Despite the fact that late antique and early medieval grubenhäuser are widespread and documented on the Continent and in Britain, their role and use, as well as their precise structure, remain obscure. For a long time, the commonplace among scholars has been that they were ancillary buildings serving as food storage or as workshops for weaving. It has also been hypothesised that they were functioning as dwellings or spaces for sleeping. All these views are certainly encouraged by written sources and ethnographic research. In particular, Pliny writes that linen is manufactured by Germanic women inside caves, and Tacitus that in Germania crop was stored in sunken-floored buildings. Ethnographic evidence from current France seems to indicate that the humidity of the pit helps waving by keeping together the fibres of linen.

The most heated debate about grubenhäuser, however, concerns the presence or absence of a suspended wooden floor. Recent research suggests that a suspended floor was much more common than previously expected. However, in several other cases, the absence of raised floor levels seems clearly demonstrated by the archaeological evidence.

The problem remains opened, and in the (re)constructed grubenhaus at Gyrwe it is possible to see a part of the internal space covered with a wooden suspended floor, to give an immediate idea of the extent to which the two alternative options impact on the spatiality of the building.

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