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1.2 Regional archaeological research in the Netherlands

There is a long archaeological tradition in making distribution maps of artefacts or settlement types. In the past this was particularly done to gain insight into the chronological and spatial succession of the various cultural units. Dating and assigning a cultural label have long been the main archaeological aims.

Systematic archaeological research in a region in the form of field surveys and/or inventories has become a more general phenomenon in the Netherlands since the 1970s. In particular as a result of a number of large-scale projects in the Betuwe (Modderman 1951), West-Friesland (Brandt 1980), Assendelver Polder (Brand et al. 1997), Kromme Rijn area (Van Es 1985), Texel (Woltering 1979) and Delfland (Bult 1983; 1986) regional archaeology has grown in influence. It was realized that an entire region with all its large and small find locations (settlements, scatters, field systems, burial mounds, embankments) represents an important archaeological resource. At first the cultural-historical approach - a reconstruction of the habitation history of the region - was still central to many projects. In this respect the Kempen project (Slofstra et al. 1982) marks a break in this tradition in the Netherlands. Instead of making typochronological diagrams, attention is directed to dynamic socio-cultural processes, settlement systems and anthropological aspects such as the state formation. The material reflection of all activities man has deployed over a certain period in a region is an archaeological source of knowledge in itself.

Regional archaeological research, whether it concerns systematic land surveys, extensive listing of the contents of museum depots or a series of small test excavations, is an important addition to the 'traditional' excavation. It provides a different perspective on societies of the past.

[Distribution map Midden Delfland]
Fig. 23 Detail of the distribution map of the regional research area of Midden Delfland, prior to the systematic field survey: with sites known prior to the systematic field survey (open circles) and newly discovered sites (closed circles) (after Bult 1983).


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Last updated: Wed Feb 25 1998