15 Suzanne K. Fish, “Archaeological Palynology of Gardens and Fields,” in Naomi F. Miller and Kathryn (...)
  • 16 Fritz Rudolf Averdieck, “Botanische Bearbeitung von Proben der Grabungsplätze Heiligen-Geist-Hospi (...)

17Palynology studies plant micro-remains, or pollen. The pollen of most plants is distinctive and individual, and therefore can be identified to genus, and in many cases to species level, under the microscope. Palynology has been very useful in assessing changes in vegetation over long periods of time; reduction of tree pollen and increases in cereal pollen can suggest the expansion of arable agriculture, while changes in types of tree pollen can suggest a change in the local environment for reasons of climate change or water level, for instance.15 Pollen evidence in Ghent and Lübeck is rare; only one urban ecclesiastical site in Lübeck was analysed by a palynologist.16

  • 17 Udelgard Körber-Grohne, Nutzpflanzen in Deutschland. Kulturgeschichte und Biologie (Stuttgart: The (...)
  • 18 J. P. Pals, “Reconstruction of Landscape and Plant Husbandry,” in W. Groenman-van Waateringe and L (...)
  • 19 Körber-Grohne, Nutzpflanzen, 16.
  • 20 Jon G. Hather, An Archaeobotanical Guide to Root and Tuber Identification, vol. I Europe and South (...)
  • 21 Körber-Grohne, Nutzpflanzen, 16-17.

18By far the bulk of the material excavated in Ghent and Lübeck involved plant macroremains, or pieces of plant material visible to the naked eye. These typically consist of seeds, and less frequently root, stem, and leaf fragments. Left to themselves, plant remains will generally either rot, as in the case of roots or leaves, or sprout, as in the case of seeds. Both of these natural processes can be retarded by humidity or heat. Plant macroremains can be preserved quite well through carbonization, which occurs when they are in the presence of an oxygen-starved fire.17 A fire with sufficient oxygen will consume the remains, rather than preserve them.18 Carbonization generally occurs as a result of human agency, for example an accidental fire during processing or food preparation. It can preserve details of seeds very well indeed, although shrinkage of about ten per cent tends to occur and some surface detail is lost in some cases.19 Soft plant tissue usually undergoes more drastic changes, such as expansion or shrinkage, deterioration, or in some cases loss of delicate matter; this can interfere with the scientist’s ability to compare archaeological material to current samples.20 Plant material can also be preserved in clay that has been fired; no such material appears in the present study.21 Much of the material in Ghent and Lübeck was not preserved in carbonized form, but was instead waterlogged.

  • 22 James Greig, Archaeobotany. Handbooks for Archaeologists Number Four (Strasbourg: European Science (...)
  • 23 Körber-Grohne, Nutzpflanzen, 17.

19A consistently moist environment, particularly when accompanied by a low level of acidity, can also preserve plant macroremains. Low levels of oxygen are present in waterlogged remains, and this provides favourable conditions for preservation of plant material.22 These remains are in effect subfossils. Stems, roots, seeds, and seed-capsules are most often preserved; blossoms and leaves rarely survive. The outer husk survives the longest, while the organic material contained within the structure (germ, chlorophyll, etc.) breaks down much more quickly.23 Areas with a high degree of organic content can also have a preserving effect. For this reason, cesspits and wells tend to be good sources of plant macro- and micro-remains.

  • 24 Pals, “Reconstruction,” 55-57.

20Three considerations are valuable when examining palaeobotanical evidence: taphonomy, survival, and use of plants. It is important for the palaeobotanist to know how plant material came to arrive in the site that is being excavated, that is, its taphonomy. Pals, in his discussion of the taphonomy of plant material in wells, distinguishes between local, extralocal, and regional elements brought to the well in a natural way (i.e., not by human agency). This classification applies well to other types of sites and need not be restricted to wells. Local material consists of that growing immediately around or in the well while the well was in use, and the same type of plant growth in the period after the well went out of use. Extralocal material consists of elements from the surrounding agrarian landscape. Regional material would be that carried a further distance on the wind. Usually this material is tree pollen, and can be identified as regional only if there is external proof that that species was not part of the local vegetation.24 An additional mechanism of dispersal is, of course, human or animal agency. Plant material can be brought to a site for processing (cleaning food, trimming wood) or for consumption (eating, building). A great deal of plant material is preserved in cesspits as part of fecal material.

