The use and meaning of paleotopography and georesources for the settlement activity of the city of Aachen – Analysis of geodata, archaeological findings, and historical data



Bernhard Pröschel



  Anthropogenic deposits Copyright: B. Pröschel Anthropogenic deposits within the city of Aachen.

The area, which is occupied by the city of Aachen today, looks back on a long history of human influence. The first traces of human activity can be dated back to Neolithic time. The first architectural structures and the first road network were built by the Romans about 2000 years ago. From that point on the area of the city of Aachen was more or less continuously inhabited forming today’s city.

Archaeological findings

This long history is represented by archaeological findings throughout the city. Moreover, several meters of settlement deposits, covering different time periods, are present in many locations. Therefore, it can be assumed that the modern topography differs from the pre-roman topography.

Research questions

The main objectives of the project are to find out what the anthropogenic impact on the urban landscape was, and how humans made use of geo-resources available to them within different time periods. Moreover, since Aachen has no major rivers, the question arises how great the influence of topography and other resources in terms of colonization was. The goal of the first phase of the project is to determine the topographic preconditions that the first roman settlers found. Another question is whether the Carolingians could rely on roman structures or not and how these structures affected the further expansion of the city during medieval times. Another topic covers the human influence on the surrounding countryside of Aachen, starting with flint mining during the neolithic time until modern age mining for moulding sands in the Aachen Forests. It can be assumed that these activities have had a huge structural influence on the landscape. The effect of these influences will be investigated in some selected areas.

The foundation of the project is a reconstruction of the paleotopography. The project is located at the intersection of geoscientific data with historical sources and archaeological findings. Since it is an interdisciplinary study, a vast variety of methods is used.

Research data

Some of the main data bases are the archaeological documentations of the past 150 years provided by the archives of LVR-Amt für Bodendenkmalpflege and the historical archive of the city of Aachen. After analysing these written accounts, they will be added to drill data provided by the geological service of North Rhine-Westfalia. By adding further data, from, for example, geological and hydrological maps, a GIS-based terrain model will be generated. The sedimentological and geochemical analysis will be done in our laboratory. This will provide information about geochemical characteristics – like heavy mineral concentrations due to anthropogenic activities – that have been typical for different time periods.

Duration 10/2014 - 04/2019
Funding Dr. Hohmann Förderung, LVR Amt für Bodendenkmalpflege, Stadt Aachen – Stadtarchäologie
Project partners Dr. Markus Pavlovic – Urban Archaeology of Aachen