Articles | Volume 2, issue 2
SOIL, 2, 271–285, 2016

Special issue: Soil as a record of the past

SOIL, 2, 271–285, 2016

Original research article 20 Jun 2016

Original research article | 20 Jun 2016

Soil archives of a Fluvisol: subsurface analysis and soil history of the medieval city centre of Vlaardingen, the Netherlands – an integral approach

Sjoerd Kluiving1,5, Tim de Ridder2, Marcel van Dasselaar3, Stan Roozen4, and Maarten Prins4 Sjoerd Kluiving et al.
  • 1Dept. of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1079, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 2VLAK (Archaeology Dept), City of Vlaardingen, Hoflaan 43, 3134 AC Vlaardingen, the Netherlands
  • 3Arnicon, Archeomedia 2908 LJ Capelle aan den IJssel, the Netherlands
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 5CLUE+ Research Institute for Culture, History and Heritage, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1079, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract. The medieval city of Vlaardingen (the Netherlands) was strategically located on the confluence of three rivers, the Maas, the Merwede, and the Vlaarding. A church of the early 8th century AD was already located here. In a short period of time, Vlaardingen developed in the 11th century AD into an international trading place and into one of the most important places in the former county of Holland. Starting from the 11th century AD, the river Maas repeatedly threatened to flood the settlement. The flood dynamics were registered in Fluvisol archives and were recognised in a multidisciplinary sedimentary analysis of these archives.

To secure the future of these vulnerable soil archives an extensive interdisciplinary research effort (76 mechanical drill holes, grain size analysis (GSA), thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA), archaeological remains, soil analysis, dating methods, micromorphology, and microfauna) started in 2011 to gain knowledge on the sedimentological and pedological subsurface of the settlement mound as well as on the well-preserved nature of the archaeological evidence. Pedogenic features are recorded with soil description, micromorphological, and geochemical (XRF – X-ray fluorescence) analysis. The soil sequence of 5 m thickness exhibits a complex mix of "natural" as well as "anthropogenic" layering and initial soil formation that enables us to make a distinction between relatively stable periods and periods with active sedimentation. In this paper the results of this interdisciplinary project are demonstrated in a number of cross-sections with interrelated geological, pedological, and archaeological stratification. A distinction between natural and anthropogenic layering is made on the basis of the occurrence of the chemical elements phosphor and potassium.

A series of four stratigraphic and sedimentary units record the period before and after the flooding disaster. Given the many archaeological remnants and features present in the lower units, in geological terms it is assumed that the medieval landscape was submerged while it was inhabited in the 12th century AD. In reaction to a final submersion phase in the late 12th century AD, the inhabitants started to raise the surface of the settlement. Within archaeological terms the boundary between natural and anthropogenic layers is stratigraphically lower, so that in the interpretation of archaeologists, the living ground was dry during the 12th and the 13th centuries AD. In this discussion, the geological interpretation will be compared with alternative archaeological scenarios.

Short summary
In medieval times the city of Vlaardingen (the Netherlands) was strategically located on the confluence of three rivers, the Maas, the Merwede, and the Vlaarding. Combined research on the history and soil of this city was initiated by an archaeological research question, following Dutch legislation. The start of fluvial system 2 in AD 600 correlates with evidence of the church that was present at least in AD 726/727. Results record the period before and after the flooding in AD 1170.