  • 25 Francis J. Green, “The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence for Plants from the Medieval Period (...)
  • 26 Karl-Heinz Knörzer, “Aussagemöglichkeiten von paläoethnobotanischen Latrinenuntersuchungen,” 331-3 (...)
  • 27 Ibid., 331.

21It is important to be able to establish whether the plant material is from the period of primary usage, or from a later period. A cesspit is a good example of the former; since it was used as a dumping ground, the plant material in it is likely to come from that very use. Wells, however, while they may contain material from plants growing around the edge during their period of use, may also contain plant material from the matter used to fill them after they went out of use.25 In the cases of Ghent and Lübeck, most of the botanical finds come from cesspits and wells. Cesspits in particular provide evidence for consumption, since they are collecting points for both human and kitchen waste.26 Although preservation condition in cesspits are usually good, the plant material found there can be damaged by mastication, processing (e.g., milling of grain), and the action of the human digestive system. Fruit stones are usually very well-preserved in cesspits, and can give insight into changes in the species consumed over centuries, as well as giving an indication of when new species were introduced into the diet. These new species can either be imported fruits, or fruit newly going into local cultivation.27

22Another consideration to keep in mind when examining the results of palaeobotanical analysis is the use of the plant, and its relative number of seeds. The seeds of plants that are used for those seeds (hazel or poppy, for example) will survive in greater numbers than the seeds of plants used for their leaves or roots, like cabbage or carrots. Similarly, seeds of fruits that have their seeds embedded in them and are therefore part of the package will also make their way into cesspits at a greater rate; examples of such fruits are strawberries (Fragaria vesca), cherries (Prunus avium), and damsons (Prunus insititia). Another consideration is the number of seeds produced by each fruit. A single cherry produces one stone, while a single fig can produce thousands of seeds.

  • 28 P. R. Tomlinson, “Vegetative Plant Remains from Waterlogged Deposits Identified at York,” in Jane (...)
  • 29 Knörzer, “Latrinenuntersuchungen,” 333-36.
  • 30 Jan Bastiaens, “Verven met weld en meekrap. Archaeobotanisch onderzoek van de Korenmarkt te Gent,”(...)

23The third consideration is the survivability of plant remains. Pollen grains, seed, wood, and fruit-stones are the most resilient to rot, and are therefore most likely to survive. Root, stem, and leaf fragments are much less likely to survive, although some interesting work has been done on identification of waterlogged specimens.28 Grains, legumes, and leaf and root vegetables are rarely well-preserved.29 The material recovered in Ghent and Lübeck is almost entirely made up of seeds and fruit-stones, except for some roots found in the Korenmarkt in Ghent.30 It would be incorrect to assume, however, that these seeds give an accurate representation of all the plants grown in these areas. Although no plant remains were found of the genus Allium, to which belong onions, leeks and garlic, the regulations of the Lübeck gardeners’ guild show that cultivation of Allium occurred in Lübeck. Comparison of lists of plants found in digs and lists of plants mentioned in contemporary documents can thus prove illuminating.

24It is clear, therefore, that direct correlations between botanical macro-remains and the type and number of plants consumed in the area cannot be established through excavation. One must always keep in mind the plant remains that may have been excreted or thrown into the cesspit, but which rotted or sprouted; the plants which were used before they set seed; and the plants which produce many seeds per fruit.

25As noted above, material from cesspits, and to a lesser extent, wells, can provide good information on some of the plant material consumed and processed by humans. It is much less useful in telling us about production of that material. In the case of Ghent and Lübeck, there are three options for the provenance of this plant material. First, it could have been produced locally, either within the city or a short distance away. The local pollen record can be of some assistance in establishing this, although palynology in many cases is unable to be this specific. Documents with information on local production can be far more helpful. Plant macro-remains of hops (Humulus lupulus), combined with local records of rents of hop gardens, suggests that these hops were produced locally.

