Researchers dig within the mudflats: A devastating storm surge swept the legendary Rungholt into the North Sea | EUROtoday

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DNothing might be seen however mudflats. But simply half a meter under the floor, researchers have situated the outlines of the excessive medieval church of the legendary Rungholt, which sank within the North Sea, off Nordstrand. On this spring day, simply over a yr after their discovery, they’re as soon as once more working within the mudflats close to Hallig Südfall. How massive the medieval church was turns into clear when the group of just about 20 folks positions themselves alongside the outlines. The church measured 40 by 15 meters and had house for a lot of believers.

Archaeologist Bente Sven Majchczack from the Roots Cluster of Excellence at Kiel's Christian-Albrechts University examines a small shaft that colleagues dug at one finish of the church. The mudflats are of specific curiosity to the scientists due to their preservation situations. “Here we see a section of a medieval cultural landscape that is, so to speak, frozen and was not later reshaped,” says Majchczack. In distinction, cultural landscapes on right this moment's mainland have been additional labored on over the centuries. “In the mudflats we have, so to speak, a frozen photo.”

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ARCHIVE - 04.02.2014, Schleswig-Holstein, Dannewerk: View of the former military facilities in Dannewerk near Schleswig. The Danewerk fortifications and the Haithabu trading center in northern Schleswig-Holstein are among the most important archaeological relics in Northern Europe. The Danewerk consisted of earthen ramparts, walls, ditches and a barrier in the Schlei. It is considered the largest archaeological monument in Northern Europe. (to dpa "Haithabu and Danewerk - unique testimony of the Viking Age" from 23.03.2018) Photo: Carsten Rehder/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

At the top of the Middle Ages, Rungholt was a settlement within the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea close to Nordstrand and the Hallig Südfall. In 1362, the buying and selling heart fell sufferer to a devastating storm surge, the “Grote Mandränke”. This is taken into account to be the beginning of North Friesland in its present type.

The storm surge separated peninsulas from the mainland and created a wedge within the former island of Strand. The island was lastly destroyed in one other heavy flood in 1634. “Since then, the island of Pellworm, today's Nordstrand peninsula and the Hallig Nordstrandischmoor have existed there,” says Majchczack. These are roughly remnants of the previous island of Strand. The relaxation is now the Wadden Sea.

Arjen Spießwinkel holds a brick in his hands

Arjen Spießwinkel holds a brick in his arms

Source: dpa/Frank Molter

The analysis is a joint undertaking of the State Archaeological Office, the Center for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, and the colleges of Kiel and Mainz. The group is investigating an space of ​​greater than ten sq. kilometers within the mudflats. Since final yr, dozens of medieval residential mounds, referred to as terps, have been discovered there with the assistance of geophysical measurements. Terps nonetheless exist on the Halligen islands right this moment. But systematic drainage programs, a dike, and a harbor have additionally been found.

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The terrible water flood. Contemporary depiction of the Burchardi flood

A number of meters away from the archaeologist, his colleague Ruth Blankenfeldt from the Leibniz Center for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology is selecting up a shovel. “We have now found long chains of mounds, i.e. these artificially raised residential hills on which people lived,” says the archaeologist.

But how massive was the legendary place actually? “We know that the place was big, and that many people lived here,” says the researcher. Not solely native objects have been discovered within the mudflats, but in addition objects from distant. “We found small weights and carts. That means that trade was carried out here. We are gradually getting an idea of ​​the dimensions.”

How massive was the medieval settlement?

But one mustn’t think about a big metropolis heart. “The idea that this was a place with 2,000 inhabitants or more like a medieval city is just nonsense,” says her colleague Majchczack. Instead, it was a residential hill in a moorland panorama. “They built entire villages on this moor in rows and systematically developed the landscape from there. The moor was removed, drained and turned into agricultural land.”

Previous discoveries counsel that an estimated 1,000 folks lived there. Blankenfeldt emphasises: “We have trade, we have people from different countries who come here. Everything is there that you would associate with a normal trading place.”

The team has positioned itself along the outline of the sunken church

The group has positioned itself alongside the define of the sunken church

Source: dpa/Frank Molter

The church was the centre of the settlement construction in entrance of Nordstrand. Due to its dimension, the analysis group assumes that it should have been a parish with a higher-level perform on the time, which is related to the Edomsharde administrative district that was destroyed within the storm surge of 1362. According to their findings, the place Rungholt, which was later elevated to mythology, additionally belonged to it. The constructing, which was solely situated in May, was due to this fact a major church in Edomsharde.

The Marcellus Flood of 1362 marked the top of the usage of the Romanesque church, which was constructed within the twelfth century. “We know this very well from later storm floods. Such things are always a gradual abandonment, a gradual retreat,” says Majchczack. “One storm flood may then break through the dikes, there will be severe flooding, many, many people will die and then the day after comes.”

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In some areas, the folks of Rungholt managed to shut gaps within the dikes after the devastating flood, however not in others. “We have good indicators that this area, where we are now, was already below sea level at that time.”

Meanwhile, the group is making progress within the shaft at a church roundabout. Just about half a meter under the mudflats, the colour of the bottom modifications from the standard grey to a crimson tone. The researchers are sure that that is the muse of the previous church. The work is about getting a whole image of the settlement panorama regardless of the little materials remaining, says geophysicist Dennis Wilken from Kiel University. “Here, we are scratching out the last bit of information we can still get from the ground – in the truest sense of the word.”

The group will proceed researching till 2025

At one other spot within the mudflats, geographer Hanna Hadler from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz is taking sediment samples. A machine is driving pipes into the mudflats with a number of noise. “At this point, we are currently drilling through the church foundations,” says Hadler. “Everything we are interested in is at a depth of two to three meters.” Remains from the time the church was constructed are usually not far under the floor. There are indications that the land was lowered by peat mining. “And that made it easier for storm surges.”

Her colleague Majchczack provides that basis trenches from the church have truly been preserved. These had been stuffed with shell rubble, which consists primarily of mussel shells and fragments and appears a bit like bricks. “Unfortunately, pieces of the church's walls are no longer there.”

Within sight of the drilling, a group led by geophysicist Sarah Bäumler is conducting geophysical surveys in parallel. Two college students pull an equipment via the mud at a distance of 20 meters. It information and depicts complete settlements of their entirety – with none excavation. “In our measurement images, we can see the mounds, the paths, all the drainage ditches, the fields and the villages, and how the landscape is structured,” says Majchczack. “In some cases, we can even see very deep impressions and foundations of large buildings. This gives us a complete picture.”

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In whole, the scientists found 19 extra, beforehand unknown medieval mounds this spring. “This significantly increases the number of residential sites in this area that are known to us and that disappeared in the Middle Ages. We were able to close a crucial gap in our knowledge about the settlement structure at that time,” says Bäumler.

Since 2017, researchers have already recognized 73 mounds, systematic drainage programs, a sea dike with a sluice harbor and, along with the big major church, two smaller ones. “The mudflats today were densely populated over large areas at that time,” says archaeologist Blankenfeldt.

For her colleague Majchczack, the sunken settlement from the Wadden Sea can also be a warning. “If you live here in this landscape, then you really have to make sure that everything is OK with the sea, with the storms and the tides. The problem today is the same as it was 800 years ago.”