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Surprise 10th Century Medieval Port Discovered In Western France

Archaeologists in western France have been up to their elbows excavating enormous oak ship timbers at a “surprise” 10th-century medieval port, where evidence of wine production, fishing trade, and long-distance economics have been unearthed. The 2,500-square-meter (26,000-square-feet) archaeological dig surrounds the famous medieval castle of Chateau Talmont-Saint-Hilaire, in the Vendée department of western France. Large, extremely well-preserved beams of oak were discovered along an ancient riverbank that featured a gutter system.

A report in Connexion France says the team of archaeologists believe they have discovered “a 10th century port.” This conclusion was drawn considering the site’s proximity to the Atlantic coastline, which is today less than three kilometers (1.9 miles) from the site.

How Trees Dated The Surprising Medieval Port in France
The researchers from l’Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (Inrap) have announced findings including evidence of wine production and a thriving fishing trade. It is thought that merchant ships docked at the site and loaded up with cargoes of both people and goods, shipping them to and from the chateau to England and Spain, between the 10th and 16th centuries AD.

FranceInfo spoke with Pierre Péfou, a medieval carpentry specialist , who said the oak beams were in “exceptionally good condition.” So much so did the deep-terrestrial humidity at the site protect the oak timbers that the archaeologists were able to identify “very precise dates” for the site. Péfou explained that cross sections of the oak beams revealed visible rings that were then analyzed to reveal dates for different periods of maritime operations.

Smashing Historic Mysteries With New Data
So accurate have modern analytical methods become that the team of scientists were able to ascertain whether any given oak beam sample had come from a tree that had grown slowly or quickly. They could also identify trees that had been pruned. They could determine if a tree had grown from the shoot of a cut tree stump, or from a seed.

Perhaps the most interesting data pertains to how human activity affected tree growth within the surrounding natural environment. Now, with all this new eco-information, the researchers are recreating the forested countryside as it was in the medieval period.