Harbours as factors in the settlement of the Bremen Basin between the Roman Iron Age and the Middle Ages
The Bremen Basin with the river Weser extends over 400 square kilometres. In it there are known over 100 sites of the Roman imperial period and the Middle Ages. They lie in different natural environments like geest, sand dune and marshland. Many of them were excavated partially. The Bremen Basin is considered as a regional traffic system for the inland navigation at the 1th millennium A.D. The most important found pieces of these sites are imported articles like querns of Mayen basalt, glass, roman militaria and coins or non local ceramics. Furthermore, there are indicators of crafts and trade, such as textile production.
Many of these sites were connected with the river system of the river Weser. At the middle of the Bremen Basin the diocese of Bremen were established in the 8th century. Although the river Weser is distinctly shorter than Rhine, Elbe and Danube, the Weser provides an important connection between the Central German Uplands (Thuringian Forest and Harz Mountains) and the North Sea. The entire Bremen Basin and its river system were affected by the tidal range of the North Sea. Therefore, it represents a frequently shifting determinant for the exchange of commodities and the ship traffic as well as the communication amongst the settlements.
Constantly environmental shifts led to silted anabranches, breachs in the sand dunes and new branch streams of the river Weser as well as multiple relocations of the harbours. For all these sites there is a lack of both modern geophysical prospection and systematic analysis of the archaeological sources. Only small preliminary reports exist till this day.
In order to explain the concept of harbour we use the definition of D. Ellmers. A harbour is a wharf or mooring place for any kind of watercraft.
The Bremen project wants to reduce this academic void with different methodical approachs. Geophysical prospections examine the proximity surrounding of the sites to find potential harbours. In addition, an analysis of the archaeological features and finds shall be taken as well as soil drillings. There are more than 70,000 drillings at the archive of the Bremen Geological Service. In combination with these data the landscape of waters of the Bremen Basin can examined by geoarchaeological techniques to work out more about his navigability.
As a result, we expect and look for new insights about the utilisation of the Weser waters as a system for communication, distribution and supply. If the research should prove structures of harbours in a small geographical range around the developing diocese of Bremen, the results will be interpreted as decisive settlement factors of the Roman imperial period and the early medieval estates.