  • 31 N. A. Paap, “Palaeobotanical Investigations in Amsterdam,” in van Zeist and Casperie, Plants and A (...)

26Second, the material could have been imported. In some cases, this is easy to establish, as in the case of exotic species such as figs, pepper, and coconuts.31 These plants are too tender to grow in the northern climates of Ghent and Lübeck. It is, however, impossible to assess whether fruits or vegetables that grew in the area were imported from towns in the same general area with the same climatic conditions without additional documentary evidence.

27The third possibility is that the plant macro-remains come from plants that grew in the area but were not cultivated. Many of the species found in cesspits come from plants that grow wild, but can also be cultivated. These include strawberries, apples, pears, raspberries, and blackberries. The question of whether the fruits of these plants were gathered from the wild or cultivated also remains open without more information, either from documents or from assessing the extent of available wild habitat in and around the city.

  • 32 Bastiaens, “Verven,” 43-44.

28While the city of Ghent has an archaeological program, it has not engaged in the same depth of palaeobotanical analysis of its excavations as has the city of Lübeck. Much of the material published is relevant to a later time period. One exception is a find of dye plants in the Korenmarkt. Excavations in Ghent have turned up findings of dye plants, consisting of both weld and madder. These finds date from the late twelfth century, according to the coins that were buried in earlier layers. The macro-remains of weld consisted of whole stems with pieces of root attached (consistent with the practice of pulling the plant up from the roots); the stems had a great number of seeds attached and were therefore harvested after blooming.32

  • 33 Erik Thoen, “Technique agricole, cultures nouvelles et economie rurale en Flandre au bas Moyen Âge (...)
  • 34 SAG Voorgebod 1353.11.10 and Ordinantie from 1368. I am grateful to Leen Charles for drawing my att (...)

29Fragments of madder also formed part of the find in the Korenmarkt in Ghent. This find consisted of root fragments, which had dyed the soil around them red. The first attested madder production in Flanders is from 1173, and by the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the growth of madder in the clay coastal soils of Flanders and Zeeland seems to have been flourishing.33 Madder production later declined as a result of the troubles of the Ghent textile industry. Regulations governing the sale of madder in Ghent stipulated the cleanliness of the roots to be sold, restricted its sale to those who had been granted the right to do so, and controlled the marking of madder sold, among other details.34

  • 35 Palaeobotanical investigations have been carried out in other settlements in Flanders; in the inte (...)

30These finds are useful in buttressing the information gleaned from the tithe record of 1425, and show that madder and weld were cultivated outside Ghent and sold within the city, as regulations of the sale of dye plants also attest. Unfortunately, few palaeobotanical investigations of medieval sites within Ghent have been published.35 This fact means that any analysis of production, sale, and consumption of plant produce is weighted heavily towards production and sale. There are few clues to tell us what plant foodstuffs were consumed by the different population strata of Ghent. Accounts of the abbeys of St. Peter and St. Bavo provide some of these clues. Evidence for consumption of wild plants such as berries is non-existent, because of the paucity of archaeological data. Our knowledge of garden produce in Ghent is effectively limited to that gleaned from documentary sources, and thus to a relatively restricted number of species.

31The case of Lübeck provides a significant contrast in this respect. Much of the evidence for consumption of garden produce in Lübeck is derived from the ambitious archaeological program undertaken since the Second World War by the city of Lübeck. This archaeological program has produced many site reports; six of these analyse plant remains found during the course of excavation.

  • 36 See Doris Mührenberg, “Der Markt zu Lübeck. Ergebnisse archäologischer Untersuchungen,” Lübecker S (...)
  • 37 This number does not include cereal plants. Nine cereal species were identified.
  • 38 This term is roughly translated from the German Nutzpflanzen. “Cultivated plants” is an inadequate (...)

