Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt
Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte
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Statewide responsibilities

In advance of new construction - here construction of a bridge - archaeological documentation is retrieved for the area that will be affected (here: Salzmünde, Saalekreis). Photo © I. Hoffmann.
In advance of new construction - here construction of a bridge - archaeological documentation is retrieved for the area that will be affected (here: Salzmünde, Saalekreis). Photo © I. Hoffmann.
Transport routes and utilities supply lines run for kilometres across the present-day landscape; archaeological documentation retrieved in advance of construction provides a sample of views of the human and environmental history of the landscape (here the federal autobahn A 71 at Oberröblingen, Kreis Mansfeld-Südharz). Photo © I. Hoffmann.
Transport routes and utilities supply lines run for kilometres across the present-day landscape; archaeological documentation retrieved in advance of construction provides a sample of views of the human and environmental history of the landscape (here the federal autobahn A 71 at Oberröblingen, Kreis Mansfeld-Südharz). Photo © I. Hoffmann.
Immediately beneath the surface of the ground, the archaeological monuments of the last 10,000 years are to be found; further down are the remains from the palaeolithic period (here the Profen opencast mine, Burgenlandkreis).
Immediately beneath the surface of the ground, the archaeological monuments of the last 10,000 years are to be found; further down are the remains from the palaeolithic period (here the Profen opencast mine, Burgenlandkreis).

Saxony-Anhalt, the heart of central Germany, has always been a crossroads for transit routes. The transport project Deutsche Einheit ('German Unification') will soon be completed: as well as developing water transport routes (e.g. the Mittelland Canal), this has involved above all the new construction and widening of motorways (e.g. the A14, A38, A71, A143). By constructing a number of bypasses, it has been possible to respect historic town centres despite the increase in traffic.

Newly created transport routes and utilities supply lines (water mains, gas pipelines, electricity cables, and so on) cut a line through landscapes that were created over thousands of years. By involving archaeology in these construction works, we gain an objective view - independent of regional settlement patterns - of the use of the central German natural environment from at least 400,000 years ago, and also of how the landscape has been shaped by human activity across seven and a half thousand years. To document our cultural heritage by excavating and retrieving finds, archaeological investigations take place prior to construction; by arranging this as early as possible, delays in the construction work can be avoided.

The same is true in the areas where sand and gravel are quarried, in part as materials for road-construction, and in other areas where raw materials are extracted, for example coal.  Because of the large surface areas involved, to ensure predictable long-term mining and quarrying strategies, the archaeological documentation process needs to start a long way in advance. Frequently the mining and quarrying areas encompass a number of prehistoric settlement levels that only become visible in the course of digging. Remains left by palaeolithic humans (400,000 to 10,000 B.C.) lie in the Ice Age gravel beds, often many metres below the present-day surface of the ground.

Right from the start of crop-farming, humans have made lasting changes to the landscape and have altered its natural ecology - floods, changes in the water-table and erosion are the result. It was above all a consequence of the severe flooding of 2002 that agreement was reached among a number of Federal States that flood protection measures should be undertaken as a priority. Walls of sheet piling were put up, but, especially, new dykes were constructed. In the areas from which the construction materials are taken as well as the areas of the dykes themselves and their access zones, the ground had in most cases been absolutely undisturbed until now - with the help of archaeological investigations it has been possible to document the historical evidence present in the ground before its irreversible destruction, and so to preserve it for future generations. Riverine landscapes with their wide floodplains are archives of our prehistory that have remained almost entirely unknown until now. As they are covered over by sediments from erosion in higher areas, the archaeological remains are exceptionally well protected; also, building activity close to the water is or was rare. In the course of the Water Framework Directive - a Europe-wide regulation to improve the quality of water - ground is being broken in these areas for the first time in hundreds or even thousands of years. Old arms of rivers are being reactivated, river-beds are being dredged and artificially meandering watercourses are being created, and in all these activities it is necessary to document the archaeological remains, because especially in the vicinity of water it is likely that organic materials, for example wood, may have been preserved.