Sailing into the Zwin sea-arm along its urbanised fringes towards Bruges must have been the medieval equivalent of sailing now onto the rivers Hudson or Thames. As an international gateway for goods, people and thoughts, the Bruges’ harbour system can be considered as a complex, dynamic maritime cultural landscape. It represents an internally and externally interconnected network of small and larger ports, all lined along the Zwin tidal inlet, sheltering local people as well as resident or transient foreigners. As such, a specific cultural environment developed which is reflected in art, architecture but also in everyday material culture, the whole being highly dependent on the maritime connectivity of the system.

Interdisciplinary research conducted over the last 10 years and embracing a wide array of archaeological, historical and geomorphological methods, has now shed a new light on Bruges’ harbour network. The socio-economic development as well as the morphology and material culture of the harbour network along the tidal inlet have been at the centre of this study. With this international symposium the organisers wish to present their results to a wider scientific audience, but foremost they aim to frame the Bruges’ project into a wider, international maritime context of interdisciplinary research on maritime cultural port-landscapes. Themes of the conference will therefore include:


  • Interdisciplinary perspectives on the development and functionality of harbour (networks) along tidal rivers (tidal trade hubs)
  • Infrastructure, port maintenance and support
  • The material culture of harbour societies
  • Resident and transient alien communities
  • International networks
  • Commodity flows