32A total of thirteen sites have been excavated within the city walls of Lübeck. Two of these are located in the artisans’ quarter of the city, seven are from the merchants’ and seafarers’ section, and four are from ecclesiastical sites, namely monasteries and hospitals. Excavations in the market place have uncovered no botanical remains.36 The botanical evidence recovered in the digs dates from the period before settlement to the seventeenth century. Evidence from the twelfth century to before 1615 is most relevant to the medieval historian. A total of seventy-one37 types of macro-remains of useful38 plants were found.

  • 39 Almuth Alsleben, “Archáobotanische Untersuchungen in der Hansestadt Lübeck. Landschaftsentwicklung (...)

33As a general rule in medieval Lübeck, people tended to live in an area with others of their socio-economic class, sometimes to the extent of residing in close proximity with those who followed their profession. Street names in Lübeck, such as Fleischhauerstrasse (Butcher Street) bear witness to this practice. A closer look at the evidence from sites in three different socioeconomic areas of the city is revealing. St. Johanniskloster, a Benedictine monastery and thus an ecclesiastical site, was founded after 1173 on the eastern side of the peninsula, between Fleischhauerstrasse and Hundestrasse, next to the Wakenitz. Botanical analysis was done on samples taken from cultural layers from Period II that date to the beginning of the thirteenth century.39

  • 40 Marianne Dumitrache and Monika Remann, “Besiedlungsgeschichte im Lübecker ‘Kaufleuteviertel’,” Lüb (...)
  • 41 Ibid., 110-111.

34A merchant site, an area that included the lots at the corner of the streets Alfstrasse and Schüsselbuden, was excavated in 1985.40 A well at Alfstrasse 5 probably supplied water to the residents, both animal (suggested by the presence of straw and grain seeds) and human. The first stone building appeared in the early thirteenth century and is thought to have been one of the earliest secular buildings in the city. This large lot was subdivided in the early fourteenth century, as the area began to be filled in by the closely-built gable houses characteristic of this period.41

  • 42 Doris Mührenberg, “Archäologische und baugeschichtliche Untersuchungen im Handwerkerviertel zu Lüb (...)
  • 43 Hans-Georg Stephan, “Archaologische Ausgrabungen im Handwerkerviertel der Hansestadt Lübeck (Hunde (...)
  • 44 van Haaster, “Pflanzenresten,” 271.
  • 45 See site diagrams in Mührenberg, “Handwerkerviertel,” 262-70.

35The excavations at Hundestrasse 9-17, an artisanal site, were carried out from 1974 to 1976. Hundestrasse itself runs east-west from Königstrasse to the Wakenitz. The street and its name date to the thirteenth century.42 The high level of humidity in the ground meant that a great deal of plant material was preserved and many samples were taken from cultural layers, cesspits, and garbage dumps.43 Building occurred on the site from the early thirteenth century, and buildings gradually took up a larger proportion of the area as the piece of land was divided into the properties Hundestrasse 9-17.44 This building activity did not cover the entire surface area of the lots, and a certain amount of open land was left. Some of it was used for cesspits, at what would be the bottom of the garden.45 This open land, and the cesspits in it, form the basis for the botanical evidence concerning Hundestrasse 9-17. The macroscopic plant remains of thirty-five samples were analysed.

36Archaeological evidence shows that a wide range of fruits and vegetables were consumed on all three sites. Little disparity exists in the evidence from the thirteenth century on all three sites, suggesting that the standard of living at that time was fairly consistent across social levels. The St. Johanniskloster site does not present later evidence. Some of the evidence from St. Johanniskloster and Hundestrasse was slightly surprising. Archaeologists found very little herb evidence in an area thought to be a monastery garden; one would expect herbs to be plentiful in this area in light of documentary evidence from other sites. This anomaly may be due to preservation conditions or the fact that it is the leaves of many herbs that are dried and used, rather than their seeds. The monastery gardeners therefore would have had an incentive to see that their leafy herbs did not go to seed.

  • 46 Rolf Hammel, “Hauseigentum im spätmittelalterlichen Lübeck. Methoden zur sozialund wirtschaftsgesc (...)

