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Research Groningen Institute of Archaeology Research Research groups GIA

Coastal culture: A methodological palaeobotanical study on land use and landscape development in two distinct coastal areas

Mans Schepers, M.A.


Promotor(s):  Prof. Dr. D.C.M. Raemaekers and Prof. Dr. R.T.J. Cappers

Period of employment: 1 September 2009 – 1 September 2013

Financed by: Ubbo Emmius

Project description:

This project focuses on the interaction between man and landscape in areas of northern part of The Netherlands where tidal activity played a major role in the establishment of early habitation and farming. The methods of sampling and data processing will be thought through thoroughly and will in their essence be applicable in ecological archaeology in widely varying periods and locations. Both sub-subjects include the study of archaeological and recent plant material. The two areas of interest here are (1) the northern part of the Flevopolder (province of Flevoland) in late Mesolithic and early Neolithic times (Swifterbant culture) and (2) the northern tidal marsh region (provinces of Friesland and Groningen) during the Iron Age and Roman period.

By combining several ecological and geological sources in the Swifterbant region, palaeogeo-ecological maps will be constructed. These maps will display the ecological activity and diversity and the geomorphology for different locations and periods.

Another point of interest is the exploitation of the landscape by its early inhabitants. Emphasis is placed on the scale and methods of early farming.

In the tidal marsh regions, one of the main objectives will be to explore the grazing potential of the salt marshes. An important problem to tackle is the underrepresentation of plants that are adapted to grazing by vegetative reproduction. Furthermore, specific sampling strategies will be applied to specified contexts often faced in the terpen in order to increase the quality of the data they yield.

The following research questions will be dealt with:

The Swifterbant region:

  1. What plant communities were present in the vicinity of the Swifterbant settlements and where exactly were they located?
  2. Research Question 1 will result in a number of palaeogeobotanical maps. A next step will be to involve zoological data, and incorporate this in the maps too, upgrading these to palaeogeoecological maps.
  3. What was the energetic potential of the main wild food plants and animals present? This approach will take into account the energetic value per edible part of the species in question, the variation in volume of edible part per individual and the estimated abundance of the species studied.
  4. How was the early cultivation of cereals organized and what role did it play in the former food economy?

The Terpen region:

  1. Will the study of vegetative parts of grasses shown to adapt to grazing by vegetative reproduction confirm the idea that these are underrepresented in the current archaeobotanical data, which are mainly based on the reproductive parts?
  2. Is the grazing potential of the salt marshes the main reason for the colonization of the area?
  3. What did the cultivated field in the terpen area look like?


  1. How does the mode and scale of cereal cultivation of the Swifterbant region and the terpen region relate to each other?
  2. How can the analysis of archaeological contexts in which plant remains from different plant communities are represented be improved in order to reconstruct former plant communities and agricultural practices? This methodological approach will include both the palynological data and the study of plant macro remains.
  3. The combination of keeping domesticated animals as well as cultivating cereals,is in demand of both cultivated fields as well as the availability of biomass to feed livestock. Different possible methods like (stubble) grazing, salt marsh grazing and (hay) foddering) will be considered.
Last modified:23 July 2018 1.29 p.m.