2.3 Settlement history

Figure 5 Figure 6

Figure 5: The Dutch River Area in the Middle Roman period, with the location of Tiel-Passewaaij and other settlements mentioned in the text (after Vossen 2007).1: Tiel-Passewaaij; 2: Geldermalsen-Hondsgemet; 3: Wijk bij Duurstede-De Horden; 4: Kesteren-De Woerd; 5: Houten-Tiellandt.
Figure 6: Plan of a farmhouse in Passewaaijse Hogeweg during excavation. The people represent the main posts of the building.

The Dutch River Area was densely inhabited during the Roman period, with a peak of around 1250 settlements during the Middle Roman period (Fig. 5; Vossen in prep.; Vossen 2007). Habitation consisted almost exclusively of small rural settlements, consisting of one to a handful of farmhouses. The dominant house type in this region was the byrehouse: a farmhouse that contained a stable section and a living area for people (Fig. 6). The economy of rural settlements in this region is based on mixed farming. As the Dutch River Area was incorporated into the Roman Empire during the 1st century AD, rural communities started to produce an agrarian surplus for the market and/or taxation. Since changes in the agrarian economy may have affected agrarian land use, the rise of surplus production needs to be discussed in this article.

Figure 7 Figure 8 Figure 9

Figure 7: Excavation trenches in Tiel-Passewaaij, with all archaeological features. 1: Settlement Oude Tielseweg; 2: Cemetery; 3: Settlement Passewaaijse Hogeweg. A: Excavation trenches; B: Grave structures; C: Settlement features; D: Farmhouses; E: Enclosure ditches; F: Residual channel (Roymans et al. 2007).
Figure 8: A reconstruction of the settlement Passewaaijse Hogeweg in phases 3 (top) and 4 (bottom). Illustration M.H. Kriek, ACVU-HBS.
Figure 9: Archaeological features per phase in Tiel-Passewaaijse Hogeweg. Part of the cemetery is visible in the left of the illustration. A and B: phase 2; C: phase 3.1; D: phase 3.2; E: phase 4.1; F: phase 4.2; G and H: phase 5-6; I: phase 7 (Heeren 2006, plate 2).

Archaeological excavations in Tiel-Passewaaij were carried out between 1992 and 2004. Two rural settlements and a cremation cemetery were uncovered almost completely (Figs. 7 and 8). The two settlements in Tiel-Passewaaij were inhabited from the Late Iron Age (between 450 and 175 BC and again from 50 BC) to the Late Roman period (until AD 350). A chronology of the habitation consists of 7 phases (Table 1; Heeren 2006; Heeren 2009). While habitation in Passewaaijse Hogeweg is continuous during the Roman period, habitation in Oude Tielseweg shows a hiatus between AD 170 and 270. Figure 9 shows all features from the settlement Passewaaijse Hogeweg and part of the cemetery.

Table 1: Chronology of Tiel-Passewaaijse Hogeweg and Tiel-Oude Tielseweg

Phase Passewaaijse Hogeweg Oude Tielseweg
1 450-175 BC 300-175 BC
2 50 BC-AD 50 AD 25-70
3 AD 40-150 AD 70-120
4 AD 150-210 AD 120-170
5-6 AD 210-270
7 AD 270-350 AD 270-350

Our land use reconstruction for Tiel-Passewaaij should serve as a model for any typical rural settlement in the Dutch River Area. For that reason, we have included data from four settlements: Geldermalsen-Hondsgemet, Houten-Tiellandt, Wijk bij Duurstede-De Horden and Kesteren-De Woerd (Fig. 5; van Renswoude and van Kerckhove 2009; Kooistra 1996; Laarman 1996a; 1996b; Vos 2009; Sier and Koot 2001). Geldermalsen-Hondsgemet is located c. 10km to the west of Tiel-Passewaaij, and Kesteren-De Woerd c. 12km to the north-east. Houten-Tiellandt and Wijk bij Duurstede-De Horden lie closer to the border in the north.

Of course, there are differences between these settlements. For instance, the large granaries that are found in Passewaaijse Hogeweg during the 2nd century are absent in both Geldermalsen-Hondsgemet and Wijk bij Duurstede-De Horden. Kesteren-De Woerd and Wijk bij Duurstede-De Horden differ somewhat from the other settlements, since these settlements were located close to a Roman castellum, and the influence from the castellum is visible in the botanical and animal remains from the settlements. In Kesteren-De Woerd, for instance, spelt wheat and cultivated fruits were present, while in Wijk bij Duurstede-De Horden horse breeding started much earlier than elsewhere. However, they are still rural settlements and located in the same landscape, so agrarian land use was almost certainly similar to that of Tiel-Passewaaij. Therefore, we feel it is legitimate to use the data.


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Last updated: Tue Nov 10 2009