37Evidence from Hundestrasse also presents something of a puzzle. Material found from the thirteenth century to before 1615 shows a consistently wide range of plant material, including fig seeds that must have been imported. This appears on a site that was known to be the home of a poorhouse. This evidence suggests that the poor may have been eating rather better than one assumes. Documentary evidence shows that the residents of Hundestrasse were primarily middle-class artisans46; the archaeological evidence suggests that this class of person ate a varied diet of locally available produce.

38Material from Alfstrasse/Schüsselbuden dating from the thirteenth century does not differ markedly from that found at the other two sites. The real difference appears in the evidence from the sixteenth century; this is the only site in Lübeck containing significant numbers of exotic spices such as pepper and coriander. This evidence suggests a high standard of living for the residents, as well as the possibility that the site was used by an importer of spices.

39The botanical evidence derived from the archaeological digs in Lübeck records a wide variety of plants. The useful plants preserved there range from fruits, both wild and cultivated, nuts, vegetables, herbs, spices, and those used for flavouring beer, for fibre, and for oil. Some of these plants, such as hops and raspberries, are found throughout the city, in ecclesiastical, merchant, and artisanal sites. Others are found only in a very few places during a very short time period, such as the peppercorns found only in the merchants’ area. In many cases, the evidence provided by plant remains is the only proof that exists that certain types of plants were grown or consumed within the city. This is one of the great boons offered to the historian by the archaeological evidence; it can throw open a window and show a much wider range than appears in the documentary evidence.

40The case of Lübeck also reveals how this archaeological evidence can confirm what is known from the documents. Several of the plants found in the archaeological record, such as apples, hops, and cabbages also appear in the documents. This evidence suggests that produce grown outside the city was consumed within it, and that rural growers supplied the urban market.

41The evidence from Lübeck shows not only what people of different economic and social status were consuming, but also how well documentary and archaeological evidence combine to provide a more complete picture than either can on its own. Study of medieval foodstuffs has relied for a long time on a variety of documentary sources. Research on grain production on large estates is based on the accounts of those estates. Urban records, such as tithe and rent payments, as well as land transfers are useful to the historian interested in food production and consumption in the city. The relatively new discipline of palaeoethnobotany can amplify the picture provided by these records a great deal. A comparison between Ghent and Lübeck amply illustrates this point; archaeological evidence from Lübeck adds more than fifty species unattested in the documentary records. Continued excavation and palaeobotanical analysis are thus crucial to the study of medieval foodstuffs.

Notes

1 Considerable debate has occurred about the relative health of the European population, particularly before and after the Black Death. Michael Postan argues that before the Black Death, much of the English rural population was living very near the subsistence level. Michael Postan, The Medieval Economy and Society (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1972), 34. Slicher van Bath argues that the Black Death struck a population already weakened by undernourishment. B. H. Slicher van Bath, The Agrarian History of Western Europe 500-1850, trans. Olive Ordish (London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1963), 89. Christopher Dyer notes that garden produce would have provided an important supplement to the diet, and that peasants were subject to “an annual cycle of temporary indulgence and real deprivation.” Christopher Dyer, Standards of Living in the Middle Ages: Social Change in England, c. 1200-1520 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 157, 160.

2 H. Bickelmann, “Oberstadtbücher,” Kanzlei Findbuch (Archiv der Hansestadt Lübeck, n.d.), 9.

3 Ibid., 3.

4 Paul Hasse and Carl Wehrmann, eds., Lübeckisches Urkundenbuch (LUB), Vols. 1-11 (Lübeck: Friedrich Aschenfeldt; Ferdinand Grautoff; Edmund Schmersahl Nachf.; Lübke & Nöhring, 1843-1905). LUB VII, 283 (1428); VIII, 271 (1444); IX, 73 (after 1451).

5 Georg Fink, “Die Wette und die Entwicklung der Polizei in Lübeck,” Zeitschrift des Vereins fur lübeckische Geschichte und Altertumskunde 27 (1934): 212.

6 Georg Fink, “Beiträge zur Geschichte des Lübecker Friedens von 1629. Die Lage von Michael Festers Garten vor dem Burgtor,” Zeitschrift des Vereins für lübeckische Geschichte und Altertumskunde 26 (1932): 147.

