Sustainable energy economy? The use of forests for fire and charring wood supply in Schleswig-Holstein during Mediaeval and early Modern Times

Abstract Dissertation Arne Paysen

Until the 19th century forests were not only used for the supply of wood, but also as pasture for cattle and pigs. The early industry used the woods for energy support, before the use of fossil coal became common. As shown in ethnographical, historical and experimental research, the massive use of fuel transformed the natural woods in different ways. During archaeological research at mediaeval kiln sites, ironworks and glassworks several samples of charcoal were taken to get information about the used wood species, their diameters and the practice of wood management. Simultaneously the historical research on the early industry of Schleswig-Holstein gives more possibilities to describe the influence of the early industry on the forest development.

Charcoal kilns were often used by the local farmers for selling charcoal to towns and early industry sites. In many kiln sites the use of hornbeam coppice-woods can be shown by the historical and archaeological research. Also alder- and birch swamps were used. Beech wood was not produced in coppiced woods but rather in high-forests. Altogether the use of the woods by peasants seems to be intensive but sustainable. The use of fast growing coppiced woods was a common technique. The use of woods and forests was completely different, when the industry was entitled by the principals to use the woods. The archaeological and historical research on late mediaeval glassworks shows a massive use of old beeches, which was not sustainable at all. From the 17th century on the woods near the glassworks were often completely cleared. Also the ironworks hat great influence on the forest development.

The charcoal from the mediaeval ironworks near Flensburg shows the use of a poplar and willow dominated wood with a small growing rate and small diameters. The techniques of a sustainable coppice-wood usage were not practiced here. Presumably the ironworks closed down because of the lack of wood. The results of the archaeological-anthracological investigation are different to the results of the older historical investigation. Most of the historical material describes the non sustainable forest management by the peasants, while the principals try to establish the sustainable forest management during late Mediaeval Times.