Provenancing Baltic timber from art historical objects: success and limitations
Journal of Archaeological Science
During the Middle Ages northern Belgium and The Netherlands were gradually deforested. A steadily rising demand for quality timber obliged merchants to look for new timber sources. From the 13th century onwards, large volumes of timber were imported from surrounding regions and, despite the remote supply area, merchants of the Hanseatic League managed to organize a huge timber trade from towns around the Baltic Sea. Trees from forests along the Vistula River seem to have been exported via
... , first to Bruges and later to Antwerp. At their final destination the imported wood assortments were highly appreciated for shipbuilding and construction purposes, but also by woodcarvers and famous painters. Over the last decade dendrochronologists have established a dense network of historical site chronologies for northern and central Poland. These site chronologies are supposed to reflect local growth conditions and may allow the identification of the provenance of the wood of many art historical objects made out of Baltic timber. Tree-ring patterns of panel paintings and sculptures, mainly from the 14th-16th centuries, were measured and compared to this data set of site chronologies. An evaluation of the accuracy of sourcing medieval Baltic timbers using standard correlation techniques was made. The identification of provenance enriches historical information on logging activity and timber trade around the Baltic Sea during the Middle Ages.