Topic 8 - The archaeology of buildings
 
 
Convenors:
 
Florence Journot, Maître de conférence, Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, UMR 7041 – ArScAn « Archéologies environnementales »
fjgb@wanadoo.fr
Philippe Mignot, Archéologue, Direction de l'Archéologie du Ministère de la Région wallonne
P.Mignot@mrw.wallonie.be
Simon Bryant, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives, BRGM, 3 av. Cl. Guillemin, 45060 Orléans La Source
simon.bryant@inrap.fr
 
The archaeology of standing buildings is considered to be founded upon the stratigraphic analysis of standing remains in the same way that archaeological excavation relies on stratigraphy to interpret the evolution of a site. Necessarily interdisciplinary in their approach, adepts of this particular branch of archaeology have proven its value.
These qualities are particularly visible in the study of management and exploitation of resources used in buildings (the catchment areas) and of the production processes which lead to their construction. This theme is also tied into that of “the archaeology of technology” and the relationship with water power, mechanics and the evolution of metal working.
This theme may be organised around three interrelated sections. A standing building is the result of a dialectic between the transformation of raw materials into exploitable building materials (section 6) and the creation of a “built space” designed to satisfy one or several functions (section 7). The archaeologist must consider all of these aspects in order to give a meaningful interpretation of each site.
Session 1 : From materia prima to the finished product : the archaeology of building materials
Where does it come from ? The choice of local or imported material 
1.1. Four main categories of material may be considered :
Stone : it is hoped to combine geological analyses with studies of stone from the quarry to its’ use in buildings, with particular reference to ashlar modules.
Wood : specialists en dendrology, xylology and palaeobotany work to rediscover the state and evolution of woodland resources (forestry practice and the exploitation of hedges or scrublands). Their results tend to refute the idea of a chronic shortage of wood. The question may also be approached through the study of the calibres of timber used in building (planks, beams, etc.) and the way it was cut to shape. Wood has the major advantage of being datable through dendrochronology.
Architectural ceramics : the great variety of production techniques which characterise this material must be underlined. A particular call is made for papers showing the application and results of scientific dating methods to architectural ceramics.
Iron : the archaeological and historical study of metal working techniques have shed light on the methods of extraction and the production of semi-finished items (bars, ingots and sheet-metal) which lead to the use of iron for major structural elements (staples, reinforcing rods, etc.) as well as smaller fixtures and fittings (hinges, locks)
1.2. Other less common materials are also used :
Adobe or cob construction, plaster… under estimated or under represented in the archaeological record, their use is not necessarily synonymous with low grade constructions Window glass
Lead, pewter, copper based alloys…
Composite or specialised materials such as mortars and renderings which may have protective, insulating or water-proofing properties, paints…
Section 2 : Creation and utilisation
Construction techniques are one facet of an overall project which serves a certain number of functions
New questions about craft or industrial production allow us to throw off the too contemporary concept of “the artist” which has often relegated mediaeval or post-mediaeval productions at best as minor or secondary or, at worst, insignificant, leading to the loss or destruction of many objects. Stylistic categories such as “Romanesque”, “Gothic” or “Renaissance” no longer suffice to classify buildings or their composing parts and the time has come to reassess the different types of buildings which are too often labelled as “vernacular” or “traditional”. 
2.1. Evaluating technical know-how
A new look at design : for the history of architecture, the relationship between those who demand and those who build has been the subject of new research. Beyond the study of the construction of the “four walls”, the role and the coordination of all the different specialists need to be approached.
This principle may be applied to all types of buildings and may show the articulation between the supply and the demand, the producer and the consumer.
The technical know-how of builders (physical, mechanical and chemical properties) have all too often been written-off as « empirical » : a concept which needs further explanation. The organisers of this congress wish to make a special plea to those researchers who have worked with engineers or other specialists in order to asses what may have really constituted mediaeval “experience” in building. Contributions from experimental or ethno archaeology will be particularly welcome.
This framework could serve to present recent research on assembly techniques in masonry or carpentry with regards to the structural constraints : just how elaborate is the construction and is the degree of elaboration in keeping with these constraints ? The stereotomie of assembled stone or wood structures is one particular criterion for assessing technical know-how.
2.2. Behaviour and the use of space
A building may, or at least should be designed for a certain level of functional efficiency, though “function” is not always the corollary of “utility”. Whatever the building, it is certainly composed of spaces with different functions. Potentially, these will be used by different populations at different moments in time (daily, weekly or seasonal uses). This section aims to highlight the use of built space and the relationships with building techniques. It is hoped to refine the over-simplified notion of public and private space.
Section 3 : Scientific procedures : archaeology as a human science
For a common scientific language : vocabulary and images
It is hoped to start the discussion on the need for a standard vocabulary and to estimate the problems that could arise from its’ application at an international level.
The graphic representation of standing buildings is also an important issue and the role of plans, elevations and other forms of illustrations will also be considered.