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Linking European building activity with plague history
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
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Number of Authors: 212018 (English)In: Journal of Archaeological Science, ISSN 0305-4403, E-ISSN 1095-9238, Vol. 98, p. 81-92Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Variations in building activity reflect demographic, economic and social change during history. Tens of thousands of wooden constructions in Europe have been dendrochronologically dated in recent decades. We use the annually precise evidence from a unique dataset of 49 640 tree felling dates of historical constructions to reconstruct temporal changes in building activity between 1250 and 1699 CE across a large part of western and central Europe largely corresponding to the former Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Comparison with annual records of 9772 plague outbreaks shows that construction activity was significantly negatively correlated to the number of plague outbreaks, with the greatest decrease in construction following the larger outbreaks by three to four years after the start of the epidemics. Preceding the Black Death (1346-1353 CE) by five decades and the Great Famine (1315-1322 CE) by two decades, a significant decline in construction activity at c. 1300 CE is indicative of a societal crisis, associated with population stagnation or decline. Another dramatic decline in building activity coincides with the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648 CE) and confirms the devastating nature of this conflict. While construction activity was significantly lower during periods of high grain prices, no statistically robust relationship between the number of felling dates and past temperature or hydroclimate variations is found. This study demonstrates the value of dendrochronological felling dates as an indicator for times of crisis and prosperity during periods when documentary evidence is limited.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 98, p. 81-92
Keywords [en]
Cultural heritage, Dendrochronology, Felling dates, Historical demography, Late Medieval Crisis, Thirty Years' War, Yersinia pestis
National Category
Sociology History and Archaeology Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-162012DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2018.08.006ISI: 000447111700008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-162012DiVA, id: diva2:1263744
Available from: 2018-11-16 Created: 2018-11-16 Last updated: 2018-11-16Bibliographically approved

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Charpentier Ljungqvist, FredrikKrusic, Paul J.
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