15 Jan 2016
15 Jan 2016
Status: this discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal SOIL (SOIL). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.

Natural versus anthropogenic genesis of mardels (closed depressions) on the Gutland plateau (Luxembourg); archaeometrical and palynological evidence of Roman clay excavation from mardels

J. M. van Mourik1, D. J. G. Braekmans2,4, M. Doorenbosch2, W. J. Kuijper2, and J. van der Plicht2,3 J. M. van Mourik et al.
  • 1Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 2Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden, Einsteinweg 2, 2333CC Leiden, the Netherlands
  • 3Centre for Isotope Research (CIO), University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 4, 9747AG Groningen, the Netherlands
  • 4Materials Science and Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Mekelweg 2, 2628CD Delft, the Netherlands

Abstract. Mardels, small closed depressions, are distinctive landforms on the Luxembourger Gutland plateau. In the present landscape most mardels are shallow fens, filled with colluvial sediments. The genesis of mardels has been studied intensively, inside and outside Luxembourg. Some researchers suggested a natural development and consider mardels as subsidence basins due to subsurface solution of gypsum veins, other researchers suggested cultural causes and consider mardels as prehistorical quarries.

In the Gutland, mardels occur on various substrates. Mardels on the Strassen marls (li3) are abandoned quarries, related to clay excavation in Roman Time. Mardels on the Luxembourger sandstone (li2) are sinkholes, related to joint patterns in the sandstone formation. Mardels on the Keuper marls (km1,3) are originally subsidence basins, related to subsurface dissolutions of gypsum lenses and veins, filled with colluvial clay. The results of pollen analysis and archaeometrical tests demonstrate Roman extraction of clay for the production of ancient ceramics. So, the natural depressions have been enlarged to the present mardels. After excavation, the sedimentation of colluvium restarted in the abandoned quarries.

J. M. van Mourik et al.

J. M. van Mourik et al.

J. M. van Mourik et al.


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Short summary
Paleoecological studies of mardels could not solve the problem concerning the geological versus anthropogenic genesis of mardels. The results of archaeometrical tests show that colluvial clay, excavated from mardels has been used in Roman Time to produce ceramics. Mardels are initially natural depressions, filled with pre Roman colluvial clay, excavated in the Roam Time and refilled with clay after the Roman Time.