This project developed an understanding of the Late-Holocene estuarine landscape changes of different small scale environments close to the Guadiana river mouth. The research was associated to the excavation of a Phoenician settlement in the modern city of Ayamonte conducted by the German Archaeological Institute (DAI). The major goal was to gain information about the relations between the colonizing Phoenician society and its environment.


The objective of the physical-geographic research was to complement the existing data to reconstruct the site-specific environmental conditions and thus to integrate the hinterland into the investigations. Special attention was given to the impact and role of the human actions that shape the environment, since this is the main reason for the high dynamics of the landscape, which is intensively populated since antiquity. With the advent of a farming society, humans begin to exert a great influence on the surrounding landscape (e.g. deforestation).

The geoarchaeological investigations were intended to provide important insights into the development of natural space equipment and to enable long-term interdisciplinary cooperation to produce results that cannot be achieved by geoscientific or archaeological research alone.


The sedimentological and chronological results of the study showed that large parts of a nowadays silted lagoon are characterized by marine sedimentation during time of the Phoenician colonization. These findings, together with the geomorphologic favorable nature of the site (natural protection and low visibility), increase the likelihood of a maritime use of the site.

Accumulation of elemental lead in terrestrial slope sediments may have been caused by atmospheric deposition in the course of metal processing in the vicinity of the known metallurgical workshops in Ayamonte.

Sedimentological results in the estuarine marsh show the development of the late Holocene coastal changes within the Guadiana estuary. The development from an open bay-head delta towards a semi-closed lagoon was documented. The anthropogenic influence on these processes was also determined by the detection of increased lead contents. As is the case with the slope sediments, this is probably due to ancient smelting processes in the river catchment area.

Further Information

Research project (A-1-7-1) Geoarchaeological case studies at the lower Guadiana estuary: Palaeogeographic development and Human-Environment Interactions at the Phoenician site of Ayamonte