The Early Modern Town – local and global archaeology

This project studies the great change that took place in the 16th and 17th centuries in our cities during the era known as the Early Modern. Based on a new city layout conforming to ancient prototypes a new urban space was created, both in existing cities (originating in the medieval period) and in a number of newly laid locations. This idealist urban model, which is very much still alive even in todays cities, has an almost global application with examples in both the old and the new world.

In this project, a number of cities in Sweden will be the main focus, from Gävle in the north to Ystad in the south. In the study of these sites, the global comparative perspective will always be present.

The project will specifically contribute to the study of the social practice in the smaller scale, among different social classes and groups. Where forms of social behavior which emerged in these new towns with their overall geometric design almost Utopian in their nature? What happened when the urban ideal of the plan was confronted with older local traditions, and all the social and cultural diversity that characterized the early modern cities? The local continuity of importance as well as diverse cultural encounters in the city and its various effects will be at the center. At present this process is primarily treated by historians using written sources. In order to answer these questions, this project is to use a new source material – the archaeological record.

Archaeology and historical sources often say different things about the past but in this contrast between the two source materials that new and exciting information is discovered. There is much potential in the archaeological material from the early modern cities in Sweden, which has grown in scope in recent years thanks to a wide range of rescue archaeological investigations.

A first basic task of the project is to compile this archaeological source material, since it is still infrequently used for research. The project results will have important implications for our view of the early modern city as archaeology combined with history can give a more in-depth and multidimensional knowledge than we have ever had on this phenomenon.

Such a collaboration allows for a comparison with material from other parts of the world. The project will highlight and discuss key methodological issues surrounding archaeological cultural layers in urban areas. It will also provide opportunities for more skilled antiquarian decisions about archaeological survey forms for the Swedish mission in an urban archaeology, as well as new opportunities for the consideration of the early modern town planning in general.