792 or 793? Charlemagne’s canal project: craft, nature and memory
in: Early Medieval Europe (2020)
In autumn 793, Charlemagne visited the fossatum magnum (the ‘big ditch’ or canal) between the Rhine and Danube. Excavations, dendrochronology and a re-reading of Carolingian Annals shed new light on the chronology and setting of this canal, which was planned in 792, initiated in 793, and abandoned later that year. The abandonment is attested by both written and archaeological evidence. The different versions of the annals offer a unique opportunity for comparison with the archaeological record. Evidence that works of Vitruvius circulated in the Carolingian court suggests that Charlemagne’s advisers were drawing on classical tradition when they pitched the idea of digging the canal.