The achievement of the cultivation, drainage and dyke creation of the marsh in the 12th and early 13th century cannot be overestimated. With its high technical standards, namely the length and width measurements of the Hufen (hides) and the drainage and dyke creation on the swampy terrain, the Cultivated Landscape of the Altes Land formed the first highlight of this era – if not the greatest highlight altogether – which was quantitatively exceeded in the eastern settlement in the Middle Ages, but not in its technical standard.

With the “parent landscape” in the Netherlands, in the Middle Ages the Dutch colonised the marshland of the Altes Land over an extended period of time; the resulting “daughter landscape” came to spread from the first to the third mile.

This Holler colonisation with marsh yardland villages and fitting allotments marks the Altes Land as a comprehensive, historical and unique cultural landscape.

Dykes were necessary for agriculture in Sietland because of floods from the Elbe that flowed over the tributaries as well as the moor water from Geestrand. To maintain the dykes, the settlers formed dyke judiciaries early on and monitored dyke obligations through jurors.

Drainage and dyke creation had an impact on the old settlements along the banks of the Elbe. If, to that point, they had managed without dykes on the high banks or, at best, small ring dykes, the flooding Elbe lead to a narrowed floodplain while the model of the intensive corridor management in the colonies lead to an adjustment of the colonies. From now on, colonists, settlers, Dutch and Saxons were jointly interested in protecting dyke breaches as well as functioning drainage. They joined together to form larger dyke associations – the miles.


  • 1140 Archbishop Adalbero tithes the Hamburg cathedral chapter in Huttfleth as well as the Harsefeld monastery in Steinkirchen
  • around 1148 Adalbero tithes the cathedral chapter to Thitgerscoph (Hollern)
  • 1149 Archbishop Hartwig gives Dutch settlers on the Weser the same rights as the Dutch near Stade
  • 1196 Dutch near the river Este
  • 1221 Bishop Iso von Verden tithes the Verden Andreasstift from Estebrügge, Zesterfleth, Mittelnkirchen and Jork
  • 1236 Bremen archbishop gains sovereignty of the second and third mile; the colonisation is completed