Connecting pathways are essential for cultural and economic exchange. Commonly, historians investigate the role of routes for cultural development, whereas the environmental impacts of historical routes attract less attention. Here, we present a high-resolution reconstruction of the impact of the major trade route via Marchionis in the southern Baltic lowlands on landscape evolution since more than 800 years. We combine precisely dated annually laminated sediments from Lake Czechowskie alongside via Marchionis and pollen data at 5-year resolution together with historical data. The transformation from a quasi-natural to a cultural landscape occurred in three phases (1) an early phase until the mid-fourteenth century with slowly increasing human impact. (2) an intensification of environmental disturbance until (3) the mid-nineteenth century when via Marchionis became a modern traffic route with strong environmental impacts. Superimposed on the long-term development were repeated interruptions by short-term downturns related to societal crisis and political decisions.
© 2021. The Author(s).