Terrace Archaeology

and Culture in Europe


Pays de Herve, E Belgium:


Gentle Slopes/ Terrace and Lynchet

Continental Temperate

The Pays de Herve region boasts a high density of cultivation terraces on deposits with an average height of 3m with outliers up to 15m (Van den Balck & Durinck 2012). As a result, the terraces are on average 45% less steep than the overall slope gradient. The link to previous land use for cropping, going back as far as the Gallo-Roman period, has been well established (Nyssen et al. 2014). As the terraces prevent further erosion, and protect against flooding of valley settlements and decreasing fertility of agricultural soils, they were (and are) important features in the landscape, with a high ecologic and socio-economic value to the community in the region (Van Oost et al. 2000). The area has a complex history of land use change with slow but continuous deforestation from late Neolithic onwards and several periods with large-scale land abandonment and conversion from cropland to pasture (eg early 20th century). The terrace accumulation zones in the Pays de Herve region are spatially confined, but store an important proportion of soil material because of their frequent occurrence in the landscape. Although these terraces are now considered as important cultural heritage, their history as well as their role in past and current erosion control, soil fertility and C sequestration are poorly understood.