The global study of medieval rural lands via the relationships established between man and
his immediate environment has developed vigorously in the past few years thanks to an evermore frequent use of efficient pluridisciplinary methods.

This precise kind of archeological study is the one used here to understand and give us a precise picture of how the Middle Ages. This study was fruitful, despite the paucity of written sources, thanks to the precise knowledge of the territory obtained by cross-checking different prospective methods such as geographical study, archeological survey, map and photo interpretation, architectural study, study of plot-size development and toponymy.

Thanks to this method, an extraordinary precision has been reached which enables us to unders and describe the evolution of this very special area' s peopling as weIl as to develop three different yet indissociable themes :

- The implementation of human settings in the early Middle Ages was the direct consequence of some local particularities such as an exceptional peopling density in the previous periods and the structuring role played by the old Flanders Way, of the Royal Praedium. These elements made this area into a passage and border zone.

- The Rouanne area met a vigorous economical and human development in the mid-Middle Ages, thanks to the combined efforts of the civil Lords (those in charge of Royal beverages or ordinary noblemen), the monks and the kings. - This development, which was furthered by the ex changes on the Flanders Way, is shown by extensive building on previously peopled areas and more particularly by the conquest of new lands on the Royal forest border.

- The end of the Middle Ages showed a late but severe regression of human activity along the
Flanders Way, whose role became negative, followed by a patient but incomplete recovery of lost lands.

This rural area functions like a periphery at all the times, undergoing the events, and the semi-
dispersion of the frame is the normal state of this land. Only the most serious crises reverse the process of bursting.