ArchaeoCafé Podcast – Episode 2-20 – Mediaeval farming: An interview with Claus Kropp

hosted by Otis Crandell

In this episode I talk with Claus Kropp about Mediaeval agriculture, experimental archaeology, and working at an experimental archaeological open-air laboratory.

Listen to this episode online:



Some useful terminology and links

Lorsch Monastery World Heritage Site
Founded around 764 by the family of the Franconian count Cancor. In 772, the monastery was transferred to Charlemagne, who placed it under his protection and granted it immunity. Until the 13th century, the imperial monastery successfully defended its independence. In 1461, Mainz pledged the Lorsch Monastery to the Electoral Palatinate. Almost a century later, in the course of the Reformation, it became an extinction monastery and was ultimately dissolved. In 1621, during the Thirty Years’ War, Spanish troops destroyed the monastery complex. It was one of the most renowned monasteries of the Carolingian Empire. Even in its ruined state, its remains are among the most important pre-Romanesque–Carolingian style buildings in Germany.

Lauresham open-air laboratory
Located in the heart of the Lorsch Monastery, this facility is based on archaeological finds at the settlement. A team of experienced craftsmen under scientific supervision, including the Archaeological Institute of the University of Hamburg, built an ensemble of buildings – including residential, farm, stables and storage buildings, as well as a chapel. In addition, there are various agricultural areas – such as meadows, fields and gardens – and farm animals. The laboratory has a special research interest in exploring different approaches to learn about mediaeval agriculture. Various long-term experiments on site focus on crops, subsistence strategies, field systems, and draft animals, as well as manuring and agricultural implements.

Living history
An activity that incorporates historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time

Experimental archaeology
A field of study which attempts to generate and test archaeological hypotheses, usually by replicating or approximating the feasibility of ancient cultures performing various tasks or feats
For more about experimental archaeology, visit the EXARC website.


Selected reading and videos

Claus Kropp – Draft Cattle in (Archaeological) Open-Air Museum and Living History Farms
Virtual Conference. Draft Animals in the Past, Present and Future. May 8-9th 2021. Lauresham Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology

Medieval Agriculture in Experiment
Claus Kropp – Lauresham Open-Air Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology (Germany)

AIMA Lecture – Claus Kropp – A Year On the Field
Claus Kropp giving his AIMA lecture on the project “A Year On The Field”.

Lauresham digital – Ridge and Furrow Research project
Insights into the long term research project on the topic of Early Medieval agriculture, especially dealing with the ancient field system of ridge and furrows.

Ein historisches Modell in archäologischer Perspektive: „Grundherrschaft“ im älteren Mittelalter
[Historical models in archaeological perspective: Outline of an archaeology of early medieval manorialism]
by Claus Kropp and Thomas Meier
in “Hierarchies in rural settlements”, published by Brepols Publishers in 2013, pages 77-89

Tierische Anspannung im Experiment – Potentiale und Grenzen
[Animal stress in the experiment – Potentials and limits]
by Claus Kropp
Laureshamensia, 2017, Vol. 1, p. 24-31

Wölbäcker. Altes Wissen neu entdecken
[Ridge and furrow. Rediscover old knowledge]
by Katja Wiedner, Jens Schabacker, and Claus Kropp
Laureshamensia, 2017, Vol. 1, p. 66-69


About Claus Kropp

Claus is an experimental archaeologist and the scientific manager of the Lauresham Open Air Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology at Lorsch Abbey in Germany. His research interests include Early Mediaeval settlement archaeology, draft cattle, (re)constructing Early Mediaeval agriculture, animal husbandry (including transhumance) and manorialism.





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