Uni-Tübingen

C 05

C 05

Island Economies. A Comparative Study of Island Communities during the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period

Academic disciplines

Medieval Archaeology

Early Modern History

Project management

Dürr, Renate, Prof. Dr.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

Fachbereich Geschichtswissenschaft

Seminar für Neuere Geschichte

Wilhelmstraße 36

72074 Tübingen

telephone: +49 7071 29 74672

e-mail: renate.duerrspam prevention@uni-tuebingen.de

 

Bartelheim, Martin, Prof. Dr.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters

Abteilung für Jüngere Urgeschichte und Frühgeschichte

Schloss Hohentübingen

Burgsteige 11

72070 Tübingen

telephone: 07071 29 72406

e-mail: martin.bartelheim{at]uni-tuebingen.de

 

Staecker, Jörn, Prof. Dr. †

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters

Abteilung für Archäologie des Mittelalters

PhD candidates

and Postdocs

Condit, Annika, M.A.

SFB 1070 RessourcenKulturen
Gartenstraße 29
Raum 308
72074 Tübingen
telephone: +49 7071 29 78387
e-mail: annika.condit@uni-tuebingen.de

 

Dierksmeier, Laura, Dr.

SFB 107 RessourcenKulturen
Gartenstr. 29
Raum 306

72074 Tübingen
telephone: +49 7071 29 73595

e-mail: laura.dierksmeierspam prevention@uni-tuebingen.de

Late Medieval and Early Modern island societies have often been examined as transitory destinations of trade and migrations, as targets of expeditions collecting exotic items or as replenishing stations or theatres of proxy wars. Characteristics germane to the very nature of small islands themselves (less than10,000 km2) have seldom been studied, and even less so from interdisciplinary (archaeological and historical) perspectives. Due to their isolation, susceptibility to pirates, reliance on the mainland, limited geological resources, and lack of clean drinking water, small islands share many common features. The management of these economic and environmental factors largely depends on the worldviews and knowledge of a respective island’s residents. Before this backdrop, project C05 of SFB 1070 examines the long-term history of small islands of Scandinavia and Spain to study how physical and intellectual resources were used, debated, and memorialised.

During its first phase, project C05 analysed the reduction of wealth with the examples of Viking Age hoards and medieval church constructions on the island of Gotland in Sweden. Here it could be demonstrated that the isolated situation and the limited resources gave rise to a distinct island economy, different in several ways from the situation on the Swedish mainland. The numerous depositions of silver are interpreted as an expression of inheritance, while the extensive constructions and reconstructions of medieval churches point to a realignment of ownership rights of individuals and groups. From this it was deduced that individuals within a family considerably contributed to its prosperity and thus turned into a ‘resource’ – and that precisely this group of individuals is characterised by a longing for self-expression and material manifestation.

Researching the Spanish Islands during Early Modern Period, one case study traces the cultural history of water. Lawsuits expose local conflicts over water access; in many cases, land was sold without the entitlement to use the water beneath the topsoil. Community initiatives to manage too little and too much water (e.g. caused by storms and flash floods) can be traced through the performative functions of rogatives (public prayer made to God, the Virgin, or the saints, in order to achieve remedy from grave suffering, Spanish: rogativos) and public works. Records about town meetings reveal concerns for the onerous (largely female) task of water carrying and the financing of a water contamination police force (alcaldes de agua). Through learned societies (e.g. Sociedad Ecónomica de los Amigos del País), water technologies were introduced to improve the transport of water and to facilitate water mills for power production. But advanced technologies were not always superior to local knowledge passed down from generations, such as with sand filtration systems, porous stone desalination techniques, irrigation, and the harvesting of water in its purest form – as snow. Of the many challenges facing island residents, the management of the existential resource of water reveals the social norms, local knowledge, economic outlays, and mentalities of early modern Spanish islanders. Results will be compared and contrasted with the findings for the Scandinavian island Öland to attempt an answer to the questions: how did small islands use resources differently than on the mainland?

A second case study analyses the Swedish island of Öland, examining hoards from an archaeological perspective and taking into account the date, context, weight and composition of materials. In addition, this research is conducted with regard to the surrounding landscape, settlements, fortified structures, harbours, cemeteries, churches and runestones. Öland’s vicinity to the Swedish mainland gives rise to the question, whether here similar specifics of resource use and accumulation, of destruction or transformation into ideological capital existed as on other Scandinavian islands, such as Gotland, or whether structures of economy and inheritance laws rather resemble those of the feudal mainland. While church construction does not show significant differences to the mainland, the Early and High Medieval constructions of the Eketorp type, the runestones of Viking Age and the concentration of deposits instead point to different conditions that call for interpretation. The comparisons of forms of elimination of capital (e.g. in in depots) or investments of capital (e.g. in church buildings) allow to deduce temporal and spatial focal points, interconnectedness, potential centres or shifts of power. Findings for Öland will be compared with the Spanish islands to draw conclusions on small island resource use.