The Archaeological Research of House No. 74 in Široká Street

Široká No. 74, overview
Originally it might have been a Gothic house in its foundations, but it has been mostly well-preserved in shape from the last quarter of the 16th century when it was rebuilt in the Renaissance style. During the restoration work in 1993-1994 Renaissance ornaments were uncovered in both halls (an entrance hall on the ground-floor and an upper hall in the mezzanine), as well as connecting staircase. Paintings and graffiti have also been hidden under the yard facade. A smaller archaeological research of the house entry was done by the workers of the South Bohemia Museum of České Budějovice during the restoration work in June 1993. They managed to examine a unique paving made of animal bones in two archaeological probes.

The archaeologists seem to have been surprised with a completely unexpected situation which appeared in the north part of probe No.1 (an east part of the hall entry on the ground-floor, near the front part of the house) under the remains of an earlier paving made of stones. Hundreds of cow calf bones were cut in halves, pointed and one by one sunk into the ground. Some gaps among larger bones were filled by finger-joints, finished in similar way. There is just one explanation - the surface was made of animal bones. The bony floor was combined with flat stones and threaded soil in the south part of the probe. A few pottery fragments and a small clay sling ball were found on its surface. The paving made of animal bones also appeared in probe No.2 (west of probe No.1) under an earlier paving - in a 30cm-strip going from the north to the south across the gateway. The area between it and the paving in probe No.1 was boneless. They could have been replaced by different material, for example, made of wood. A smaller collection of pottery was also found in probe No. 2.

Ground-plan of house No. 74 in Široká Street with a mark of place of bony floor discovery. According to J. Militký.

The paving made of animal bones was examined in the area among the front wall of house and east side of probe No. 1. Unfortunately, it was almost completely damaged by workers working in the building. Only a small fragment (damaged by a wall) has been preserved. The combination of animal bones and flat stones was discovered there.

The discovery of the paving made of animal bones in No.74 Široká Street, Český Krumlov is absolutely unique - it has been the first discovery of its kind in Bohemia so far. It is difficult to determine the exact date of its origin - according to archaeological researches it could be during the 15th - 16th century.

When we look at the bony floor, we can be sure that its installation could not have been easy. The idea itself is very unusual. The then owner must have seen such a floor somewhere else and was inspired by it. However, we do not know where it was. It was necessary to have the right number of bones - approximately 200-250 bones/m2. Such an area required to slaughter several hundreds of beef cattle. The bones had to be boiled properly in order to get rid of evil-smelling and tissue - remains of beef and sinews. To do all the things must have taken some time. The owner seems to have collected and stored the bones for the paving deliberately. The idea of a smelly hall certainly does not correspond to the reality.

Finding of floor tiled by animal bones in Široká no. 74, collection of Regional Museum in Český Krumlov

Who exactly had an idea to pave the hall with cattle bones? There are no particular details of any owners during the 15th century. Lorenc, a horse carter, lived there at the beginning of the 16th century. More important information comes from 1530s - 1540s when the house belonged to Řehoř, a tanner and a member of Municipal Council. Around the year 1550 Catherine, a widow, married to Jan Sochoř, also a tanner. In 1589 Kristina Sochoř sold the house to municipal scribe Litvin, infamous for an adulterous scandal. In 1600 he sold the house to the Municipal Council. The bony paving could have possibly been made before the late Renaissance rebuilding done in the period of scribe Litvin - it would not have fitted in with stucco and painted decorations. Řehoř or Jan Sochoř may have been creators of such an unusual idea and unique remainder of the Český Krumlov Renaissance style. A tanner can get beef bones very easily.

The floor was used for some time - some signs of use can be seen. In the retrospect it could have been a kind of advertising trick.

Due to an exceptional situation a part of paving has been left in the entrance hall interior under the glass cover, and a part of it has been displayed at the Regional Museum of Český Krumlov.


Further information :
The archaeological researches in the town of Český Krumlov
The archaeological research of the medieval town of Český Krumlov


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