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2 Meuse Valley Project

2.1 Research history

The Meuse Valley Project is a regional archaeological investigation by the Faculty of Archaeology of Leiden University and the National Museum of Antiquities. Both Leiden institutions have a long tradition of research on the Neolithic in the Netherlands. The extensive excavations in the loess area of the villages of the Linear Bandkeramic Culture (LBK) (5400 BC) (Modderman 1970; 1985; 1988) and the research into the earliest Neolithic in the delta (Michelsberg Culture, 4400 BC) (Louwe Kooijmans 1974; 1993a) are still the basis of our knowledge of that period. The research into the Mesolithic in the south-east of the Netherlands has long been the subject of archaeologists from Groningen (Bohmers, Wouters, Price, Newell) and Amsterdam (Arts, Deeben). In the early 1980s, the Leiden area also became the focus of attention, as a result, among other things, of the research into bone barbed points from the Maasvlakte (Verhart 1988; 1990).

The history of the Meuse Valley Project probably begins with the finds and excavation in Koningsbosch (Van Haaren & Modderman 1973), a settlement area in the middle of Limburg with a number of specific artefact types such as tanged arrowheads ('pine-like', denneboom) and transverse arrowheads, small scrapers and smooth-surfaced quartz-tempered pottery. Similar items had been found before but they now received the 'cultural label' Mittelneolithikum von Limburg for the period between 4200 and 2700 BC (Van Haaren & Modderman 1973: 48). This investigation clearly indicated a large gap in our archaeological knowledge. There was little or no information about the coversand area of the middle of Limburg and Brabant, exactly in between the loess area in the South of the Netherlands and the delta in the West, and the same situation applied to both the late Mesolithic and middle Neolithic. The transition from LBK to Michelsberg, so crucial to the Neolithization process in the Netherlands, was still hidden from our view both in space and time.

Louwe Kooijmans, together with a group of students, started a survey of the extensive collection of the local historical society, Heemkunde Vereniging Roerstreek in St Odiliënberg. An important goal of this survey of surface finds was to determine the research potential of this rich source of archaeological information. The project gained a more official standing when in 1989 a research proposal entitled 'The transition from Mesolithic to Neolithic in the Meuse Valley: a geographical approach' was funded by means of a subsidy from NWO. This provided two of the participating students with an opportunity to continue the investigation as part of their PhD work. The request stated the problem, goal and procedures clearly for the first time. It is a regional analysis of surface finds, on several spatial levels, attempting to gain insight into the Neolithization process in the south-east of the Netherlands with the aid of automated techniques for analysis and presentation.

[Knowledge gap]
Fig. 26 Between the areas in the South (Bandkeramic) and the West (Michelsberg) lies a considerable spatial and chronological gap in our knowledge


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Last updated: Wed Feb 25 1998