Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 701–718 | Cite as

Early to high medieval colonization and alluvial landscape transformation of the Labe valley (Czech Republic): evaluation of archaeological, pollen and macrofossil evidence

  • Radka Kozáková
  • Petr Pokorný
  • Jan Mařík
  • Věra Čulíková
  • Ivana Boháčová
  • Adéla Pokorná
Original Article


In the High Middle Ages, a wave of landscape transformation which originated in western Europe swept across the east-central part of the subcontinent. In the Czech Republic, this happened during the 13th century and it had the same environmental attributes as in the rest of Europe—a considerable increase in population, vast deforestation resulting in a rapid increase in soil erosion, irreversible changes in forest species composition and overall formation of a cultural landscape. In the Czech Republic, the dynamics of such a radical change are poorly understood because it would require detailed archaeological, historical and palaeoecological insight into developments during the Early Middle Ages—a demand that is mostly not met. The aim of this paper is to fill in this gap. Archaeological and historical data from three early medieval strongholds located in central Bohemia, at Libice nad Cidlinou, Stará Boleslav and Hradišťko, are summarized and evaluated. The first two sites represent well-known political and religious centres of the early Czech state in the 10 to 11th centuries, while the last was of secondary importance. These archaeological sites have radiocarbon dated pollen and plant macrofossil evidence from oxbow sedimentary sequences which are situated in the immediate vicinity of the strongholds. The issue of fluvial transport of pollen and macrofossils is also discussed. Both pollen and macrofossil data from Hradišťko show surprisingly small impact of the stronghold on the forested alluvial environment. The vicinity of Stará Boleslav was intensively affected by human activity only during the later 11th century. It has not been possible to trace any impact of the foundation of the stronghold at Libice nad Cidlinou on the landscape. Medieval landscape change began before the 13th century in some places, as shown by the data from Stará Boleslav.


Human impact Medieval Pollen Macrofossils Stronghold Alluvial landscapes 



The research was supported by the Czech Academy of Sciences (project No.GA404/08/1696). We thank Jan Havrda for geological description of studied sediments. We are grateful to Bruce Albert and Dagmar Dreslerová for critical comments on the manuscript and to Petra Maříková Vlčková and James Greig for revising the English.

Supplementary material

334_2014_447_MOESM1_ESM.xls (39 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 39 kb)


