History and Archaeology in Discourse on the Dernberg–Reconstructing the Historical Landscape of a Medieval Motte-and-Bailey Castle and Deserted Village


Investigating deserted medieval castles and villages in remote rural areas paired with a scarcity of meaningful written sources is a challenging task that can be significantly enhanced by the use of non-invasive archaeological prospection methods. Furthermore, the interpolation of stratigraphic relationships among maps by analysing paths and field boundaries, as performed by Klaus Schwarz in the 1980s, can also contribute significantly. Thus, in order to resolve numerous unanswered questions, a multidisciplinary approach is required. In this paper we present preliminary archaeological prospection data using magnetics and airborne laser scanning (ALS) as well as methodological considerations on the systematic analysis of historical maps on the site of Dernberg, a medieval motte-and-bailey castle with an adjoining deserted village. The magnetic data and corresponding aerial images, although not providing decisive information on internal structures, show several historical roads that allow for the localisation of the village at the foot of the castle hill, as well as other pathways and defensive structures. Data derived from laser scanning surveys carried out by uncrewed aerial vehicles, respectively, drone flights allow for a significant gain in information compared to publicly available ALS data. In a methodological discussion on the systematic analysis of historical maps, the site of Dernberg is used to illustrate not only how such an analysis can determine chronological sequences with respect to the pattern of former agricultural field systems and road networks, but that these assumptions can be confirmed in part by geophysical surveys.