A review of the literature by: Elizabeth Gunther, University of Massachusetts
Original article: Houfková, Petra, et al. 2015. Origins and development of long-strip field patterns: A case study of an abandoned medieval village in the Czech Republic. Catena 135: 83 – 91.
This presentation highlights and contextualizes the novel research methodology that Houfková et al. (2015) used to date the long-strip field patterns at the abandoned village of Malonín in the Bohemian Forest Mountains of the Czech Republic. In their study, cultural and natural artefacts are analysed in concert with one another providing a more accurate assessment of land use over time. Not just of importance for archaeologists and landscape historians, this innovative methodology is also of note to ecologists looking to understand how historic patterns of land usage affect local and regional biodiversity. Prior to Houfková et al., pluzina systems in the Czech Republic were assumed to originate in the medieval period based on what historic and stratigraphic data was available, yet conclusive evidence of their medieval origin remained elusive. Researchers studying vernacular landscapes in particular face incomplete, obsolete or non-existent historic record keeping. Major landscape upheavals and mass migrations also contribute to these gaps in the historic record. Likewise, compromised soil stratigraphy resulting from agricultural practices can further interfere with the accurate dating of vernacular landscape features. Houfková et al. combines these archaeo-historic dating methods with radiocarbon dating of macro-botanical remains and radionuclide testing to accurately determine the age of the field patterns and hedgerows in Malonín for the first time. By combining traditional methods with modern scientific technologies, Houfková et al. determined that the pluzina system at Malonín was indeed of High Medieval origin and not some more recent creation. This multi-proxic, interdisciplinary approach to dating landscape features has the potential for broad application in the study of vernacular landscapes.