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A historical record of combustion pollution in lake sediments during medieval and early modern times in Bad Waldsee (southern Germany)

Laminated sediments of lake Stadtsee, located next to the city Bad Waldsee, provide a unique archive of socio-economic and environmental history since Medieval times. In this study we explored the composition patterns of PAHs and DMP together with the sedimentary charcoal influx records as indicators of variations in natural and anthropogenic fire activity from 1200-1800.

Charcoal particles and organic pollutants are emitted from incomplete combustion in the surrounding area as well as in the city and thus deposited in sediments. Pyrogenic Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be linked to vegetation types, householdburnings or pre-industrial production. In particular, the co-occurrence of charcoal and PAHs including dimethyl-phenanthrene (DMP) isomers can be used as a proxy to distinguish natural- and human-related historical fire activity. However, this proxy has rarely been applied for the time period before 1800.

Macro charcoal results show 15 screened charcoal peaks, which group into two phases of biomass burning. The first phase in the late Medieval period show high proportions of burned grass and monocot leaves, whereas in the second phase in the early Modern Times wood was the main fire fuel. The obtained PAH patterns, in particular the DMP isomers ratio (1.7-DMP/1.2-DMP), support the change in fuel source. High perylene values in late Medieval time indicate biogenic processes under anoxic conditions and suggests delivery of terrestrial organic material by water.


Kristin Haas1, Sara Saeidi ghavi andam2, Matthias Hinderer1, Thomas Schiedek1, Elena Marinova2
1Institute of Geosciences, Department of Applied Sediment Geology- Technical University of Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany; 2Archeobotany Lab, Baden-Wuerttemberg State Office for Cultural Heritage- Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart, Gaienhofen-Hemmenhofen, Germany
GeoBerlin 2023