Vincent DEBONNE
(Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium)

Abstract: Identifying building materials and building techniques constitutes a standard practice in the archaeological recording of built heritage. With chronological values attached to materials and techniques, a relative chronology can be refined into a dated sequence of construction phases. However, in recent years the use of scientific dating techniques has more than once forced to review existing chronotypologies. This paper presents our findings on this issue, based on research of medieval architecture in Flanders (Belgium).
For one, the chronological divide between ‘older’ buildings in stone and ‘younger’ ones in brick appears too rigid. In several cases, building archaeology combined with scientific dating has revealed the presence of stone and brick in one and the same building not as an indication of chronologically distinct construction phases, but merely as a change in the choice of materials within one building campaign. Secondly, the chronology of building materials in Flanders remains strongly influenced by the outstripped theoretical concept of the regional ‘Kunstlandschaft’. The chronological value herein attributed to local building materials is largely based on a superficial analysis of vaguely dated buildings. Finally, in the case of brick building, chronologies of brick dimensions and bonds should be used with circumspection. Interregional differences are frequent, while bricks of various sizes and different bonds were at times in use simultaneously.
Assembling chronotypologies of building materials and building techniques is best achieved within the confines of a historically and geographically well-defined area, such as a medieval city and its immediate (judicial) surroundings. To do so, dendrochronology and other scientific dating techniques on mortar and building ceramics are crucial to put together a reference group of reliably dated buildings.

Keywords: Building materials and techniques, chronotypology, metric chronology, scientific dating