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Laat- en postmiddeleeuws leer uit het verlaten vissersdorp Walraversijde (stad Oostende, prov. West-Vlaanderen)
Schietecatte, L. (2003). Laat- en postmiddeleeuws leer uit het verlaten vissersdorp Walraversijde (stad Oostende, prov. West-Vlaanderen). Archeol. Vlaan. 7: 141-200
In: Archeologie in Vlaanderen = Archaeology in Flanders. Instituut voor het Archeologisch Patrimonium: Brussel. ISSN 0778-2837, more
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  • Schietecatte, L.

    This study of the leather artefacts fits in with the overall research conducted at the site of the medieval fishermen's village of Walraversijde. The village, first mentioned in 1290, is situated on the coastal is land Testerep. After its heyday in the first three-quarters of the 14th century, it got in a crisis during the war between the city of Ghent and the Count of Flanders (1379-1385). The dunes, poorly looked after during the war, drifted over the village forcing the inhabitants to rebuilt at least part of it behind the new dune belt. It's this part which is partly under excavation since 1992. Walraversijde suffered from a second crisis in the last two decades of the 15th century. The consequences were not as severe, but still the complete northeastern part of the village was abandoned. The troubles at sea continued and with the Eighty-Year War, more specifically during the Siege of Ostend (1601-1604), the complete village was abandoned. It never recovered and became a ruin. Only the tower of the chapel remained visible until 1860. The archaeological research, conducted by the Institute for the Archaeological Heritage of the Flemish Community (I.A.P.), provides data on the houses, barrel wells, (cess)pits, ditches and other artefacts. The latter consisting mostly of ceramics (the biggest part is regional red ware production), but also a lot of objects related to fishing: net needles, weights, ... The leather artefacts consist mainly of (parts of) shoes. They are best preserved in a clay-like and airtight environment, two conditions very well present at Raversijde. Other than shoes, there were also belts, sheaths and other objects in leather. Most of the leather pieces can be classified into categories of soles, uppers and reinforcing pieces of uppers. Both soles (fig. 2) and uppers (fig. 4: medieval types; fig. 5: post-medieval types; fig. 7: wooden and leather pattens) fit into a typology. Type 1 is the best represented type (35%), followed by types 2 (19.5%), 4 (19%) and 3 (12.5%). The form of the reinforcement pieces depends largely on the model of the shoe they belong to. Other leather objects are parts of belts, a few of them with a metal decoration (fig. 40: 421). Some will probably belong to horse gear or be part of wooden objects. Sheaths were also recovered, l of a sword (fig. 40: 428) and 4 of knives (fig. 40: 426-427-429-430). For the rest there are parts of a belt pouch, a handle, probably of a bucket, a piece put over a bunghole of a barrel and some pieces of which the origin can't be defined. The comparison of the material, mostly the shoes, within this site and with leather finds of sites abroad (fig. 9) shows that the cutting pattens only differ in details. The best match is made with Kampen in the Netherlands. These other sites provided also the basis for dating the Raversijde finds. The evidence obtained from the excavations so far (coins, ceramics, dendrochronology) nartows it down to a date between the first quarter of the 15th century and 1500. The post-medieval shoes could be dated in the 16th and 17th century. This research brought up the question of knee-high boots and what, by lack of them, could be used as a replacement. Also it raised the question if fishermen had a particular type of shoe related to their profession. The first impression is that they hadn't. Complete soles and uppers give us some idea on the shoe sizes (fig. 10). The division between men, women and children however is quite arbitrary because only a very simple method can be used which cannot provide great accuracy. The higher frequency of leather pattens could demonstrate that the inhabitants of the village enjoyed a higher wealth leather pattens make out 9 percent of the number of shoes instead of the 'normal' 1 percent! It is also attested that one preferred to buy a new pair of shoes rather than have the old pair mended. This might point to a high standard, but, on the other hand, the leather pattens weren't the most expensive ones: only 7 innersoles had a simply, stamped decorations and only 1 shoe was decorated with a stamped pattern (fig. 34: 287). In this way, the research pn this category pro- vides an insight into the daily life of the inhabitants of Walraversijde in the 15th century, who probably belonged to a middle class.

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