  1. Beug H-J (2004) Leitfaden der Pollenbestimmung für Mitteleuropa und angrenzende Gebiete. Pfeil, MünchenGoogle Scholar
  2. Boháčová I (2001) Pražský hrad a jeho nejstarší fortifikační systémy—Die Prager Burg und ihre ältesten Befestigungssysteme. In: Ježek M, Klápště J (eds) Pražský hrad a Malá Strana. (Mediaevalia archaeologica 3) Archeologický ústav AV ČR, Praha, pp 179–301Google Scholar
  3. Boháčová I (ed) (2003) Stará Boleslav. Přemyslovský hrad v raném středověku [Stará Boleslav. Přemyslid stronghold in the Early Middle Ages], (Mediaevalia archaeologica 5) Archeologický ústav AV ČR, PrahaGoogle Scholar
  4. Boháčová I (2006) Stará Boleslav. Stav a perspektivy studia funkcí a prostorového uspořádání přemyslovského hradu [Stará Boleslav—stage and prospects for the study of the function and spatial organisation of the Přemyslid stronghold]. Archeologické rozhledy 58:695–723Google Scholar
  5. Boháčová I (2011) Prague, Budeč and Boleslav. The reflection of state formation in early medieval archaeological sources. In: Macháček J, Ungerman Š (eds) Frühgeschichtliche Zentralorte in Mitteleuropa. (Studien zur Archäologie Europas 14) Habelt, Bonn, pp 371–395Google Scholar
  6. Bonny AP (1978) The effect of pollen recruitment processes on pollen distribution over sediment surface of a small lake in Cumbria. J Ecol 66:385–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Böse M, Brande A (2010) Landscape history and man-induced landscape changes in the young morainic area of the North European Plain—a case study from the Bäke Halley, Berlin. Geomorphology 122:274–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Břízová E (1999) Late Glacial and Holocene development of vegetation in the Labe river floodplain (Central Bohemia, Czech Republic). Acta Palaeobot Suppl 2:5–12Google Scholar
  9. Brown A, Pluskowski A (2011) Detecting the environmental impact of the Baltic Crusades on a late-medieval (13th–15th century) frontier landscape: palynological analysis from Malbork Castle and hinterland, Northern Poland. J Archaeol Sci 38:1,957–1,966CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown AG, Carpenter RG, Walling DE (2007) Monitoring fluvial pollen transport, its relationship to catchment vegetation and implications for palaeoenvironmental studies. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 147:60–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Čulíková V (1999) Rostlinné makrozbytky z objektu 126 na předhradí slovanského hradiska v Libici nad Cidlinou [Plant macrofossils in the object no. 126 in Libice nad Cidlinou]. Památky archeologické 90:166–185Google Scholar
  12. Čulíková (2003) Rostlinné makrozbytky z raně středověkého hradu Stará Boleslav [Plant macrofossils from Stará Boleslav]. In: Boháčová I (ed) Stará Boleslav, Přemyslovský hrad v raném středověku [Stará Boleslav, Přemyslid stronghold in the Early Medieval Age]. (Mediaevalia Archaeologica 5) Archeologický ústav AV ČR, Praha, pp 367–379Google Scholar
  13. Čulíková V (2006) Rostlinné makrozbytky z prostoru raně středověkého opevnění v sondě 236 na jz. okraji předhradí v Libici nad Cidlinou [Plant macrofossils from the Early Medieval fortification of the Libice nad Cidlinou]. Archeologické rozhledy 58:527–539Google Scholar
  14. Danzeglocke U, Jöris O, Weninger B (2012) CalPal-2007. Online. Accessed 18 May 2012
  15. Doláková N, Roszková A, Přichystal A (2010) Palynology and natural environment in the Pannonian to Holocene sediments of the Early Medieval centre Pohansko near Břeclav (Czech Republic). J Archaeol Sci 37:2,538–2,550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Doyen E, Vannière B, Berger J-F, Arnaut F, Tachikawa K, Bard E (2013) Land-use changes and environmental dynamics in the upper Rhone valley since Neolithic times inferred from sediments in Lac Moras. Holocene 23:961–973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dreibrodt S, Lubos C, Terhorst B, Damm B, Bork HR (2010) Historical soil erosion by water in Germany: scales and archives, chronology, research perspectives. Quat Int 222:80–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dreslerová D, Břízová E, Růžičková E, Zeman A (2004) Holocene environmental processes and alluvial archaeology in the middle Labe (Elbe) valley. In: Gojda M (ed) Ancient landscape, settlement dynamics and non-destructive archaeology. Czech research Project 1997–2002. Academia, Praha, pp 121–171Google Scholar
