Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Possibilities of Urban Archaeology in Interpreting an Early Town Plan of Haapsalu/Linnaarheoloogia Voimalustest Haapsalu Vanema Linnaplaani Interpreteerimisel

Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Possibilities of Urban Archaeology in Interpreting an Early Town Plan of Haapsalu/Linnaarheoloogia Voimalustest Haapsalu Vanema Linnaplaani Interpreteerimisel

Article excerpt

Aims and challenges

The current overview discusses the interconnection of various data on town construction, with the aim to reconstruct the original street plan of a small medieval town together with the early townscape plan on the example of Haapsalu (Germ. Hapsal), a former administrative centre of the Oesel-Wiek Bishopric (Fig. 1). An essential task is to involve information of urban archaeology in interpreting the original town space. At the same time the compatibility of data on early urban construction is of vital importance in order to diminish possible inclination of results and create a wide source basis for conclusions. Conclusions are first and foremost based on the results of archaeological excavations, mainly on the study of cellars and the cultural layers below the streets, also the cellar cadastre of the buildings in the old town that also includes archaeologically investigated cellars and historical plans--the 17th-19th century town plans of Haapsalu.

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The role of urban archaeology in studying the early history of towns, their establishment, town planning and urban structures is increasing all over Europe, it is conditioned due to the sudden increase of rescue excavations and consequent amount of archaeological finds and structural material. The vast collected material is an inexhaustible source for researchers for diverse studies of town genesis (e.g. Untermann 2004a; Opll 2011; Igel et al. 2013). Yet, it is necessary to remember in connection with these data that urban archaeology still centres on the source critical approach of the quantitative and qualitative weight in drawing general conclusions on single results (Scholkmann 2004, 182 f.). Hence urban archaeology focuses more on the study of dwelling houses, i.e. single buildings rather than plots. Another source critical issue is the possibility to use historic town plans to reconstruct older town planning (Kaspar 2004, 148 f.; Scholkmann 2004, 183). Regardless of these threats the context of urban archaeology has become a significant source for researchers to discuss the mechanisms of the establishment and organization of medieval towns, the connections of town settlements with pre-urban settlement structures, following early town plans in archaeological material, the multi-levels of town development, etc. (Untermann 2004b; 2011; Baeriswyl 2011; Igel 2011). My research is mainly based on the studies of German urban archaeology on town planning. German eastward expansion started the urbanization process on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea and therefore the treatment of the establishment and development processes of both former and present towns of the German-speaking area are of utmost importance for us.

In my previous works on the archaeologically studied cellars in Haapsalu I have connected the results with the historic town plans with the aim to reconstruct the 13th century town space (Parn 2006; 2010). To some extent the issues of settlement plans have been discussed in the studies of older housing patterns of Lihula (Germ. Leal), the oldest centre of the former Oesel-Wiek Bishopric (Fig. 1; Parn 2012; Parn & Russow 2014). In all those papers I referred to the analyses of older types of housing as a varied source of information in interpreting the town space. It appears that so far the research of medieval towns in Estonia has only sporadically used the information collected in archaeological excavations on older housing (Parn 2014a). It will be a future task to include the results of archaeological field work into the studies of early town space and initial urban planning. This is especially true about small medieval towns in Estonia, where written records about the very beginning of urban settlements are scarce and the survived buildings today date mainly from the Early Modern Times. Here the excavated building remains (mainly cellars) together with the medieval street net, the sacral buildings and fortifications constitute the only material proof about the town's profane architecture and their spatial interconnection (see Bruggemann 2006; Kaspar 2004). …

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