(Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis, Brussels, Belgium)


Outline: The period of government of Louis XIV of France is characterized by a virtually continuous waging of war, from which the Southern Low Countries were also not spared. After the Treaty of Nijmegen, Louis XIV of France decides to change to a more defensive strategy. This means that, for instance, along the north-eastern border of France, a number of fortified cities and fortifications were connected by continuous lines of defense. Today, however, traces of that military past are no longer visible. The research focuses on one of these lines of defence, namely the one between Ypres and Komen. We’ve tried to reconstruct the route of the line of defense by a thorough examination of historical maps, with reference to different types of cartographic sources such as aerial photographs, cadastral maps and digital terrain models.

Abstract: The applied methodology belonged to the relatively new study area of Historical GIS. As with most historical GIS, the use of historical maps is indispensable. Maps record former geographical information that is crucial to reconstruct past places. By incorporating those maps into a GIS, we overcome many of the restrictions that are associated with the paper maps, and the maps become almost dynamic. By georeferencing and vectorising the ancient maps, we can compare as many maps as we want. In addition they can be compared with other cartographic documents, such as aerial photographs, satellite images, digital elevation models and so on.

The use of historical GIS proved its usefulness, since we were able to reconstruct the ancient line of defense in detail. Moreover, we managed to find spots in the landscape that still refer to this line: relicts that were forgotten since the line fell into ruin.

The use of Historical GIS itself is quite new in Belgium, especially when it’s been used to trace material relicts in the landscape. The results of the research, in addition, putted more insights in the precise location of the line of defense, as well as in its functionality.

Keywords: Historical GIS, Lines of defence, post-medieval archaeology