Archaeological phytoliths analysis on Rue des Boîteux (Brussels, Belgium). The evolution of the Holocene vegetation in the Senne Valley and medieval urban horticulture

Rosalie Hermans
Deze scriptie gaat over fytolietenonderzoek, uitgevoerd op een archeologische site in Brussel. De archeologische site bood de kans om informatie in te winnen over de evolutie van de vegetatie in de Zenne-vallei tijdens het Holoceen en over de vegetatie van laatmiddeleeuwse stedelijke tuinbouw in Brussel. Daarnaast focust de studie op het algemene methodologisch kader van fytolietenonderzoek aan de hand van de case study.

Vernieuwende archeologie: een nieuw verleden? Een fytolieten-analyse van de archeologische site in de Kreupelenstraat, Brussel (België)

Archeologie anno 2019 is spannend. Er is een grote stroom aan nieuwe data door de talrijke opgravingen en er een ligt een dozijn aan vernieuwende methodes klaar om het verleden te blijven reconstrueren. De (verleden) wereld ligt aan onze voeten. Deze ontwikkeling binnen de archeologische discipline wordt vaak benoemd als ‘Third Science Revolution’[1]. Deze revolutie is veelbelovend op twee vlakken. Enerzijds staan we verder dan ooit te voor wat betreft onze archeologische inzichten over het verleden. Anderzijds graven we efficiënter op. Een archeologische site hoeft niet meer volledig blootgelegd te worden om te achterhalen wat het archeologisch verhaal precies inhoudt. Zo ligt ook mijn onderzoek in deze innovatieve lijn. Er werd gebruikt gemaakt van een methode, die momenteel nog onderbelicht, doch waardevol is voor het bestuderen van de vegetatie in het verleden. Concreet gaat het over fytolietenonderzoek. Er werd een bodemprofiel van de archeologische site in de Kreupelenstraat, gelegen in het centrum van Brussel (België) onderzocht.

 

Fyto-watte-onderzoek?! Fytolietenonderzoek! De naam ‘fytoliet’ is afkomstig uit het Grieks en betekent letterlijk “plantsteen”. Deze plantsteentjes ontstaan in levende plantenweefsels. De steentjes zijn opgebouwd uit silica, een anorganisch en sterk materiaal dat frequent voorkomt in de natuur.  De precieze functie van deze plantsteentjes is onduidelijk, maar het is waarschijnlijk dat zij het plantenweefsel versterken en beschermen. Daar waar het oorspronkelijk organisch plantenweefsel al lang vergaan is in de bodem, bewaren fytolieten doorgaans heel goed gedurende lange tijd door hun anorganisch karakter.

Weetje: Robert L. Jones vond fytolieten, die zestig miljoen jaar oud waren.

Archeologen gebruiken fytolieten om de vegetatie in het verleden te bestuderen. Ruwweg geschat passen er ongeveer twintig fytolieten in een vierkante millimeter en daarom worden ze bestudeerd op een vergroting van 400x tot 750x onder de microscoop. Onder de microscoop zien we dat deze fytolieten allerlei verschillende driedimensionale vormen hebben die de sleutel zijn tot het achterhalen van de oorspronkelijke plantenweefsels uit het verleden.  

Welke planten er aanwezig waren is een belangrijke vraag binnen de archeologie, waaraan fytolieten dus hun “plantsteentje” bijdragen. Zo kan er aan de hand van studies over fytolieten informatie vergaard worden over het voedselgebruik of ruimtegebruik van de mens. Verder kan de relatie van de mens met zijn natuurlijke omgeving onderzocht worden. Hieronder valt bijvoorbeeld het onderzoek naar domesticatieprocessen of vroegere landbouwactiviteiten.

In de huidige studie werd fytolietenonderzoek toegepast op een archeologische site in de Kreupelenstraat, gelegen in het centrum van Brussel. Tijdens bouwwerken in 2014 werd er een veenpakket aangetroffen dat gedateerd werd tussen het 9de millenium v.Chr en de 13de eeuw n.Chr.

Bovenop het veenpakket werden twee donkere, homogene bodempakketten aangetroffen, afkomstig uit de 13de tot de 15de eeuw n.Chr. Deze bodempakketten worden wel vaker in de stad Brussel en daarbuiten aangetroffen en staan bekend als ‘zwarte lagen’. Deze zwarte hompen aarde lijken op het eerste zicht maar weinig interessant, maar bevatten een schat aan informatie, wanneer ze onderworpen worden aan een reeks van onderzoeken waaronder een chemische en microscopische analyse. Zowel het veenpakket als de zwarte lagen zijn uitvoerig bestudeerd geweest vanuit verschillende disciplines, waaronder onderzoek op aangetroffen dieren- en plantenresten en bodemonderzoek.

Mijn onderzoek had twee doelstellingen. Enerzijds had het als doelstelling om een bijdrage te leveren over onze kennis van de vegetatie in het verleden in Brussel in de Zenne-vallei. Het integratieve onderzoek, inclusief de fytoliete-analyse, heeft hierbij haar vruchten afgeworpen. Het veenpakket bracht veel nieuwe informatie aan het licht over de evolutie van het natuurlijk landschap in de Zenne-vallei. De zwarte lagen bleken laatmiddeleeuwse stedelijke tuinlagen te zijn, die gesitueerd kunnen worden in een bruisende middeleeuwse stad waarbij de inwoners zelf groenten en fruit kweekten naast bijvoorbeeld de import van graan uit het hinterland.

Daarnaast had mijn onderzoek de bedoeling om de onderbelichte discipline van fytolieten uit te breiden en te innoveren.  Het innovatieve aspect is tweeledig. Allereerst werden fytolieten in veen voor de eerste keer onderzocht in België. Er bleken in sommige stukken van het veen maar weinig tot geen fytolieten te zitten en wat dit precies betekent is nog niet helemaal duidelijk. Op de toekomstige agenda staat het onderzoek van  andere veenpakketten in Brussel om dit verder te ontrafelen. Het tweede innovatieve aspect zit hem in een complex methodologisch kader. Er werden twee methodes – één gangbare en één niet gangbare – gecombineerd om de fytolieten-analyse uit te voeren. Het onderzoek heeft aangetoond dat beide methodes complementair werken en dat toekomstig onderzoek baat zou hebben het blijven combineren van de methodes.

Archeologie anno 2019 is spannend. Toch moeten archeologen, soms volledig ondergedompeld in de ‘Third Science Revolution’, niet vergeten delen met anderen. Want archeologie is en blijft de studie van het verleden van ons allemaal.

 

[1] Na een eerste fase van revolutie in de jaren 1850-1860, waarbij er interesse kwam voor archeologie samen met disciplines zoals biologie en geologie, en een tweede fase vanaf de jaren 1950-1960 waarbij de koolstofdatering geïntroduceerd werd, breekt nu een derde fase aan, waarbij de archeologie naar een hoger niveau getild wordt door het gebruik van big data en digitalisering en vernieuwende methodes waaronder isotopen- en DNA-onderzoek.

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Kunstwetenschappen en Archeologie
Publicatiejaar
2019
Promotor(en)
Dries Tys
Kernwoorden
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