High-Resolution Direct Push Sensing in Wetland Geoarchaeology—First Traces of Off-Site Construction Activities at the Fossa Carolina
Wetland environments, with their excellent conservation conditions, provide geoarchaeological archives of past human activities. However, the subsurface soil is difficult to access due to high groundwater tables, unstable sediments, and the high cost of excavation. In this study, we present a ground-based non- and minimal-invasive prospection concept adapted to the conditions of wetlands. We investigated the Fossa Carolina in South Germany, a canal that was intended in 792/793 AD by Charlemagne to bridge the Central European Watershed. Although the resulting Carolingian banks and the fairway with wooden revetments are very imposing, archaeological traces of off-site construction activities have not been identified hitherto. Based on a geophysically surveyed intensive linear magnetic anomaly parallel to the Carolingian canal, we aimed to prove potential off-site traces of Carolingian construction activities. In this context, we built up a high-resolution cross-section using highly depth-accurate direct push sensing and ground-truthing. Our results showed the exact geometry of the canal and the former banks. Thus, the magnetic mass anomaly could be clearly located between the buried organic-rich topsoil and the Carolingian banks. The thermoluminescence dating showed that the position of the magnetic mass anomaly reflected Carolingian activities during the construction phases, specifically due to heat exposure. Moreover, we found hints of the groundwater supply to the 5-metre wide navigable fairway.