700 years of settlement and building history in the Lötschental, Switzerland

Ulf Büntgen, Ignaz Bellwald, Hans Kalbermatten, Martin Schmidhalter, David C. Frank, Henning Freund, Werner Bellwald, Burkhard Neuwirth, Marcus Nüsser, Jan Esper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


All 2,317 current buildings within the Löchental were registered, chronologically assigned and mapped. Annual construction dates of 1,432 of these objects based on inscriptions, tree-ring dating and/or documentary evidence were derived. Century-resolved construction dates for the remaining 885 buildings were estimated. These dates are utilized to develop a map that, for the first time, provides a full inventory of building ages of an entire alpine valley. Residential and non-residential buildings are shown in a map resulting from an interdisciplinary study, using local knowledge and nomenclature as a basis. Additionally, 116 local area names were added, and the age of all buildings back to AD 1299 graphically displayed. The joint analysis by historians, social anthropologists and geographers, as well as the knowledge about historic building types and construction techniques derived from the annual dating, allowed the age estimation of buildings. In this supplementary text, we describe the applied dating methods, some relevant building types and construction techniques and discuss former settlement patterns and selected buildings. We also address some factors of cultural landscape transformation relevant for the settlement history, such as avalanches, fire outbreaks and socio-economic processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-112
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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