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Graphical analysis of regional archaeological data

The use of site typology to explore the Dutch Neolithization process

M. Wansleeben and L.B.M. Verhart

1 Regional archaeological research

1.1 Archaeological information from excavations

Much of our archaeological knowledge comes from excavated settlements. Thanks to detailed recording and analysis of the finds and soil traces in their spatial context it is possible to get a clear view of the activities that occurred there in the past. Studying the different artefact categories and for example zoological, botanical and geological data allows us to know relatively accurately whether our archaeological data are in a primary or secondary context, which types of animals were hunted, what the terrain around the settlement looked like, how man influenced the natural vegetation, whether pottery was produced, how the houses were built, how flint nodules were worked and numerous other aspects of life in past times.

Excavating sites is undoubtedly the most important source of information for archaeologists. Yet this method has its drawbacks. The costs are relatively high and an excavation is only a small point in an enormous ocean of time and space. We know, for example, exactly what happened on the Hazendonk (a site in the west of the Netherlands) in the middle Neolithic (4400-3500 BC) (Bakels 1981; Louwe Kooijmans 1974; 1976; 1993a; Zeiler 1991), but it is completely unknown whether that information is characteristic for the societies concerned. "Is this type of settlement part of a Hazendonk-like settlement pattern?" or "is the Hazendonk a unique, specific, location for a group of people who did something completely different the rest of the year?". Extrapolation of the information from a single such observation is difficult. A number of excavated sites from the same period and cultural context are known from the area surrounding the Hazendonk, among them Bergschenhoek (Louwe Kooijmans 1986; 1987), Brandwijk (Van Gijn & Verbruggen 1992), Wateringen (Raemaekers 1994), Swifterbant (Van der Waals 1977), P14 (Ten Anscher & Gehasse 1993; Gehasse 1995) and Hoge Vaart (Hogestijn et al. 1995; Hogestijn & Peeters 1996). Of course these settlements help complete the picture of the past, but in some respects it becomes ever more complex. Every excavation has its own problems and peculiarities, and as the distance between sites increases so it becomes ever harder to correlate the specific data each produces.

[Excavation plan Hazendonk]
Fig. 22 A small part of the excavation plan of the Hazendonk in the western part of the Netherlands. Part of a canoe, paddle and wooden trackway lie in the peat (yellow), south of the high sand island ('donk'), where pits and a palisade were discovered (after Louwe Kooijmans 1985).


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Last updated: Wed Feb 25 1998