Welcome to the homepage of the Soil Geography working group!

Our aim is to better understand the dynamic of matter under our feet and find suitable biomarkers to reconstruct past landscapes, historic and prehistoric land use, as well as trade and mobility. Throughout all of our projects, the emphasis lies on humanity's impact on its environment - phenomena summarized under the term Anthropocene. To this end, we employ the tools of analytical chemistry available to us in our Geolab where we take a closer look at inorganic and organic molecules from the soil.

Come and join us or find your project!





(Pictures: Susanne Domke, LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn)

The things you find in soils! Today our team (Prof. Sabine Fiedler, George Janzen, together with Prof. Sabine Hornung, Saarland University) was out on a mission at the LandesMuseum Bonn to sample five skulls from the Celtic period. The background to this study is the assumption that at least one of them is a severed head. So-called "têtes coupées" could come from defeated opponents and were an expression of the Celtic head cult, which is why such a find would not be unusual in this context. Heads were often embalmed using resins and tars, which would lead to the introduction of corresponding terpenoid markers into the bone matrix. We will perform a lipid extraction on the collected powders and analyze the extracts via GC-MS to test for the presence of these markers.


Visit to the Celtic Prince at Glauberg

As part of the M6 module "New Methods in Soil Sciences", students from Mainz visited the historically rich Glauberg (Wetterau, Hesse). Besides a soil geographic introduction to the Wetterau, the land use history of the Glauberg was discussed. In the practical part, the students investigated an anomaly visibly revealed from geomagnetic measurements. Pending laboratory investigations will show whether this is an anthropogenic pit.

Special thanks are due to Harald Kaiser (Finanzamt Darmstadt) for preparing the "imperial" soil profiles and enjoying the discussion regarding their genesis. Likewise, Dr. Axel Posluschny is thanked for taking the time to give a comprehensive insight into the archaeological work and findings at the Glauberg.



Today, we do something in the lab that we don't usually get to do often: Organic synthesis. It's a Suzuki-Miyaura coupling followed by ether cleavage. Even analysts have to "cook" every now and again, particularly if they specialize in biomarker research and a desired reference standard is difficult to obtain. In our case, we are making a 5-n-alkylresorcinol. This substance group is mainly present in the bran of grains and was recently isolated from neolithic pottery vessels. This is exactly the context in which we as well are interested in alkylresorcinols. Does this sound like an exciting topic for a thesis? Contact us!