Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 1-2 (November 2009)Liesbeth Troubleyn; Frank Kinnaer; Anton Ervynck; Luk Beeckmans; Danielle Caluwé; Brigitte Cooremans; Frans De Buyser; Koen Deforce; Konjev Desender; An Lentacker; Jan Moens; Gaston Van Bulck; Maarten Van Dijck; Wim Van Neer; Werner Wouters: Consumption patterns and living conditions inside Het Steen, the late medieval prison of Malines (Mechelen, Belgium)

1 Introduction

Mechelen (known as Malines in both French and English) was one of the major towns in the medieval duchy of Brabant and, during the Burgundian government, eventually became the juridical capital of the Low Countries. The town still has a rich heritage, both above and below ground level. The latter part, however, has recently been severely damaged by the construction of underground parking lots. Even the Main Square (Grote Markt), at the centre of town, did not escape this fate.


Fig. 1 Location of Mechelen

Excavations at the Main Square of Malines took place in 2001 and 2002 (fig. 2 & 3). This project was carried out by the Instituut voor het Archeologisch Patrimonium (now integrated into the ‘Flemish Heritage Institute’) and the town council of Malines. An introductory description of this fieldwork has been edited by Lettany (2003), a study of part of the archaeological structures and find material was published, within its historical context, in a local monograph (Troubleyn et al. 2007). Both volumes being written in Dutch, the results and interpretations are now, for the first time, made available for the international archaeological community. Within this contribution, building remains excavated at the north-eastern corner of the present square and the small finds from two cesspits are at the centre of attention.


Fig. 2 The Main Square (Grote Markt) at Malines (1: parcels on the 1824 land register; 2: limits of the excavated area, upper level; 3: limits of the excavated area lowest level; 4: 13th-century road surface; 5: reconstructed road network; 6: building remains of Het Steen; 7: building remains of the market hall).


Fig. 3 Relief plan of Malines with the 19th-century waterways (Waterlopen 1824, indicating the second town defence), the town gates (Stadspoorten 1824) and the location of the first town defence (Oudste omwalling). The red dot indicates the location of Het Steen, in the geographical, economic and political centre of town.