Posted by: Johan Normark | June 8, 2011

The Early Modern Town: Archaeology between the Local and the Global

Apart from my three current projects on caves and climate change, water as an archaeological object and 2012, I will also participate in a fourth project run by my former thesis advisor Per Cornell. My participation in that project will not begin until 2013. Per’s project is called The Early Modern Town: Archaeology between the Local and the Global. This project will look at urbanism during the Early Modern period (16th and 17th century). I have translated Per’s abstract and it goes something like this:

During the Early Modern period new town ideals based on antique models created a new urban space, both in existing cities originating in the Middle Ages as well as in a series of newly founded cities. This ideal urban model, which is very much alive even today in our cities, has a global application as well, with examples in both the Old and the New World. Per’s project addresses a number of cities in Sweden, from Gävle in the north to Ystad in the south, but in the study of these sites, the global comparative perspective will always be present, with some few detailed studies of examples from Latin America [this is where I come in].

What forms of human life emerged in these new cities, which in their overall geometric design often have an utopian character? What happened when the ideal urban plan was confronted with older local traditions, and all the social and cultural diversity that characterized the Early Modern cities? So far, this process has primarily been treated by historians on the basis of written sources. In order to answer these questions, this project focuses on the archaeological material. Archaeology and historical texts often tell us completely different stories about the past. It is in the contrast between these two source materials that new and exciting knowledge can be achieved.

A first fundamental task of the project is to compile and systematize this archaeological source material. The results of the project will have important implications for our view of the Early Modern city since archeology, combined with historical textual documents, can give a more in-depth and multidimensional knowledge than we have ever had on this phenomenon. The Early Modern cities in Sweden are also used for a comparative international context. This will contribute new knowledge to an important moment in the emergence of our modern globalized society.


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