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Brussels, Belgium

Fuller B.T.,Catholic University of Leuven | Fuller B.T.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Muldner G.,University of Reading | Van Neer W.,Catholic University of Leuven | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry

Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios were measured in 157 fish bone collagen samples from 15 different archaeological sites in Belgium which ranged in ages from the 3 rd to the 18 th c. AD. Due to diagenetic contamination of the burial environment, only 63 specimens produced results with suitable C:N ratios (2.9-3.6). The selected bones encompass a wide spectrum of freshwater, brackish, and marine taxa (N = 18), and this is reflected in the δ 13C results (-28.2‰ to -12.9%). The freshwater fish have δ 13C values that range from -28.2‰ to -20.2‰, while the marine fish cluster between -15.4‰ and -13.0‰. Eel, a catadromous species (mostly living in freshwater but migrating into the sea to spawn), plots between -24.1‰ and -17.7‰, and the anadromous fish (living in marine environments but migrating into freshwater to spawn) show a mix of freshwater and marine isotopic signatures. The δ 15N results also have a large range (7.2‰ to 16.7‰) indicating that these fish were feeding at many different trophic levels in these diverse aquatic environments. The aim of this research is the isotopic characterization of archaeological fish species (ecology, trophic level, migration patterns) and to determine intra-species variation within and between fish populations differing in time and location. Due to the previous lack of archaeological fish isotope data from Northern Europe and Belgium in particular, these results serve as an important ecological backdrop for the future isotopic reconstruction of the diet of human populations dating from the historical period (1 st and 2 nd millennium AD), where there is zooarchaeological and historical evidence for an increased consumption of marine fish. © 2012 The Royal Society of Chemistry. Source

Thieren E.,Royal Belgian Institute Of Natural Sciences | Thieren E.,Catholic University of Leuven | Wouters W.,Royal Belgian Institute Of Natural Sciences | Van Neer W.,Royal Belgian Institute Of Natural Sciences | And 2 more authors.

Using a large series of dry skeletons of modern European eel Anguilla anguilla (Linnaeus, 1758) from Belgium and the Netherlands, the relationship between fish length and individual bone measurements is investigated. The aim of the study is to provide adequate regression equations between both parameters. This methodology is relevant for both palaeoecological and ecological researches since isolated skeletal elements survive in large numbers on archaeological sites and in the stomach contents, faeces or regurgitations of piscivorous animals. The predictive value for the length estimations is explored for various skeletal elements and the accuracy of the obtained regression formulae is compared to that of the formulae already existing in literature. Particular attention is paid to the use of vertebrae, taking into account that different morphotypes can be distinguished amongst them. Source

Crombe P.,Ghent University | Verhegge J.,Ghent University | Deforce K.,Ghent University | Meylemans E.,Flanders Heritage | And 2 more authors.
Quaternary International

Over the last decade, excavations in the lower Scheldt river basin (NW Belgium) have identified the first presence of the transitional Mesolithic-Neolithic Swifterbant culture, previously only known from the Netherlands and one site in northwest Germany. These excavations have also yielded the first evidence for the presence of Early Neolithic Linearbandkeramik, Limbourg, Blicquy and Epi-Rössen cultural remains in these wetland landscapes. High quality organic preservation at these sites offered the opportunity to reliably place the Swifterbant within the absolute chronology of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in this region, as well as the reconstruction of Swifterbant subsistence practices, most notably the incorporation of cattle husbandry into a traditional hunting-fishing-gathering economy. Two different site types could be identified between the six excavated sites - dune and natural levee sites - which had contemporaneous periods of occupation, but different occupation histories. The integration of the dates from these different site types with the palaeoenvironmental dates provides an initial model of the Swifterbant settlement system in the area and its role in the specific tempo and trajectories of cultural and economic change that occurred during the neolithisation of the Scheldt basin. This model consists of relatively specialized and temporarily inhabited cattle and hunting-fishing camps on the dunes and larger, more continuously occupied levee camps along the river valleys. Bayesian statistical modeling suggests that Swifterbant occupation of the dune sites occurred during a brackish water flooding period and that occupation of the levee sites was more continuous. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. Source

Deforce K.,Flanders Heritage | Deforce K.,Ghent University | Bastiaens J.,Flanders Heritage | van Neer W.,Royal Belgian Institute Of Natural Sciences | And 5 more authors.
Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

Analysis of wood charcoal and seeds from 'Doel sector M', a Swifterbant site (ca. 4600-4000 b. c.) from NW Belgium, provides information on the environment, plant food subsistence, animal husbandry practices and seasonality of this wetland camp site during the mesolithic-neolithic transition period. The results of the analyses of both charcoal and seeds show that the site was located on the top of a sand ridge covered by an upper riverbank forest with Quercus sp., Tilia sp., Ulmus sp. and Fraxinus excelsior, and surrounded by Alnus woodland. Seeds and fruits of Quercus sp., Cornus sanguinea, Corylus avellana, Malus sylvestris and Prunus spinosa probably represent food plants. High numbers of Viscum album charcoal fragments and Hedera helix seeds suggest the use of these plants as leaf fodder, and thus animal husbandry at the site. In terms of seasonality, the use of both Viscum album and Hedera helix is a strong indication that these wetland campsites were occupied during winter/early spring. © 2012 Springer-Verlag. Source

Deforce K.,Flanders Heritage | Deforce K.,Royal Belgian Institute Of Natural Sciences | Deforce K.,Ghent University | Bastiaens J.,Flanders Heritage | Crombe P.,Ghent University

The analysis of a large number of charcoal fragments from fire places from a wetland camp site of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition period (Swifterbant culture) now permits a detailed reconstruction of a middle Holocene riverine forest along the Lower Scheldt River (northern Belgium) and its exploitation between ca. 4, 500 and 4, 000 BC. The identified taxa point towards an alluvial hardwood forest (Querco-Ulmetum minoris Issler 1924) on the sand dune on which the camp site was situated, surrounded by alder carr. The results are compared with palynological and macrobotanical analyses from the same site and from contemporary sites within the area; the complementarity of these different types of data is discussed. The combination of all these datasets results in a detailed reconstruction of the environment and of its exploitation by the Swifterbant culture. The results also show that the Swifterbant people not only depended on these sand ridges for dry settlement locations, but also for firewood collection, gathering of edible plants and most probably for the collection of leaf fodder to feed livestock during winter time. Source

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