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Human Impact Scale on the Preservation of Archaeological Sites from Mostiştea Valley (Romania)


Abstract and Figures

Through time, both natural and cultural heritage have unfortunately been under threat due to multiple environmental and human-induced factors, which are likely to trigger various hazards such as soil erosion, landslides, or land collapse. The analysis of old cartographic material, aerial imagery, and satellite imagery has been used in multiple studies to observe and understand the changes that archaeological sites have undergone over the last centuries. These efforts are intended, among other things, to raise awareness of the threats affecting cultural heritage and prevent damages and preserve tangible evidence of the distant past. In this study, historical maps and satellite imagery were analyzed to observe how the landscape in the Mostiștea Valley (Romania) has been used over the last 230 years and how the land use has affected the cultural heritage. Land cover and land use (LCLU) changes in the Mostiștea Valley have occurred due to numerous natural and anthropic forces. These changes have resulted in the damage of tangible heritage in the area with varying degrees of intensity. The results of this study allow the quantification of the magnitude of these changes and their impact on different sites in the region.
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Human Impact Scale on the
Preservation of Archaeological Sites
from Mostiştea Valley (Romania)
Cristina Covătaru
*, Cornelis Stal
, Mihai Florea
, Ionela Opriș
, Corina Simion
Ileana Rădulescu
, Romeo Călin
, Theodor Ignat
, Cristina Ghiţă
and Cătălin Lazăr
University of Bucharest, Research Institute of the University of Bucharest, ArchaeoSciences Division, Bucharest, Romania,
Simion Mehedinţi - Nature and Sustainable Development Doctoral School, Faculty of Geography, University of Bucharest,
Bucharest, Romania,
HOGENT University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Department of Built Environment, Ghent, Belgium,
National Museum of Romanian History, Bucharest, Romania,
Horia HulubeiNational Institute for R&D in Physics and Nuclear
Engineering (IFIN-HH), Măgurele, Romania,
Bucharest Municipality Museum, Bucharest, Romania
Through time, both natural and cultural heritage have unfortunately been under threat due
to multiple environmental and human-induced factors, which are likely to trigger various
hazards such as soil erosion, landslides, or land collapse. The analysis of old cartographic
material, aerial imagery, and satellite imagery has been used in multiple studies to observe
and understand the changes that archaeological sites have undergone over the last
centuries. These efforts are intended, among other things, to raise awareness of the
threats affecting cultural heritage and prevent damages and preserve tangible evidence of
the distant past. In this study, historical maps and satellite imagery were analyzed to
observe how the landscape in the Mostiștea Valley (Romania) has been used over the last
230 years and how the land use has affected the cultural heritage. Land cover and land use
(LCLU) changes in the Mostiștea Valley have occurred due to numerous natural and
anthropic forces. These changes have resulted in the damage of tangible heritage in the
area with varying degrees of intensity. The results of this study allow the quantication of
the magnitude of these changes and their impact on different sites in the region.
Keywords: Mostiștea Valley, landscape changes, GIS, cultural heritage modication, geomorphological evolution,
anthropic impact
Cultural heritage is an important legacy of the past that must be preserved for the next
generation (Kutut, Lepkova and Źróbek, 2021), and it is divided by UNESCO Operational
Guidelines UNESCO World Heritage (2021) into cultural heritage, natural heritage, mixed
heritage, and cultural landscapes. Furthermore, cultural heritage can be divided into tangible
heritage, such as movable, immovable, and underwater categories, and intangible heritage (Orr,
Richards and Fatorić,2021;Centre, 2022).
When speaking about archeological sites, human-related processes including technological
advances, population growth, pollution, or planned landscape development have massively
affected this type of heritage, resulting in partial damage or total loss of the cultural heritage. A
second array of factors that act directly on on-site degradation is caused by a variety of natural
hazards such as climate changes, hydrological risks, geomorphological, or biophysical hazards,
leading to increased erosion, ooding, changes in humidity, etc. (Colette, 2007;Micle, 2014;Fatorić
and Seekamp, 2017;Agapiou, Lysandrou and Hadjimitsis, 2020). Finally, archeological sites are
Edited by:
Ionut Cristi Nicu,
Norwegian Institute for Cultural
Heritage Research, Norway
Reviewed by:
Bulat Usmanov,
Kazan Federal University, Russia
Richard William Stofe,
University of Arizona, United States
James Williamson,
Memorial University of Newfoundland,
Cristina Covătaru
Cătălin Lazăr
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Environmental Informatics and Remote
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Environmental Science
Received: 20 April 2022
Accepted: 20 June 2022
Published: 19 August 2022
Covătaru C, Stal C, Florea M, OprișI,
Simion C, Rădulescu I, Călin R, Ignat T,
Ghiţă C and Lazăr C (2022) Human
Impact Scale on the Preservation of
Archaeological Sites from Mostiştea
Valley (Romania).
