image/svg+xml63XI/1/2020INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICANATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGYhomepage: http://www.iansa.euFloor Maintenance as a Possible Cultural Behavioural Status? Preliminary Interpretations of Floor Formation Processes from Medieval Brno, Czech RepublicLenka Lisáa*, Pavel Staněkb, Antonín Zůbekb, Ladislav NejmancaInstitute of Geology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Rozvojová 269, Prague 6, 165 00, Czech RepublicbArchaia, Bezručova 15/78, 602 00 Brno, Czech RepubliccSchool of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia1. IntroductionThe foor is an inseparable part of medieval buildings. It is usually composed of intentionally or non-intentionally prepared material (the passive layer) and a trampled/dumped or maintained layer during the use of the building (the active layer) (see details in Gé et al., 1993 and Rentzel et al., 2017, summarised in Macphail and Goldberg, 2018; Karkanas and Goldberg, 2019). The internal space of a building may include not only domestic foors but also a byre. The formation of the domestic foor depends on many factors (status of the building or its parts, cultural diferences, geological background) and the formation processes of the fnal product may be quite complex and the detailed history difcult to resolve (Lisá et al., forthcoming). In particular, foor deposits can be a source of high-value information. Variations in foor residues are being proftably examined in order to understand uses of space and the nature of activities in a settlement (Courty et al., 1989). There is a number of studies dealing with foors from Neolithic tell deposits or prehistoric sunken houses (Novák et al., 2012; Milek et al., 2012; Parma et al., 2011; Kuna et al., 2012) or experimental studies (Macphail et al., 2004; Banerjea, 2015a; 2015b; Lisá et al., forthcoming), but case studies dealing with medieval foor deposits are quite rare (see Macphail et al., 2007 and Borderie et al., 2018).In every case, the foor usually captures the day-to-day life of the building in some way. It is also frequently the most neglected part of ethnographic research. The maintenance processes which form the foor are not always well known and difer locally and over time. Using micromorpology in an archaeological context is one useful method for recognising Volume XI ● Issue 1/2020 ● Pages 63–72*Corresponding author. E-mail: lisa@gli.cas.czARTICLE INFOArticle history:Received: 20thJanuary 2020Accepted: 22ndApril 2020DOI: words:micromorphology in archaeological contextliving spacetimber and earth architecturemasonry burgher architecturedomestic foorsABSTRACTThe way people used diferent types of buildings and how they used their living space in the past is often imprinted into the foors of buildings. The term foor is quite complex and to understand it, more than macroscopic observations are needed. One useful method is the application of soil micromorphology in an archaeological context. The timber and earth architecture of medieval Brno is still not well known. A rescue archaeological excavation of block 601 near Veselá Street revealed a unique situation where above-ground foors dated to the 13th–14thcentury had survived while buried under a garbage dump and discarded construction material. Two groups of buildings excavated in superposition within diferent parts of a single plot revealed that it is possible to track diferent maintenance practices through time and space. In the frst building, the hypothesis of sweeping maintenance practice was proposed. In the younger building situated in the same area, the degradation or the removal of a wooden plank foor could have been the origin of the observed micro-structure. In the third and fourth buildings, the maintenance practices were diferent again due to a wetter environment. The third (older) building revealed hay and straw covering followed by sweeping while mat coverings were laid on the surfaces and swept in the fourth (younger) building. The information deduced from micromorphological observations has not fully solved the questions about the foors, but it has certainly elucidated possible interpretations of the oldest phases of the town’s development.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2020 ● XI/1 ● 63–72Lenka Lisá, Pavel Staněk, Antonín Zůbek, Ladislav Nejman: Floor Maintenance as a Possible Cultural Behavioural Status? Preliminary Interpretations of Floor Formation Processes from Medieval Brno, Czech Republic64foor formation processes and the types of domestic foors, stabling or byre waste deposits (Stoops et al., 2010; Nicosia and Stoops, 2017; Macphail and Goldberg, 2018; Karkanas and Goldberg, 2019) combined, for example, with archaeobotany (Lisá et al., forthcoming; Borderie et al., 2018), or geochemistry (Milek et al., 2012; Macphail et al., 2004; Lisá et al., forthcoming).Most of the research regarding medieval foors has been conducted in England (summary in Macphail and Goldberg, 2018). These foors are typifed by the presence of: clay foors; lime-mortared and plastered surfaces; rammed chalk, brickearth “clay” slabs; adobe-like brick earth, plastered foors; or plant-tempered, daub foors. They are usually divided into so-called constructedfoors typifed by their sterile character of very poorly humic soil, and beaten-foor accumulationstypifed by their massive and compact structure with generally weak, but sometimes well-developed, laminae. These