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Title (Primary) Sediment budgeting of short‐term backfilling processes: The erosional collapse of a Carolingian canal construction
Author Schmidt, J.; Werther, L.; Rabiger‐Völlmer, J.; Herzig, F.; Schneider, B.; Werban, U.; Dietrich, P.; Berg, S.; Linzen, S.; Ettel, P.; Zielhofer, C.
Journal Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
Year 2020
Department MET
Volume 45
Issue 14
Page From 3449
Page To 3462
Language englisch
Keywords Sediment budgeting, Geomorphological modelling, backfill processes, Geoarchaeology, Fossa Carolina, Early Middle Ages, South Germany
Abstract Sediment budgeting concepts serve as quantification tools to decipher the erosion and accumulation processes within a catchment and help to understand these relocation processes through time. While sediment budgets are widely used in geomorphological catchment‐based studies, such quantification approaches are rarely applied in geoarchaeological studies. The case of Charlemagne's summit canal (also known as Fossa Carolina) and its erosional collapse provides an example for which we can use this geomorphological concept and understand the abandonment of the Carolingian construction site. The Fossa Carolina is one of the largest hydro‐engineering projects in Medieval Europe. It is situated in Southern Franconia (48.9876 N, 10.9267 E; Bavaria, Southern Germany) between the Altmühl and Swabian Rezat rivers. It should have bridged the Central European watershed and connected the Rhine‐Main and Danube river systems. According to our dendrochronological analyses and historical sources, the excavation and construction of the Carolingian canal took place in 792 and 793 AD. Contemporary written sources describe an intense backfill of excavated sediment in autumn 793 AD. This short‐term erosion event has been proposed as the principle reason for the collapse and abandonment of the hydro‐engineering project. We use subsurface data (drillings, archaeological excavations and direct‐push sensing) and geospatial data [a LiDAR Digital Terrain Model (DTM), a pre‐modern DTM and a 3D‐model of the Fossa Carolina] for the identification and sediment budgeting of the backfills. Dendrochronological findings and radiocarbon ages of macro‐remains within the backfills give clear evidence for the erosional collapse of the canal project during or directly after the construction period. Moreover, our quantification approach allows the detection of the major sedimentary collapse zone. The exceedance of the manpower tipping point may has caused the abandonment of the entire construction site. The spatial distribution of the dendrochronological results indicates a north‐to‐south direction of the early medieval construction progress.
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Schmidt, J., Werther, L., Rabiger‐Völlmer, J., Herzig, F., Schneider, B., Werban, U., Dietrich, P., Berg, S., Linzen, S., Ettel, P., Zielhofer, C. (2020):
Sediment budgeting of short‐term backfilling processes: The erosional collapse of a Carolingian canal construction
Earth Surf. Process. Landf. 45 (14), 3449 - 3462