7 AHL (Archiv der Hansestadt Lübeck) ASA Interna, Ämter, Gärtner 1/3.

8 LUB III, 771.

9 AHL ASA Interna Markt 9/1 and 9/2 deal with apple-sellers (1614) and the sale of garden produce in the market (1669), respectively.

10 RAG (Rijksarchief Gent) 01771 1425 August 9.

11 A. de Vos, Inventaris der Landbouwpachten in de Gentse Jaarregisters van de Keure. Verhandelingen der Maatschappij voor Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde te Gent (Ghent, 1958).

12 SAG (Stadsarchief Gent) Reeks 152.2.

13 SAG Reeks 301. Most of these records were identified by Victor van der Haeghen, a past archivist of the city of Ghent. SAG, Nota’s van der Haeghen.

14 Their guild was suppressed and merged into the guild of the grocers in 1540, and their guild hall, called the Coelsteen, which was at the corner of the Korenmarkt and the small Korenmarkt, was confiscated and sold. Maurice Heins, Gand, sa vie et ses institutions, Tome III (Gent: Maisons d'Éditions et d'Impressions, 1921-1923), 522. The suppression was part of a range of reforms instituted by Emperor Charles V as a punishment for Ghent’s revolt in 1539-1540. For a thorough assessment of the relationship between Charles V and Ghent, his place of birth, see Marc Boone, “Le dict mal s'est espandu comme peste fatale: Karel V en Gent, stedelijke identiteit en staatsgeweld,” Handelingen der Maatschappij voor Geschiedenis en Oudkeidkunde te Gent 54 (2000): 31-63.

15 Suzanne K. Fish, “Archaeological Palynology of Gardens and Fields,” in Naomi F. Miller and Kathryn L. Gleason, eds., The Archaeology of Garden and Field (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), 45.

16 Fritz Rudolf Averdieck, “Botanische Bearbeitung von Proben der Grabungsplätze Heiligen-Geist-Hospital und Königstrasse in Lübeck,” Offa 46 (1989): 307-31.

17 Udelgard Körber-Grohne, Nutzpflanzen in Deutschland. Kulturgeschichte und Biologie (Stuttgart: Theiss Verlag, 1994), 16.

18 J. P. Pals, “Reconstruction of Landscape and Plant Husbandry,” in W. Groenman-van Waateringe and L. H. van Wijngaarden-Bakker, eds., Farm Life in a Carolingian Village (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1987), 53.

19 Körber-Grohne, Nutzpflanzen, 16.

20 Jon G. Hather, An Archaeobotanical Guide to Root and Tuber Identification, vol. I Europe and South West Asia (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 1993), vii.

21 Körber-Grohne, Nutzpflanzen, 16-17.

22 James Greig, Archaeobotany. Handbooks for Archaeologists Number Four (Strasbourg: European Science Foundation, 1989), 12-13.

23 Körber-Grohne, Nutzpflanzen, 17.

24 Pals, “Reconstruction,” 55-57.

25 Francis J. Green, “The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence for Plants from the Medieval Period in England,” in W. van Zeist and W. A. Casparie, eds., Plants and Ancient Man. Studies in Palaeoethnobotany (Rotterdam, Boston: A. A. Balkema, 1984), 101.

26 Karl-Heinz Knörzer, “Aussagemöglichkeiten von paläoethnobotanischen Latrinenuntersuchungen,” 331-38.

27 Ibid., 331.

28 P. R. Tomlinson, “Vegetative Plant Remains from Waterlogged Deposits Identified at York,” in Jane M. Renfrew, ed., New Light on Early Farming. Recent Developments in Palaeoethnobotany (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991), 109.

29 Knörzer, “Latrinenuntersuchungen,” 333-36.

30 Jan Bastiaens, “Verven met weld en meekrap. Archaeobotanisch onderzoek van de Korenmarkt te Gent,” Stadsarchaeologie 22, no. 2 (1998): 43-50.

31 N. A. Paap, “Palaeobotanical Investigations in Amsterdam,” in van Zeist and Casperie, Plants and Ancient Man, 340. No coconuts were found in Lübeck.