  19. Etienne D, Ruffaldi P, Dupouey JL, Georges-Leroy M, Ritz F, Dambrine E (2013) Searching for ancient forest: a 2000 year history of land use in northeastern French forests deduced from the pollen composition of closed depressions. Holocene 23:678–691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fægri K, Iversen J (1989) Textbook of pollen analysis, 4th edn. (by Fægri K, Kaland PE and Krzywinski K) Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  21. Firbas F (1949) Spät- und nacheiszeitliche Waldgeschichte Mitteleuropas nördlich der Alpen. I. Allgemeine Waldgeschichte. Fischer, JenaGoogle Scholar
  22. Giesecke T, Bennett KD, Birks HJB, Bjune AE, Bozilova E, Feurdean A, Finsinger W, Froyd C, Pokorný P, Rösch M, Seppä H, Tonkov S, Valsecchi V, Wolters S (2011) The pace of Holocene vegetation change—testing for synchronous developments. Quat Sci Rev 30:2,805–2,814CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grimm EC (1992) Tilia and Tilia-graph: pollen spreadsheet and graphic programs. Program and Abstracts, 8th International Palynological Congres, Aix-en-Provence, France, September 6–12, p 56Google Scholar
  24. Hassan FA (1978) Demographic archaeology. In: Schiffer MB (ed) Advances in archaeological method and theory, vol 1. Academic Press, New York, pp 49–103Google Scholar
  25. Karlsson S (1997) Pollen analysis from a rock depression, the hillfort, Birka, Björkö. In: Miller U, Clarke H, Hansson A-M, Johansson BM, Ambrosiani B (eds) Environment and Vikings: scientific methods and techniques. (PACT 52/Birka Studies 4), Birka Project for Riksantikvarieämbetet and Statens Historiska Museer, Riksantikvarieämbetet, Stockholm, pp 239–248Google Scholar
  26. Klápště J (1994) Paměť krajiny středověkého Mostecka [Memory of the medieval landscape in the Most region]. Státní galerie výtvarného umění, Most; Ústav archeologické památkové péče severozápadních Čech, Most; Archeologický ústav AV ČR, Praha, MostGoogle Scholar
  27. Klápště J (2012) The Czech lands in medieval transformation. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  28. Kolb F (2005) Die Stadt im Altertum. Albatros, DüsseldorfGoogle Scholar
  29. Kuna M, Profantová N (eds) (2005) Počátky raného středověku v Čechách [Beginning of Early Middle Ages in Bohemia]. Archeologický ústav AV ČR, PrahaGoogle Scholar
  30. Latałowa M (1992) Man and vegetation in the pollen diagrams from Wolin Island (NW Poland). Acta Palaeobot 32:123–249Google Scholar
  31. Macháček J, Doláková N, Dresler P, Havlíček P, Hladilová Š, Přichystal A, Roszková A, Smolíková L (2007) Raně středověké centrum na Pohansku u Břeclavi a jeho přírodní prostředí [Early Medieval centre at Pohansko near Břeclav and its natural environment]. Archeologické rozhledy 59:278–314Google Scholar
  32. Mäckel R, Friedmann A, Sudhaus D (2009) Environmental changes and human impact on landscape development in the Upper Rhine region. Erdkunde 63:35–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mařík J (2009) Libická sídelní aglomerace a její zázemí v raném středověku. Early medieval agglomeration of Libice and its hinterland. Dissertationes Archaeologicae Brunenses/Pragensesque, Univerzita Karlova v Praze, Filozofická fakulta; Archeologický ústav AV ČR, PrahaGoogle Scholar
  34. Mařík J (2013) From central places to power domain, development of Early Medieval landscape on middle Elbe and lower Cidlina. In: Ettel P, Werther L (eds) Zentrale Orte und zentrale Räume des Frühmittelalters. Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, Mainz, pp 217–235Google Scholar
  35. Miller U, Clarke H, Hansson A-M, Johansson BM, Ambrosiani B (1997) Environment and Vikings: scientific methods and techniques. (PACT 52/Birka Studies 4) Birka Project for Riksantikvarieämbetet and Statens Historiska Museer, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  36. Mlíkovský J (2003) Zvířata a jejich role na raně středověkém hradě Stará Boleslav, střední Čechy [Animals and their role at the stronghold of Stará Boleslav]. In: Boháčová I (ed) Stará Boleslav. Přemyslovský hrad v raném středověku [Stará Boleslav. Přemyslid stronghold in the Early Middle Ages].(Mediaevalia Archaeologica 5) Archeologický ústav AV ČR, Praha, pp. 347–365Google Scholar
  37. Nakagawa T, De Beaulieu J-L, Kitagawa H (2000) Pollen-derived history of timber exploitation from the Roman period onwards in the Romanche valley, central French Alps. Veget Hist Archaeobot 9:85–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Niewiarowski W (ed) (1995) Zarys zmian środowiska geograficznego okolic Biskupina pod wpływem czynników naturalnych i antropogenicznych w późnym glacjale i holocenie [Outline of changes of the geographical environment in the Biskupin surroundings under influence of natural and anthropogenic factors during the Lateglacial and Holocene]. Oficyna Wydawnicza Turpress, ToruńGoogle Scholar
