from the Roman Period to the Middle Ages

Within the network of fluvial ports -

Der Neckar im Bereich Freibergs; links die Nutzung des Neckars um 1600 nach H. Schickhardt und Veränderung des Flusses nach Altkarten (Grafik L. Kröger, Geobasisdaten: DGM ASTER © USGS 2010), rechts Kartenausschnitte erstellt von H. Schickhardt (Bürkle 1979, S. 117 u. Bürkle 1989, Anlage 1).
Die Funde Krefeld-Gellep III und Kalkar-Niedermörmter während der Ausgrabung, bzw. in der Dauerausstellung des LVR-Landesmuseums Bonn (Pierling 1986, Abb. 178 u. Foto J. Niederländer 2003).
Kartierung von Binnenfahrzeugen in Mitteleuropa, Stand 2015 (Grafik L. Kröger, Geobasisdaten: Hydrogeologische Karte 1:200.000 © BGR 2010)
Workflow des Projektes „Im Netzwerk fluvialer Häfen“ (Grafik L. Kröger).

Efficiency and infrastructural development of inland waters and their vessels

As a rule, trading centres depend on their infrastructural links to regional and transregional traffic systems. The research on ancient overland routes already has a long tradition. In contrast, there is a considerable lack of studies concerning waterways that eventually transformed trading centres into harbours. Navigation on seas and larger lakes required human interference with nature only for the creation of landing and transshipment points. In order to make navigation possible on rivers, however, much larger infrastructural changes were required: river beds had to be cleared, towpaths were created, and already existing disturbances of the cultural landscape (such as mill and fishing weirs) had to be removed. When, how, and on whose account these measure were implicated in Central Europe, is currently not known.

The project will fill this gap by collecting a suitable amount of data, especially concerning the findings of inland vessels, but also combining them with written and iconographic sources. This will be achieved in close cooperation with the SPP-projects “Binnenhäfen im fränkisch-deutschen Reich” and “Fossa Carolina”. It is essential to cast a close look upon sources beyond the chronological frame of this project, e.g. to evaluate river descriptions from the 16th and 17th centuries. Only an integration of insights gained from these sources makes it possible to demonstrate larger developments. By comparing and contrasting the usage histories of the rivers Main and Neckar differing patterns of developments will be demonstrated and integrated into the binary correlation of “ships and harbours”. Moreover, a catalogue of archaeologically attested inland vessels in Central Europe is going to be prepared, which will help to establish a chronological typology of boats and ships on a larger scale from which more insights into their impact on harbour shapes will be gained. Taking the Carolingian flatbottomed boat Krefeld-Gellep III as an example to apply modern measuring and testing methods, which are common in modern ship construction, we will be able to determine the performance of Early Medieval transportation systems. The project aims at establishing a model of anthropogenous river development and transport in the Early and High Middle Ages, which will form a solid basis for our understanding of harbour structures of this age.


Development of river usage

  • Collection of all Roman settlements and parts of the infrastructure in the area of the rivers Main and Neckar
  • Review of selected ensembles of metal finds found in Roman settlements to identify characteristic ship rivets to receive evidence of a harbor connection and the navigability of the river in Roman times
  • Development of a catalog of already published written sources concerning navigation on the rivers Main and Neckar until late mediaeval times
  • Development of a catalog of already published written sources concerning harbor facilities at the rivers Main and Neckar until late mediaeval times to complement data of the SPP-project „Binnenhäfen im fränkisch-deutschen Reich“
  • Collection of historical maps until the 17th century, which reflect the navigable parts of the rivers Main and Neckar to identify and locate parts of the fluvial cultural landscape and their impact on the harbor network
  • Analysis of sources composed by Heinrich Schickhardt in the late 16th century with the goal to make the river Neckar navigable
  • Development of a catalog on the basis of H. Schickhardt`s sources on requirement and problems to make a river usable for inland shipping
  • Summary of the individual catalogs and information and implementation of the data in an internal project GIS as well in the GIS data collection of the SPP 1630
  • Examination of the hydrological statements of Martin Eckoldt concerning the navigability of the rivers Main and Neckar on the basis of the new historical knowledge
  • Analysis of the catalog and data under consideration of archaeological proven harbor places and trading goods in cooperation with the SPP-project “Binnenhäfen im fränkisch-deutschen Reich” to receive an insight of the development of the usage of the cultural landscape “rivers”

Goals for the transregional development of water crafts in relation of their used harbor networks

  • Conclusion of the collection of all inland vessels in central Europe as well as all logboats dated between the Roman period and high mediaeval times
  • Documentation of the finds Krefeld-Gellep III (using 3D scanning technology) and Kalkar-Niedermörmter and analysis of their documentation made during their excavation, as well as natural scientific dating of Krefeld-Gellep III
  • Collection of all single objects in one catalog and integration of the data in an internal project GIS as well in the GIS data collection of the SPP 1630
  • First-time development of a catalog of iconographic sources showing inland vessels of early and high mediaeval times
  • Analysis of the construction techniques to find transregional building patterns
  • Clarification of why the size of ships is reduced from the Roman Age to mediaeval times and increases again afterwards and what conclusions can be drawn from this concerning the transport systems and harbor structures
  • Analysis of the geographical distribution of inland water vessels in comparison with the collected data of harbor sight in the SPP-project “Binnenhäfen im fränkisch-deutschen Reich”
  • Comparison based on the acquired knowledge of harbour constructions and structures regarding the needs of water crafts, e.g. like winter harbours, ship building and repairing sites or their connection to towing paths
  • Analysis of the research results of the SPP-project “Fossa Carolina” under consideration of the canal cross section and the probably used vessels and concluding how the vessels were able to cross the canal sections

Calculation of ship components on the example of the ship Krefeld-Gellep III

  • Building of a scaled model of the find Krefeld-Gellep III and its hydrostatic calculation using the three-dimensional documentation, which comply with the requirement of a towing test
  • Towing test to determinate the strength, current and speed barriers under consideration of the ships capacity of an early mediaeval vessel and under consideration of concerning written sources
  • Demonstrating of the ships performance regarding the harbor networks

Model development on river usage

  • Summary of individual aspects in the project and compilation of an interaction model between river, shipping and harbour
  • Research on the mutual impact factors of transport needs and possibilities on rivers concerning cargo (capacities) und ship performance
  • Development of a transregional model on infrastructural extension phases of the rivers, their initiatives and practicability on the basis of late mediaeval and post mediaeval situations
  • Idealized reconstruction of harbour waterfronts divided on the timescale and role in the harbour network

Public relations

  • Presentation of partial results of the first half of the project in a small exhibition, which will be presented in the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum and in the museum Burg Linn
  • Host of an international conference at the end of 2017 on new finds and research on inland water vessels and the links between the harbour sites


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