Pedosedimentary and geoarcheological archives from clay-dominated sinkhole infillings in Middle Franconia, Germany

Meyer-Heintze, Simon; Sprafke, Tobias; Krech, Martin; Beigel, Rita; Nadler, Martin; Kriens, Bernd; Wagner, Felix; Solleiro-Rebolledo, Elizabeth; Damm, Bodo; Falkenstein, Frank; Terhorst, Birgit (2020). Pedosedimentary and geoarcheological archives from clay-dominated sinkhole infillings in Middle Franconia, Germany. Catena, 195, p. 104893. Elsevier 10.1016/j.catena.2020.104893

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Sinkholes in the karstified Middle Keuper gypsum of Middle Franconia, Germany reveal numerous archeological findings and contain unique pedosedimentary records of landscape development and human-environment interaction during the Holocene. Mudstone-derived high clay contents result in a unique set of sedimentary and pedogenic properties of these archives in that all units exhibit vertic properties. Since the horizons have a polygenic history, detailed field and micromorphological observations, together with laboratory analyses (grain-size, color, iron-pedochemistry) are the basis for a classification of the pedosediments. 14C dating provides a chronological framework for geomorphological stability phases and thus, identified soil-forming processes. The first anthropogenic colluvial sediments of the studied archive date to the Early Bronze Age and accumulated in an initial karst depression. Water saturation caused iron reduction of these early infillings. In the pedosediments above, oxidation and iron release are largely related to changes in the parent material. Here, the soil material contains coarse silt indicating an admixture of nearby periglacial slope deposits. Furthermore, fossil root traces point to a longer time with stable conditions, which we interpret as absence of humans or at least an extended period of fallow land. The superimposed sediments from the Urnfield period are more inhomogeneous and consist of material from the eroded agricultural soils of the surrounding. The characteristics of these pedosediments point to intensified human land use. Pedogenic processes such as iron release, reduction of iron, swelling-shrinking, and short-distance translocation of clay intensively overprinted all soil sediments. In this context, micromorphology proved to be an essential tool for the characterization of polygenesis in terms of soil-forming as well as redepositional processes that lead to the formation of these complex archives. The present study reflects a multi-methodological approach to a rather disregarded type of polygenic terrestrial records. It constitutes an example for the investigation of clayey pedosediments in karstic environments under moderate climate in the frame of a prehistoric geoarcheological setting.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Paleo-Geoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Sprafke, Tobias


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)








Tobias Norbert Sprafke

Date Deposited:

27 Jan 2021 08:21

Last Modified:

31 Jan 2021 02:57

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Doline Vertisols Geochemistry Paleosol Karst Holocene




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