are usually composed of sand, silt and fne brickearth, charcoal, burned soil, organic matter, eggshell, mollusc shell, bone and coprolite fragments. The matrix often includes phytoliths, individual ash crystals and ashy concentrations. Microlaminated occupation foor deposits in various later medieval contexts (AD 1400–1539) have also been observed. These deposits, which probably refect a hospital regime, are composed of laminae 0.5–1.0 mm thick and show regularly alternating compositions of: 1) ash, fne charcoal, cess, burned fragments of bone, eggshell and soil; and 2) humus, brickearth soil and earthworm granules. In some cases, foor coverings were also recorded as a part of the foor sequence (Dragon Hall site, Norwich – see Macphail, 2003 and Shelley, 2005). There are also a number of sites where planked foor accumulations have been suggested, but these have been found below wooden foors, which usually do not survive. Such deposits are suggested, for example, for grubenhӓusers (sunken foored house) flls in the Anglo-Saxon village West Stow (Macphail and Goldberg, 2018, p.378), or for Early Slavic grubenhӓusers in Roztoky, Czech Republic (Novák et al., 2012); for trampling efects in general, see Rentzel et al., 2011.The formation of domestic foors related to a non-bricked, medieval town environment in the Czech Republic, and its information value, has never been previously discussed, even at the macroscopic level. The main aim of this paper is to demonstrate the potential for interpreting the sedimentary record of macroscopically-detected foor layers. How exactly has the layer, identifed macroscopically as the foor, formed – and what can be revealed about the formation processes of these layers in terms of the use of space and social cultural status of these sites?2. Material and methodsThe oldest phase of Brno burgher architecture is represented mainly by timber and earth buildings constructed only from wood and earth. The masonry burgher architecture appears locally in the late phases of the 13thcentury (Holub et al., 2005; 2013; 2015, pp.315–323). Most of the building remains have been located in sunken parts, such as timber and earth cellars. These are the most typical record of the non-masonry constructed buildings in medieval Brno. Above-ground foors are extremely rare due to their poor preservation.One exception has been noted during a rescue archaeological project realized during the construction of the Janáček Cultural Centre (Figure 1). These excavations revealed above-ground building structures with more-or-less-laminated foor deposits. The documented area is located in the NW part of the historical city of Brno. Two sides of the block were originally delimited by town walls. The medieval residential building was oriented towards Veselá Street leading from the Veselá Gate to the Fish Market (today’s Dominikánské Square). The block had nine plots (Vičar, 1965), eight of were oriented towards Veselá street. The rescue archaeological excavation partly unearthed just fve of these.The geological background of the study area is composed of alkaline loess deposits situated on calcareous marine clays (Přichystal, 2011). This sedimentary background has a strong infuence on the preservation of organic materials from the study strata. During the period from the 13thto 20thcentury, the ground level has risen approximately 3 metres, which has helped in the preservation of the above-ground foors. Its present-day altitude is therefore 219.6 metres above sea level (asl). The suggested ground level following its growth during the 13–14thcenturies is now some 1.5 metres lower than the present-day.Two sites (that included four buildings) within the excavated area (Figure 1) were chosen for a micromorphology trial in archaeological research and for a comparison of the identifed foor layers. The frst site includes an older building 1 (sample 1) and a younger building 2 (sample 2). The second site includes an older building (sample 3) and the younger one (sample 4). Each of the sites has an older phase dated to the second half of the 13thcentury and a younger phase dating slightly afterwards into the second half of the 13thcentury up to the frst half of the 14thcentury. Floors, i.e.the locations chosen for sampling, are composed of massive as well as thin-laminated layers, but the formation processes of these particular layers, and their interpretation, is not possible based only on macroscopic observations.The sedimentary sections were macroscopically documented and micromorphological samples were taken from the parts that refected the lamination (that suggested the foor deposits). Finally, four micromorphological samples from four diferent locations were cut out of the sections and put into plastic Kubiena boxes. Samples were taped in cling flm and transported to the laboratory of the Institute of Geology, Czech Academy of Sciences, where they were slowly dried and subsequently impregnated by resin Pollylite 2000 in a vacuum chamber. After six weeks of curing, the samples were thin-sectioned in an 8×5 cm format. Samples were described according to Stoops (2003). Detailed micromorphological descriptions are included in Table 1.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2020 ● XI/1 ● 63–72Lenka Lisá, Pavel Staněk, Antonín Zůbek, Ladislav Nejman: Floor Maintenance as a Possible Cultural Behavioural Status? Preliminary Interpretations of Floor Formation Processes from Medieval Brno, Czech Republic65