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Past human impact in a mountain forest: Geoarchaeology of a medieval glass production and charcoal hearth site in the Erzgebirge, Germany

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Heinrich,  Susann
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Tolksdorf, J. F., Kaiser, K., Petr, L., Herbig, C., Kočár, P., Heinrich, S., et al. (2020). Past human impact in a mountain forest: Geoarchaeology of a medieval glass production and charcoal hearth site in the Erzgebirge, Germany. Regional Environmental Change, 20: 71. doi:10.1007/s10113-020-01638-1.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-99F4-A
Abstract
Since the twelfth century, forest areas in the upper reaches of the low mountain ranges of central Europe provided an important source of wood and charcoal especially for mining and smelting as well as glass production. In this case study from a site in the upper Erzgebirge region (Ore Mountains), results from archeological, geophysical, pedo-sedimentological, geochemical, anthracological, and palynological analyses have been closely linked to allow for a diachronic reconstruction of changing land use and varying intensities of human impact with a special focus on the fourteenth to the twentieth century. While human presence during the thirteenth century can only be assumed from archeological material, the establishment of glass kilns together with quartz mining shafts during the fourteenth century has left behind more prominent traces in the landscape. However, although glass production is generally assumed to have caused intensive deforestation, the impact on this site appears rather weak compared to the sixteenth century onwards, when charcoal production, probably associated with emerging mining activities in the region, became important. Local deforestation and soil erosion has been associated mainly with this later phase of charcoal production and may indicate that the human impact of glass production is sometimes overestimated.