32 Bastiaens, “Verven,” 43-44.

33 Erik Thoen, “Technique agricole, cultures nouvelles et economie rurale en Flandre au bas Moyen Âge,” Fiaran 12 (1990): 56.

34 SAG Voorgebod 1353.11.10 and Ordinantie from 1368. I am grateful to Leen Charles for drawing my attention to these items and for sharing her notes with me.

35 Palaeobotanical investigations have been carried out in other settlements in Flanders; in the interests of methodological consistency, however, I have not examined this evidence here since it does not reveal anything about consumption in medieval Ghent. See Mamix Pieters, Brigitte Cooremans, Anton Ervynck and Wim van Neer, with Martine Hardy, “Van akkerland tot Heilige Geestkapel. Een kijk op de evolutie van de bewoningsgeschiedenis in de Kattestraat te Aalst (prov. Oost-Vlaanderen),” Archeologie in Vlaanderen 3 (1993): 299-329; Anton Ervynck, Brigitte Cooremans, and Wim van Neer, “De voedselvoorziening in de Sint-Salvatorsabdij te Ename (stad Oudenaarde, prov. Oost-Vlaanderen). 3. Een latrine bij de abtswoning (12de-begin 13de eeuw),” Archeologie in Vlaanderen 4 (1994): 311-22; Werner Wouters, Brigitte Cooremans, and Anton Ervynck, “Landelijke bewoning uit de voile middeleeuwen in Herk-de-Stad (prov. Limburg),” Archeologie in Laundered 5 (1995/1996): 159-77; Anton Ervynck, Brigitte Cooremans, and Wim van Neer, “De voedselvoorziening in de Sint-Salvatorsabdij te Ename (stad Oudenaarde, prov. Oost-Vlaanderen). 4. Een beer-en afvalput uit het gastenkwartier (1350-1450 AD),” Archeologie in Vlaanderen 45 (1995/1996): 303-15.

36 See Doris Mührenberg, “Der Markt zu Lübeck. Ergebnisse archäologischer Untersuchungen,” Lübecker Schriften zur Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte 23 (1993): 83-154.

37 This number does not include cereal plants. Nine cereal species were identified.

38 This term is roughly translated from the German Nutzpflanzen. “Cultivated plants” is an inadequate translation, since some of the food plants were gathered from the wild.

39 Almuth Alsleben, “Archáobotanische Untersuchungen in der Hansestadt Lübeck. Landschaftsentwicklung im städtischen Umfeld und Nahrungswirtschaft während des Mittelalters bis in die frühe Neuzeit,” Offa 48 (1991): 332.

40 Marianne Dumitrache and Monika Remann, “Besiedlungsgeschichte im Lübecker ‘Kaufleuteviertel’,” Lübecker Schriften zur Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte, 17 (1988): 108.

41 Ibid., 110-111.

42 Doris Mührenberg, “Archäologische und baugeschichtliche Untersuchungen im Handwerkerviertel zu Lübeck Befunde Hundestrasse 9-17. Mit einem botanischen Beitrag zu den spätmittelalterlichen und frühneuzeitlichen Pflanzenresten von Henk van Haaster,” Lübecker Schriften zur Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte 16 (1989): 234.

43 Hans-Georg Stephan, “Archaologische Ausgrabungen im Handwerkerviertel der Hansestadt Lübeck (Hundestrasse 9-17)—ein Vorbericht,” Lübecker Schriften zur Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte 1 (1978): 75.

44 van Haaster, “Pflanzenresten,” 271.

45 See site diagrams in Mührenberg, “Handwerkerviertel,” 262-70.

46 Rolf Hammel, “Hauseigentum im spätmittelalterlichen Lübeck. Methoden zur sozialund wirtschaftsgeschichtlichen Auswertung der Lübecker Oberstadtbuchregesten,” Lübecker Schriften zur Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte 10 (1987): 130.

Auteur

Recently defended her PhD thesis, “Garden Produce in Medieval Ghent and Lübeck,” at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. She currently teaches as a sessional lecturer in the History Department of Carleton University

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