  39. Nožička J (1957) Přehled vývoje našich lesů [Development of forests in the Czech Republic]. Státní zemědělské nakladatelství, PrahaGoogle Scholar
  40. Opravil E (1978) Rostlinná společenstva v okolí Mikulčic v období předvelkomoravském a velkomoravském [Plant communities in the vicinity of Mikulčice before and during the Great Moravian Empire]. Archeologické rozhledy 30:67–75Google Scholar
  41. Opravil E (1983) Údolní niva v době hradištní [Alluvium during the Early Middle Ages]. Studie Archeologického ústavu Československé akademie věd v Brně. Academia, PrahaGoogle Scholar
  42. Peck RM (1973) Pollen budget studies in a small Yorkshire catchment. In: Birks HJB, West RG (eds) Quaternary plant ecology. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 43–60Google Scholar
  43. Pennington W (1979) The origin of pollen in lake sediments: an enclosed lake compared with one receiving inflow streams. New Phytol 83:189–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pokorný P (2005) Role of man in the development of Holocene vegetation in Central Bohemia. Preslia 77:113–128Google Scholar
  45. Princová J (2004) Sídliště ze 7. až počátku 9. století v poloze “Staré Badry” u Opolánek, okr. Nymburk. Výsledky výzkumu v letech 1965–1966 a 1969–1973—Siedlung aus dem 7. bis Anfang 9. Jahrhundert in der Flur “Staré Badry” bei Opolánky, Bez. Nymburk. Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen in den Jahren 1965–1966 und 1969–1973. Památky archeologické 95:107–174Google Scholar
  46. Punt W (1984) Umbelliferae. In: Punt W, Clarke GCS (eds) The northwest European pollen flora 4. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 155–363Google Scholar
  47. Ralska-Jasiewiczova M, Latałowa M, Wasylikowa K, Tobolski K, Madeyska E, Wright HE, Turner C (eds) (2004) Late Glacial and Holocene history of vegetation in Poland based on isopollen maps. W. Szafer Institute of Botany, Polish Academy of Sciences, KrakówGoogle Scholar
  48. Reille M (1992) Pollen et spores d’Europe et d’Afrique du nord. Laboratoire de Botanique Historique et Palynologie, MarseilleGoogle Scholar
  49. Risberg J, Karlsson S, Hansson A-M, Hedenström A, Heimdahl J, Miller U, Tingvall C (2002) Environmental changes and human impact as recorded in a sediment sequence offshore from a Viking Age town, Birka, southeastern Sweden. Holocene 12:445–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rösch M (2000) Long-term human impact as registered in an upland pollen profile from southern Black Forest, south-western Germany. Veget Hist Archaeobot 9:205–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sádlo J, Pokorný P, Hájek M, Dreslerová D, Cílek V (2008) Krajina a revoluce [Landscape and revolution]. Malá Skála, PrahaGoogle Scholar
  52. Sláma J (1988) Střední Čechy v raném středověku. 3. Archeologie o počátcích přemyslovského státu [Central Bohemia during the Early Middle Ages. Archaeology of the early Czech state], (Praehistorica 14) Univerzita Karlova, PrahaGoogle Scholar
  53. Steuer H (1984) Zur ethnischen Gliederung der Bevölkerung von Haithabu anhand der Gräberfelder. Offa 41:189–209Google Scholar
  54. Stloukal M, Vyhnánek L (1976) Slované Velkomoravských Mikulčic [Slavs from the Great Moravian Mikulčice]. Academia, PrahaGoogle Scholar
  55. Svobodová H (1990) Vegetace jižní Moravy mezi 500–1000 AD [Vegetation of the south Moravia between AD 500–1000]. Archeologické Rozhledy 42:170–205Google Scholar
  56. Tolonen K (1986) Charred particle analysis. In: Berglund BE (ed) Handbook of Holocene palaeoecology and palaeohydrology. Wiley, Chichester, pp 485–496Google Scholar
  57. Wieckowska M, Dörfler W, Kirleis W (2012) Vegetation and settlement history of the past 9000 years as recorded by lake deposits from Großer Eutiner See (Northern Germany). Rev Palaeobot Palynol 174:79–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Radka Kozáková
    • 1
  • Petr Pokorný
    • 2
  • Jan Mařík
    • 1
  • Věra Čulíková
    • 1
  • Ivana Boháčová
    • 1
  • Adéla Pokorná
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, PraguePrague 1Czech Republic
  2. 2.Centre for Theoretical StudyCharles University in Prague and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPrague 1Czech Republic

Personalised recommendations