Farmers and Archaeologists: any shared interests? Best practice from the Dutch countryside

Henny A. Groenendijk

Groningen Institute of Archaeology, University of Groningen. Email:

Cite this as: Groenendijk, H.A. 2019 Farmers and Archaeologists: any shared interests? Best practice from the Dutch countryside, Internet Archaeology 51.


Excavation of a Mesolithic site on an extended cover-sand ridge in the Groningen Veenkoloniƫn (peat reclamation district, mun. of Stadskanaal). After the top soil has been removed, the colouring of the soil corresponds to the measure of topping off the original profile.

Farming in a country like the Netherlands, which has a limited surface area, high land value and critical customers, is like walking a tightrope: a farmer is always the scapegoat when it comes to the societal consequences of the job. Archaeologists, for example, have problems with modern cultivation techniques, because they can demonstrably harm archaeological sites, yet the farming community can be reluctant to accede to the archaeologists' requests, since it has many more (larger) issues to overcome.

Predictive modelling as part of the development-led Dutch archaeology has not contributed to the desired mutual understanding. Yet there are signs of a growing willingness to listen to each other's needs, paralleled by developments in the environmental sector and the management of natural resources. Tentative projects to create a win-win situation for both farmers and archaeologists have been launched and even successfully carried out, but that is not enough. Archaeological heritage management requires permanent provisions, because the loss of information from the soil archive is irreversible. Attempts are being made to re-open the dialogue between farmers and archaeologists and bring about a more positive attitude on both sides. It is argued that severe actions are not effective in the Dutch polder.

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