Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 2-2 (November 2010)Bart Vanmontfort; Marijn Van Gils; Etienne Paulissen; Jan Bastiaens; Marc De Bie; Els Meirsman: Human occupation of the Late and Early Post-Glacial environments in the Liereman Landscape (Campine, Belgium)

1 Introduction

The Final Palaeolithic and Mesolithic occupation of the Belgian Campine region has long been known only from surface collections and small-scale excavations. Archaeological research projects were conducted at site level, concentrating on data from one or a few artefact scatters. As a consequence of this approach it was generally accepted that Late Glacial and Early Holocene hunter-gatherers left discrete and variable artefact concentrations at distinct and widely separated spots in the landscape. Recently the research focus has shifted to a larger landscape-oriented scale. