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Synergies of river and land circulation in towns with small rivers: The case of Poitiers (France)

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Abstract The development of waterfront archeology since the 1970s has motivated the study of the synergies between cities and rivers. The increasing number of excavations in city waterfronts with its inception in Northern Europe, emphasize the complexity and value of riparian areas. These city‐river synergies shed light on such natural and cultural complexity, which requires a multidisciplinary approach and highlights the dynamics of a changing, hybrid and multifunctional riverine area. Although this interdisciplinary field of research has recently been growing, archeological research in France is focused primarily on large hydro systems with respect to smaller ones. This paper focuses on two secondary watercourses—the Clain and the Boivre—surrounding the city of Poitiers in Western France. Studying river and land circulation of the city in a longue durée perspective highlights the importance of small rivers in waterway traffic, as well as their archeological potential. These findings call for a reconsideration of the rich heritage of small rivers in future urban development projects, taking into account the sensitivity of small hydro systems to environmental changes. This article is categorized under: Human Water > Human Water
The articulation between waterways/land roads, urban fabric, and environmental dynamics for the study of human‐environment relations (by C. Gorin)
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Navigabilities of rivers in relation with waterways modification over time. We observe different types of boats evolving in time. (Left) The river hydro system concept with the longitudinal, transversal and vertical modifications of waterways (from Amoros & Petts, 1993). (Right) chronological evolution of shipbuildings (from Werther et al., 2018: figures 5, 6, and 8) and boats' characteristics: examples of 3 wrecks from 7th to 11th century found in the Charente river in France (from Chapelot & Rieth, 2004, figure 3)
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The city of Poitiers and the river links with Vieux‐Poitiers and Ratiatum quays in Roman period. Location of the sites in the hydrographic context. In the inset we can see the three locations on a different scale (C. Gorin)
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The Castle Bridge in the Clain river in Poitiers. (Left) underwater intervention on the bridge's piers. (Right) view of the two piers of the Castle Bridge from downstream (Gorin, 2019b, p. 43)
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The ford of “Intendant le Nain” in Poitiers. (Left) Map of the remains under the bridge in the Clain river. (Right) Pictures of the realization of topographic surveys of the remains under water (top) and of some blocks of the ford (down) (Gorin, 2019b, p. 42)
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Geographical location of Poitiers and of the remains mentioned in the paper. The urban fabric of Poitiers from the Napoleonic cadastre from 1838 and its river on the topographic context. In the inset we can see the location of Poitiers (black star) in Nouvelle‐Aquitaine region (gray) in France (by C. Gorin)
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