Landscape development and soil transformation in the former Viking settlement Hedeby

Geoarchives at former settlements contain valuable information about human-landscape interactions in the past. Due to the complex interplay of natural and anthropogenic processes, environmental conditions and human activities can be reconstructed based on the properties of the geoarchives. Abandoned early urban settlements represent precious objects for geoarchaeological research. The Danish emporium of Hedeby was a major international trading centre in the Viking Age, however, only scarce information about local soil and landscape transformation exists. This research aimed to classify heterogeneous soils and settlement deposits of Hedeby and to investigate the development of the geomorphologic situation in the central part of the settlement. The heterogeneous soils and settlement deposits were classified using a new approach, which is based on multivariate statistical analysis of the geo-ecological characteristics of the soils and sediments. Natural and cultural deposits as well as materials with transitional properties were classified based on their specific features. The developed approach is reliable, reproducible and well applicable to other settlements. Using the results of the classification, a correct correlation of the cores in the central part of Hedeby at the Hedeby-brook could be done. There, a large valley-like structure created by humans in the Viking Age was discovered. The results of dating, geomorphological, geo-ecological and micromorphological investigations allowed reconstructing the main phases of local landscape transformation. Some theses for the initial purpose behind this elaborate landscape-engineering project were suggested. The outcome of this research are relevant for investigations at other sites regardless their spatial or temporal constraints. The findings emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary research at archaeological sites with an effective involvement of natural scientists.


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