Front. Environ. Sci. 10:924440.
doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2022.924440
Frontiers in Environmental Science | August 2022 | Volume 10 | Article 9244401
published: 19 August 2022
doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2022.924440
sometimes affected by management problems, such as lack of
nancial resources and knowledge and inadequate or absence of
site management.
The presented research aims to track the human impact on the
preservation of the archeological sites from Mostiștea Valley
(Romania) by analyzing cartographic sources and old satellite
imagery. For this study, we focus on land cover and land use
(LCLU) changes that occurred in the Mostiștea Valley within a
10 km radius from the mainstream over the last 230 years. In
addition, this analysis aims to understand the relation between
LCLU modication and several archeological site deterioration,
destruction, or disappearance.
The Mostiștea Valley is an exciting micro-region in terms of
archeological discoveries and exploration of cultural heritage. As
a result, many archeological sites have been identied since the
second decade of the last century. However, many of these sites
are endangered by various landscape changes, triggered by
human intervention. Notably, massive agricultural
development (e.g., enormous irrigation systems, river
damming, and swamp-draining) took place over the last
50 years, which inevitably led to gradual degradation and
destruction of the original landscape and cultural heritage.
Previous studies performed in the targeted area had managed
to analyze the landscape modication addressing various issues
published in several articles and Ph.D. theses (Ghită, 2008a;
Oberländer-Târnoveanu and Bem, 2009;Oberländer-
Târnoveanu, 2010;Dolocan, 2011;Dolocan, 2012;Grecu et al.,
2013;Crăciunescu, 2017). The rst series of studies focuses rmly
on ora evolution over the last 200 years (Dolocan, 2011;
Dolocan, 2012) and on the geomorphological alterations of the
area, without considering the local cultural heritage (Ghiţă,
2008a;Ghiţă, 2008b;Grecu et al., 2014). The second series of
studies is based on remote sensing methods and techniques to
map and monitor continuously degraded landscape features with
archeological potential (Oberländer-Târnoveanu and Bem, 2009;
Oberländer-Târnoveanu, 2010). The third series of research
sought to combine these data to detect the modication of the
archeological landscape over the last 200 years and how these
changes have affected the loss and degradation of cultural
heritage (Crăciunescu, 2017).
Our analysis contributes to the previous research by extending
the research area and by tracking the degradation of some
archeological sites in relation to LCLU changes. A more
detailed understanding of the link between heritage
degradation and LCLU change is sought. From a practical
perspective, this study allows the identication of regions and
sites that are under severe threat. This analysis may assist
stakeholders to develop protective measures, using site
prioritizing lists.
Study Area
Geographical Framework
This study focuses on the Mostiștea Valley, located in
southeastern Romania, extending over the boundaries of
several counties including Ilfov, Călărași, and Ialomiţa
(Figure 1). The hydrographic network consists in the main
course of the Mostiștea river and its tributaries (Corâta on the
right side and Argova, Ciorani, Colceag, Ghiula, and Milotina on
the left side), which in turn have their own tributaries (e.g.,
Cucuveanu, Suliman, Church Valley, and Vânăta) (Mihăilescu,
1925;Ghiţă, 2008b;Serbănescu and Sandric, 2012). The Mostiștea
river itself measures a total length of 92 km and drains the plain
over an area of 1734 km
, along with its tributaries (Ghită, 2008a).
Given the 10 km radius of our study, only a part of this
catchment area has been considered for analysis. Additionally,
portions of the Vlăsiei Plain and the Danube Lowland were
included in the northern and southern extremities, respectively.
Since the mid-70s of the 20th century and the implementation
of the so-called systematization,this area has been subjected to
hydrological modications when the old political regime settled
an extensive irrigation system in the southeastern part of
Romania (Caraiani, 1971). These works have led to creation of
a series of dams and four large articial lakes which functioned as
water storage reservoirs. The construction works caused the
ooding of the lower terrace of the river and of some small
islands, leading to their sinking, as well as a continuous process of
erosion of the surrounding landscape (Ghită, 2008a).
Archeological Framework
Archeological surveys have been carried out on the lower basin of
the Mostiștea river since the beginning of the 20th century
(Comsa, 2001), leading to intermittent systematic and rescue
archaeological excavations. However, the results of that
archeological research have either remained unpublished or
have been published incompletely (Ignat, 2018).
A total of 333 sites have been identied and assigned to the
entire Mostiștea catchment area, attesting to intense human
activities spanning from the Neolithic to the present day
(Serbănescu and Sandric, 2012;Ignat, 2018). Since the study
area is dened by a 10-km buffer around the Mostiștea river, a
smaller number of 319 sites will be considered in this study. These
sites vary in size and include scattered archaeological material,
settlements, necropolises, tumuli, constructions of different
categories, etc. The archeological sites within the study area
are shown in Figure 2. Each archeological site has a unique
identication number and contains information about the sites
toponym, geographical location (administrative location and
geographic location coordinates), as well as information
related to site type, chronological framework, and settlement
surface. Furthermore, descriptive information about local terrain
morphology is provided for each site. These data are used as the
analytical basis for our study (Oberländer-Târnoveanu, 2010;
Oberländer-Târnoveanu and Musteaţă, 2015).
To achieve the objectives of this research, several cartographic
sources, LCLU inventories, and satellite imagery have been
used. The targeted area was chosen, given the rich evidence
of human occupation over time and the existence of
cartographic sources usable for our analysis, starting from
the end of the 18th century. All sources have been acquired
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Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
through open-source platforms as described below (Charta
României meridionale - 1864, 2021;Specht Map, 2021;
CORINE Land Cover, 2022;CORONA,2022) or by accessing
data provided by museum archives Table 1.Theprimaryused
cartographic materials are the Specht map (1791, 1:50.000), the
Szathmári map (1864, 1:50.000), Artillery Firing Plans
(19151959, 1:20.000), and the national topographic map of
Romania (19741987, 1:25.000), combined with CORONA
FIGURE 1 | Study area and site distribution on Mostiștea Valley, SE Romania.
FIGURE 2 | Site distribution on a chronological scale from the study area.
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Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
satellite imagery (19661968) (CORONA, 2022)andCORINE
LCLU inventories (19902018).
Based on the online national databank (National
Archaeological Record of Romania, NAR) (Institutul Naţional
al Patrimoniului, 2022), the creation of a georeferenced database
and relevant bibliographical information, the association between
archeological site locations and LCLU characteristics was
identied. The online database NAR, hosted by the Ministry
of Culture of Romania since 2000, is a signicant cultural heritage
resource and is continuously being updated by the National
Heritage Institute (Oberländer-Târnoveanu, 2010;Oberländer-
Târnoveanu and Musteaţă, 2015). Although the user interface of
the database does not contain direct download functionality, all
entries can be viewed online. A search engine facilitates the
process of selecting sites based on specic parameters, such as
keywords or chronological constraints. The data accuracy
depends mainly on how the information was introduced, but
the system is constantly improving.
There are several reasons for choosing open data sources. First,
the NAR is the ofcial database of heritage in Romania, and we
use it as an authentic open dataset for our study (Institutul
Naţional al Patrimoniului, 2022). The data are processed by
experts in the eld, giving them increased quality and
performance. Second, it saved us the time of processing these
data so that we could focus on other aspects of the study, such as
data digitization and land-use analysis. Finally, they were
acquired cost-free.
The selected area for assessing the landscape modication is
situated within a 10 km buffer along the main course of the
Mostiștea river, covering a total area of 1888 km
(Figure 1).
There are two main reasons for this denition of the study area.
First, over the last 230 years, the most signicant alterations to the
area have taken place around the main course of the river.
Therefore, it is assumed that the worst affected sites were
those associated with the mainstream. Second, previous studies
have shown that early communities are found near the water
source, whether they are in low foothills, fertile lowlands, or
oodplains (Bailey, 2000, p. 20; Davison et al., 2006). Moreover,
different terrain analysis, such as least-cost path, visibility
analysis, and catchment analysis (Madry and Rakos, 1996;
FIGURE 3 | Schematic representation of the methodology used in the present study.
TABLE 1 | Data acquisition and data proprieties.
Data collection Data type Year Scale/
Source Link source
Specht map Topographic
1791 1:50000 Limes Transalutanus
Szathmári map Topographic
1864 1:50000
Artillery Firing Plans Topographic
19151959 1:20000 Geo-spatial
Topographic Map
1984 (second
1:25000 Museum archives
Corona Satellite imagery 19661968 >1.8 m Corona Atlas and Referencing
Corine land cover Vector data 1990, 2006, 2018 1:25000 Copernicus Land Monitoring
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Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
Leussen, 1999), have illustrated that cost-distance strategies
inuence site location. Based on these studies, a potential
range between 4/5 and 10 km (equivalent to a 1-hour or 2-
hour walk) is considered.
Our methodology can be divided into several phases
(Figure 3). The rst phase of the research consisted of
accessing, studying, and processing eight cartographic series
and other related materials: six sheets of the Specht map,
seven sheets of the Szathmári map, 23 sheets of Artillery
Firing Plans, 34 sheets of the topographic map of Romania,
and ten CORONA satellite imagery.
The Specht map (1791) (Crăciunescu, 2017), the Szathmári
map (1864) (Bartos-Elekes et al., 2011), and the Artillery Firing
Plans (19151959) (Crăciunescu et al., 2011) were already geo-
referenced in the Romanian ofcial coordinate reference system,
namely, the Stereo 70 projection on the Dealul Piscului datum of
1970 (EPSG:31700). Stereo 70 is a conformal projection,
inherently resulting in small distortions of the calculated
(ellipsoidal) areas. To a large extent, these distortions are a
function of the distance between consecutive vertices within a
polygon (Frančula et al., 2021). However, given the large scale of
the cartographic material, these distortions are limited (<1%) and
are therefore negligible (Yildirim and Kadi, 2021).
A geometric quality assessment is based on the evaluation of
random point samples in the GIS. Based on this evaluation, the
Spechtmaphasanerrorrangingfrom150200 m in the
southern part of the Mostiștea Valley and more than 1 km in
the north of the area (Crăciunescu, 2017). These errors are
caused by error accumulation introduced by the cartographers
of this map and the lack of a geodetic background. The
Szathmári map contains systematic errors of around 130 m
per sheet (Bartos-Elekes et al., 2011), while the errors for the
Artillery Firing Plans range from 30 m in the south area up to
200 m in the north of the study area.
The Romanian topographic maps (19741987) were scanned
using an A0 atbed scanner (PUZ, ozalid SupraScan Quartz) and
georeferenced using the index grid, which is available online
(Hărţi topograce militare 25.000 - Stereo 70, 2021). A similarity
transformation (also known as the Helmert transformation) was
used for georeferencing these maps, resulting in a mean error of
0.06 m in relation to the grid corners. For the second set of
georeferenced data, CORONA satellite imagery were downloaded
from the CAST website (CORONA, 2022), which are provided in
WGS84 (EPSG:4326).
As for the CORINE LCLU inventories, data were downloaded
as a series of ESRI shapeles from the Copernicus website
(CORINE Land Cover, 2022). CORINE is the European
reference dataset for land monitoring service (CLMS). The
dataset is updated every 6 years and has a minimum mapping
unit of 25 ha and a 100-m minimum mapping width.
Compared to old cartographic maps, CORINE offers
standardized and detailed datasets for the last 30 years,
using the same technical parameters (nomenclature and
geometric details) since its inception, with an accuracy of
more than 85% (Büttner, 2021).
These data are provided in the Lambert azimuthal equal area
projection (EPSG:3035), based on ETRS89. Both the CORONA
satellite imagery and the CORINE LCLU data were transformed
from the original CRS to the Romanian Stereo 70 CRS (EGPS:
The next step consisted of vectorizing relevant features, such
as agriculture plots, forests, rivers, lakes, or villages, as outlined in
the georeferenced source data. Since all data sources are projected
in the Romanian Stereo 70 CRS, and therefore spatially coherent,
overlaying the digitized features allows direct insight into both
large-scale landscape modication and the observation of the
spatial relationship between the archeological sites and the
deterioration of the environment.
For consistency, the nomenclature of vectorization was
implemented in accordance with the CORINE LCLU classication
(Kosztra and Büttner, 2019). Depending on the minimum mapping
units, old cartographic sources might contain only a selection of
features symbolized by a particular nomenclature. This limitation is
specic to the time and scale at which the map was made (Jenny and
Hurni, 2011). However, due to the varying level of detail and semantic
accuracy, not all classes in the CORINE dataset will have some
correspondence with the historical cartographic resources. Hence, the
original classication in the CORINE datasets has been simplied as a
function of the highest semantic accuracy of the historical data. This
procedure resulted in a series of primary land cover classes for the
time series, in correspondence with the CORINE Level
1 nomenclature. Subsequent to the thematic consistency between
the different time series, this process also solves many challenges
related to the minimum mapping units (i.e., vineyards that were
considered nonsignicant by the 1791 cartographer). These features
are merged into larger classes (i.e., articial surfaces, agricultural areas,
wetlands, water bodies, forest, and seminatural areas). More
information about the issue of minimum mapping units is
provided by Saura (2002).
For the georeferencing process, the vectorization, and the
spatial analysis itself, the open-source QGIS 3.24 was used
(QGIS Development Team, 2022). As with open data, the use
of open source such as QGIS has multiple advantages, such as
free-of-cost acquirement, ease of use, and user support from a
community. The use of both available data sources and open
source offers the chance of replicability.
The digitization of relevant landscape features offers both
qualitative and quantitative insight into LCLU changes over
the past 230 years. Furthermore, this process will help assess
and understand the potential disappearance or immediate threat
of archeological sites in the region.
As mentioned above, the geometrical quality, mapping scale
(i.e., minimum mapping unit), and categorization of the mapped
features differ between the various cartographic sources. As a
result, each map comes with its own level of detail in terms of
both geometry and denition of features. For example, the fact
that some categories are present in one period but are lacking in
another does not mean that they are necessarily absent in the area.
When this is the case, those features might have a size that does
not allow their appearance. Data reliability depends on the quality
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Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
of the raw materials used and a certain degree of human error
ability to extract them properly.
Analysis of LCLU Classes
LCLU classes are represented by ve major categories listed as
agricultural areas (AA), articial surfaces (ASs), forest and
seminatural areas (FSA), wetlands (WLs), and water bodies
(WBs) (Supplementary Table S1)(Kosztra and Büttner,
2019). According to the CORINE LCLU guidelines (Kosztra
and Büttner, 2019), the category containing articial surfaces
includes all areas occupied by human activities, such as towns,
villages, industrial or commercial areas, transport facilities, and
construction sites. The remaining classes are also very well-
dened: agricultural land refers to any arable land, permanent
fodder areas or mixed parcels of agricultural and other natural
lands; forests and seminatural areas are classied into different
classes for coniferous, broad-leaved forests, and natural
grasslands; any kind of ooded areas or areas that are likely to
be ooded during the year, as well as coastal area submerged by
high tides, falls into the wetlands category; as for the lakes, rivers,
natural or articial watercourses, or any other marine channels,
they are integrated into the water body category (Kosztra and
Büttner, 2019).
After digitizing, all LCLU classes for the various time series
within the study area are presented in Figures 46
(Supplementary Table S1) that display how the surrounding
landscape has changed. Within the selected buffer size of 10 km
around the Mostiștea river, the analysis also covers parts of the
Vlăsiei Plain in the north and details of the Danube Meadow in
the southern section.
Figure 4 shows the evolution of land use over the last 230 years, as
described below, while Figure 5 graphically shows the dynamics of
land cover area by representing absolute values expressed in hectares.
In Figure 6A, the surface area of each class is compared to the
total surface area per year. Having the year 1791 as a reference in
Figure 6B, the analysis of the individual classes allowed us to
make the following observations: the fastest and continuous
growth in terms of the surface area seems to be, as expected,
the growth of articial surfaces such as villages, industrial
buildings, roads, or railways (up to 351%).
FIGURE 4 | Landscape changes in 200 yearstime span from Mostiștea Basin (17912018). Corine LCLU nomenclature.
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Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
The most extensive land cover from the study area is occupied
by agricultural areas, growing from 133,806 ha in 1791 to
153,998 ha in 2018 (Figures 5,6). Compared to the
measurements in the 1791 maps, the surface has a slight
increase of 9% in 1955, rising up to 17% in 1968, followed by
slight decreases between 1980 and 2018.
Regarding the evolution of classes containing forest and
seminatural areas, a total area of 35,444 ha is observed in
1791, increasing 8% in 1864, followed by a signicant decrease
in the following periods, and ending up with a 55% loss of
forested area in 2018, corresponding to only 16,163 ha of
remaining forest. Consequently, massive deforestation has
favored the considerable expansion of agricultural and other
articial areas, as seen above in the expansion of agricultural land.
Another LCLU class that suffered a negative change was the
wetland, going down from 7390 ha in 1791 to only 261 ha in 2018,
resulting in a loss of 96% of the total wetland areas. Most of the area
was either converted to agricultural land or succumbed to rising water
Focusing exclusively on the Mostiștea main lake, the area occupied
has increased signicantly from 1,437 ha in 1791 to 2,969 ha in 2018,
as visualized in Figure 7. Two other water bodies that have gone
FIGURE 5 | Landscape changes in study area from Mostiștea Basin (17912018). Landscape changes within a ten-km radius.
FIGURE 6 | Landscape changes in study area from Mostiștea Basin (17912018). (A) Percentage of increased areas compared to the total surface area.
(B) Percentage of increased areas compared to 1791.
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Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
through signicant changes are Frăsinet Lake (north of Mostiștea
Lake) and the lakes in the Danube meadows (e.g., Boian Lake,
Sticlinu, ... south of Mostiștea Lake). In the rst case, the surface
of the lake increased from 155 to 956 ha (517%). In contrast, the lakes
in the Danube Meadow, apart from a small lake (96 ha) near Chiselet
village, and the channel that connects Mostiștea with the Danube
River (190 ha), all the water bodies and wetlands are lost in favor of
agricultural land.
LCLU Analysis for Archeological Sites
Regarding the correlation between site location and LCLU
changing over the years, certain observations can be made in a
broader sense. Based on the ve Level LCLU classes, we obtained
a crosswise comparison, indicating the absolute and relative
number of sites per class, as illustrated in Figures 8,9
(Supplementary Table S1), respectively.
With the 1791 map as a reference, it can be concluded that the
highest number of sites are situated in articial areas (248 sites),
decreasing by 13% until 2018 (217 sites). In contrast, most of the
sites located in areas with changed LCLU correspond to the
agricultural areas, where there is an increase from four to 38 sites,
thus representing an increase of 950%. These sites are
(potentially) affected by human intervention over the entire
study period.
FIGURE 7 | Total area of Lake Mostiștea (south area).
FIGURE 8 | Distribution of sites based on land use classication (17912018).
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Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
Compared to the previous scenario, a proportional decline
occurs for sites within forest areas. Only 22% of the 41 sites
listed in woodland areas in 1791 are still in forested areas in
2018 (i.e., only nine archeological sites). The other 78% of the
sites initially located in forested areas are now located in
agricultural areas, probably affecting parts of the
archeological sites. Similar extensive LCLU changes around
the sites also occurred in the marsh and oodplain areas. The
number of sites assigned to the water zone has increased by
344% compared to 1791 (i.e., from 16 sites in 1791 to 55 sites in
Considering the literatures information (Figure 10),
220 sites do not have any data related to their conservation
status, 68 sites are considered to have a poor condition or are
partially destroyed, while 23 sites are classied as destroyed.
Finally, only eight sites are stable and have good conservation
status. The relationship between conservation status and the
landform unit that sites occupy is presented in Figure 11
(Supplementary Table S1).
A reconstruction of the surrounding environment in the
Mostiștea Valley, dating back to the Neo-Eneolithic
settlements in the area, can only be inferred from detailed
geomorphology studies, combined with the use of drilling
cores conducted at various points of interest. However, the
carpology analyses made at Sultana-Malu Roșu tell settlement
(Golea et al., 2014)andatVlădiceasca (Cârciumaru, 1996)
show that these sites were located in the area delimited by
forest-steppe and steppe environment. These sites are also
characterized by a marshy environment due to the Mostiștea
River and the Danube proximity, a fact that is also conrmed
by the zooarchaeological analysis carried out at Măriuţa,
Vlădiceasca, Sultana, and Șeinoiu tell settlements
(Bălăşescu et al., 2005). Moreover, the same faunal data
indicated farming activities near the tell settlements and
also potentially pasture-dedicated areas, like around the
Măriuţa tell settlement (Bréhard and Bălăşescu, 2012).
FIGURE 9 | Distribution percentage sites according to land use (17912018).
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Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
General Observations on LCLU
The analysis of old cartographic material and satellite imagery
indicates the evolution of the landscape closely linked to land use
patterns. A small part of the forest system of the Vlăsiei Plain is
captured in the northern part of the region, which has been, like the
whole region, deforested for agricultural land use or articial surfaces
such as villages, commercial or transport units, etc. Signicant
anthropogenic changes have also occurred in the southern study
area, mainly due to lakes (the largest being Lake Boian) and marsh
drainage works. These changes were implemented during the
expansion of the irrigation systems, carried out to enlarge areas
dedicated to the agricultural system of the 20th century.
FIGURE 10 | Conservation status distribution of sites by site type.
FIGURE 11 | Conservation status distribution of sites by landform units (literature data)
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Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
The anthropogenic changes have had several reasons, such as
surface leveling favoring agricultural techniques (Ghită, 2008b)
and climate characteristics (i.e., aridity).
Articial surfaces appear to be steadily increasing throughout
the years, with signicant increases in the 1950s, 1968s, and 1990s
followed by stagnation or slower growth in the last 20 years. This
growth was triggered by various factors such as population
growth, technological developments, and planned landscape
development (Serbănescu and Trohani, 1978).
One major factor that led to massive deforestation and the
expansion of agricultural areas could have been the two World
Wars. Overcutting forests for timber and the increasing
agricultural areas, natural grassland areas, vineyards, and
orchards during this period mark the beginning of a
destructive process of the natural environment and determined
how the land was used (Ghită, 2008b;Crăciunescu, 2017). The
signicant increase observed in 1864 can arguably be related to
omitting certain features on the 1791 maps, as mentioned above
and stated by Dolocan (2012).
Because of climatic, economic, technological, political, and
systematization reasons, various land changes occurred in the
second half of the last century. Among those is the draining of
marshes and lakes, especially in the southern area (Danube
Meadow), the improvement and development of the dam
system on the MostișteaLakes,aswellasanincreaseinthe
number of irrigation systems throughout the Mostiștea Valley.
While marshes are losing territory, agricultural areas and the
breadth of the water shores are increasing compared to
previous periods. The whole dynamics of the relief and
morphology, especially around Frăsinet and Mostiștea
Lakes, are modied.
Previous studies on the land morphology and hydro-
geomorphological vulnerability of the Mostiștea mainstream
provide data on relief dynamics, the changing trend of hydro-
geomorphological systems, and on the evolution of
humanenvironment relationships (Ghită, 2008a;Grecu et al.,
2013). These studies revealed that geomorphological processes
specic to this area are sagging and tunnel erosion, sometimes
accelerated by a human impact like the implementation of
irrigation systems. Regarding the uvial processes, less than
4% of the land in Mostiștea catchment area is vulnerable to
processes such as landslides, collapses, and lateral erosion. These
processes mainly occur in areas near Săruleşti, Gurbăneşti, the
Argovei Valley, and around Mostiștea Lake (Grecu et al., 2013).
One intensive phenomenon triggered by the anthropic factor
and sustained by natural factors is the intensied degree of
shoreline erosion. On the mainstream of the Mostiștea river,
one immediate effect was the withdrawal of the lakeshore and the
increasing area of the water surfaces. Especially at the western
shore of Mostiștea Lake, the land has retreated by more than
200 m next to Sultana village since the damming of the river
started in 1970.
Consequently, modern-day villages, agricultural land, and
archeological sites along the middle and lower reaches of the
river are predisposed to degradation, attested via shoreline
retreat. The lake abrasion process caused permanent damage
to archaeological sites located either on islands or on low, hidden,
or swampy areas of the river, and even those at the edge of high
LCLU Modication at Archaeological Sites
Unfortunately, numerous sites from our study area now show
various stages of degradation, or even worse, and they have
already been destroyed.
When comparing data obtained from LCLU analysis from
Figure 8 with the literature collected data from Figure 11
(Supplementary Table S1), the following aspects can be noted
(with particular emphasis on those well-known sites in the
literature). Starting with less complex information about sites
within forested and seminatural areas, one can assume that
these sites are intrinsically protected, given their remoteness and
coverage by vegetation. Although most of the sites with articial
LCLU have no recorded information regarding their conservation
status, most of them are probably severely damaged or even
entirely destroyed. This is mainly due to contemporary
construction and land development, which obviously results in
the disturbance of the land on which the construction was built.
For example, during a eld survey in 2018, it could be observed that
the tell settlement from Ulmeni Valea lui Soarehas been affected
by a garbage area (Supplementary Figure S1).
Most of the sites are found in agricultural land, orchards, natural
grassland, and vineyards. Conditions seem better if we assume that
land cultivation only results in the disturbance of the upper part of
the soil surface. As a result, the level of conservation for settlements
or necropolises may be better than for the burial mounds. The latter
are sometimes attened to make cultivation easier. For example, the
tell settlement from Spanţov-`Malu Bulioaica(Supplementary
Figure S2) has been destroyed by shore erosion combined with
the leveling of the area for agricultural use.
Sites that now belong to the water area are shown in Figure 8
(2018) and correspond in fact to the former riverbed, islands, or
marsh area of the Mostiștea basin, and some of them have been
completely ooded by water. The best-known cases are the
settlements at Vlădiceasca I and II (Supplementary Figure
S3), Lunca-Grădinile, Vlădiceasca-Ostrovul Mare, followed by
the cemeteries at Curăteşti and Sultana-Școala Veche. In addition,
there are other sites whose surface has been largely eroded but are
still visible in the eld (Sultana-Malu RoșuorȘeinoiu)
Supplementary Figures S4, S5).
As mentioned earlier, one intensive phenomenon triggered
by other anthropic factors and sustained by the natural ones
(climate feature-aridity or wind blow) is the degree of
shoreline erosion. At Sultana tell settlement, the erosion
process had led to signicant changes in the shape of the
settlements promontory. Comparing the data between
1791 and 2018 allows the depiction of the current position
of the bottom and top of the terrace. It can be noticed that the
northwest part of the terrace has heavily suffered from erosion,
and the land has retreated by 200 m in the last 230 years. In
1923, the eastwest and the northsouth long axes of the
settlement were measured by I. Andrieșescu at 71 m
(Andrieşescu, 1926), while in 2012, the settlement measured
approximately 3540 m on the long axis (Andreescu and
Moldoveanu, 2012) and less than 34 m in 2019.
Frontiers in Environmental Science | August 2022 | Volume 10 | Article 92444011
Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
Regarding the prehistoric cemeteries that were discovered in the
Sultana-Curăteşti region, such as Sultana-Malu Roșu, Sultana-Școala
Veche, Sultana-Valea Orbului, and Curăteşti, the land had, respectively,
retreated by 230 m, 340 m, 300 m, and 350 in the last 230 years.
Major human factors, such as economic and technological
development or political decisions, which have coupled with
natural hazards, have severely damaged the landscape and the
archeological sites within it. The analysis of cartographic maps,
LCLU data, and satellite imagery allows the observation of the
consequences of anthropogenic changes on the conguration of
the Mostiștea Lake and how these changes have affected the
archeological sites located in this area.
Our investigations highlight how natural and anthropogenic
interventions from the last 230 years in the Mostiștea Valley have
modied the landscape and how these processes have affected the
cultural heritage. The differences between the data derived from the
1791 map and the 2018 map involve a massive extension of the
Mostiștea waterbodies, agricultural lands, and articial areas at the
expense of shrinking forested areas and wetlands (Figure 5). During
this process, the greatest threat to archeological sites was the
enlargement of the water surface and the transformation of
marshy or forested areas into agricultural land.
Unfortunately, some archeological sites that had been
preserved for almost 6,000 years were damaged or destroyed in
less than two centuries (e.g., Vlădiceasca I-II and Sultana-Școala
Veche), and their data may never be recovered.
Nonetheless, proactive measures can still be engaged to save
the remaining areas in various stages of decay, and studies such as
this one can be a good start in detecting and prioritizing regions
susceptible to ongoing risk. In the future, more detailed studies on
smaller areas may represent a signicant step in preserving such
sites at risk of being affected by erosion and saving them from
their disappearance.
The original contributions presented in the study are included in
the article/Supplementary Material; further inquiries can be
directed to the corresponding authors.
All authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and intellectual
contribution to the work and approved it for publication. CL
supervised the study. CC, MF, and IO performed the eld/lab
data acquisition and processing under the supervision of CSt. CC,
CSt, and CL wrote the manuscript with input from all co-authors.
All authors read and approved the nal manuscript.
This work was supported by a grant from the Ministry of
Research, Innovation, and Digitization, contract number
41PFE/30.12.2021, within PNCDI III.
CC thanks the Simion Mehedinţi - Nature and Sustainable
DevelopmentPostgraduate Program, Faculty of Geography,
University of Bucharest, Romania, for the academic and
nancial support for her Ph.D.
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Conict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or nancial relationships that could be construed as a
potential conict of interest.
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Frontiers in Environmental Science | August 2022 | Volume 10 | Article 92444013
Covătaru et al. Human Impact on the Archeological Sites
... In archaeology, the technique is used for various applications, such as feature The target area was not chosen randomly, as it has been the most investigated region in Romania since the beginning of the 20th century. Romanian archaeologists carried out intensive excavations in the Chalcolithic and Middle/Late Neolithic sites of Călărași County, which formed the basis for the definition of two emblematic prehistoric cultures in the Northern Balkans, the Boian and the Gumelnița [14,15]. Moreover, these investigations contributed to determining the relative chronology of archaeological cultures in Romania. ...
... The target area was not chosen randomly, as it has been the most investigated region in Romania since the beginning of the 20th century. Romanian archaeologists carried out intensive excavations in the Chalcolithic and Middle/Late Neolithic sites of Călăras , i County, which formed the basis for the definition of two emblematic prehistoric cultures in the Northern Balkans, the Boian and the Gumelnit , a [14,15]. Moreover, these investigations contributed to determining the relative chronology of archaeological cultures in Romania. ...
... The hillshade map and the false colour composite cover the plane east of the settlement and reveal some old river channels presented in the area before systematic cultivation in the last century. Thus, these data are used to put the archaeological site in a larger spatial and historical context, which will be helpful for future research (e.g., extending the results presented by Covataru et al. [15]). ...
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