Dr. Donat Wehner, Alumni


Dr. Donat Wehner (Germany, 1977)

M.A. in Pre- & Protohistoric Archaeology, Medieval History & Middle East Archaeology

PhD project
Das Land Stodor. Eine Studie zu Struktur und Wandel der slawenzeitlichen Siedlungsräume im Havelland und in der nördlichen Zauche.

This study deals with spatial settlement patterns in „ ... Stodorania(m), quae Hevellun dicitur ...“ (Thietmar IV, 29, anno Domini 997), a region which can be located in Havelland and Northern Zauche. This settlement region was called Stodor by the Slavs and known as Heveldun in Western Europe during protohistory (Fischer 1976, 68). The aim of this dissertation is to describe, explain and evaluate spatial patterns and structures as well as the changes they underwent in this area. In the present study mainly archaeological sources will be analyzed. These sources provide a fairly exact topographical and chronological contextualization on a wide basis. Valuations are done primarily through statistics and analogy.

Early Slavonic period (ca. 700 – 850 AD)
The Slavonic appropriation of land took place in a space abandoned by most of the Germanic people during the Migration period. Subsistence oriented settlements originated in small-area clearings surrounded by vast forests and wasteland. In spite of comparatively wet conditions and the high water level, areas close to waters were frequented, whereas higher regions had not yet been accessible. Sandy and organic soils were preferred (peat). Slope and solar radiation were of minor importance for settlements. Very disadvantageous locations such as steeps and shady places were merely avoided, which persisted during the entire Slavonic period. In the course of the Early Slavonic period, strongholds and therefore centers of power emerged. In the northwestern part of the area of study the main stronghold was Hohennauen, which was also the core area of settlement density, traffic, economy, and power.

Middle Slavonic period (ca. 850 – 980 AD)
Around the mid-ninth century a huge reclamation phase took place. Settlement density increased and the main settlement areas shifted to the south and to the east, i.e. to regions where many of the important raw materials were found, e.g. potter´s clay and salt. Most of the settlements were still subsistence-oriented. An enduring dryness with a low water level promoted usage of the fertile peat and alluvial clay soils for agriculture. Furthermore, sandy soils were still frequented. The number of power centers increased and Brandenburg, as the new main stronghold, also functioned as a sacral center and trading place. Moreover, there were several core areas of power, economy and population density. Remarkably, they did not seem to overlap.

Late Slavonic period (ca. 980 – 1150 AD)
Most of the settlements of the Late Slavonic period were agrarian-oriented, but in relation to the Middle Slavonic period one can observe more handcraft and trade activities in rural areas. Furthermore, climate changes led to an increasing water level causing settlements to move to higher regions. By settling the ground moraines, the preferred soils were substituted by slightly loamy ones. The development of trading places, craft centers and three early urban settlements with manifold functions led to a differentiated settlement picture. At the same time most of the strongholds were abandoned. The decrease of strongholds in Late Slavic times along with an increase of functions and concentration on few early urban settlements show a striking socio-economical change. The territories stabilized and smaller territories were integrated into larger ones. Therefore, one precondition appears to be an increasing organization/centralization of power. At the same time the centers of power developed to centers of economy. The advanced development was expressed by overproduction and specialization. A strengthened elite was able to commit followers, craftsmen and merchants permanently. Moreover, Christianity entered the lands of Heveldun. Especially the ruling class preferred the new religion. Churches which were erected in the early urban settlements served as an expression of progress and power, and the obligatory masses for Christians as well as the tribute system led to new dependencies with impact on the settlement structures. Accordingly, cores of settlement density shifted to areas surrounding the early urban settlements and locations in between. Areas with high population densities, strong economies and intensified power structures coincided.

This development of increasingly complex living conditions laid the foundations for the structures of present-day `settlement-scapes´. Early urban settlements were the precursors of towns and territorial expansion to higher lands led away from linear settlement structures dominating prehistorical settlement patterns to common areal settlement structures of today.

Research interests Protohistoric and Medieval archaeology, Spatial analysis and GIS, Power and social structures, Material culture and values
Post PhD Position Postdoctoral position at the Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology, CAU Kiel.
Selected publications external profile
Memberships • Archäologische Gesellschaft für Mecklenburg und Vorpommern e. V.
• Archäologische Gesellschaft in Berlin und Brandenburg e. V.
• ARKUM – Arbeitskreis für historische Kulturlandschaftsforschung in Mitteleuropa e. V.