Before animal husbandry: Investigating the beginning of animal husbandry in the Dutch wetlands through zooarchaeology, palaeogenomics, stable isotope analysis, and high-precision radiocarbon chronology

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The beginning of animal husbandry is a pivotal development in human history. The pace and nature of this development in the Dutch wetlands is debated, with two competing models for the emergence of farming: (1) a slow integration model starting around 4700 cal BC, and (2) a rather abrupt introduction around 4000 cal BC. In both models, the appearance of small-sized cattle (Bos sp.) and
pig (Sus sp.) bones and teeth in the archaeological record is traditionally considered to mark the beginning of animal husbandry. This univariate approach, coupled with the lack of direct dates on probable domestic specimens has hampered the investigation of the variety of ways in which humans and animals interacted during this transitional period. Our project ‘The Emergence of Domesticated Animals in the Netherlands’ investigates this issue with a holistic approach. We analyze cattle and pig remains in their archaeological and palaeoenvironmental context using a combination of biomolecular and biochemical analyses. In this paper, we present the first results of our study of the Swifterbant culture sites at Hardinxveld-Giessendam in the RhineMeuse delta of the western Netherlands. These sites, which were occupied during the 6th and 5th millennium BC, yielded evidence for the introduction of pottery production and domesticated animals. They, therefore, represent a unique case study for the investigation of what this evidence means in terms of the possibility, nature, and scale of animal husbandry in this region at this time. We present new data from a zooarchaeological, aDNA, stable isotopic, and high-resolution Bayesian chronology study of the Hardinxveld sites and discuss how these techniques can shed light on the biocultural and economic development of early animal husbandry in
the Netherlands.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventEAA Kiel 6-11 September 2021 - Online, Kiel, Germany
Duration: 6-Sept-202112-Sept-2021


ConferenceEAA Kiel 6-11 September 2021
Abbreviated titleEAA 2021
Internet address


  • Animal Husbandry
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • dutch archaeological research
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Ancient DNA
  • Stable isotope analysis
  • Bayesian modelling
  • Neolithic
  • Late Mesolithic
  • Swifterbant culture

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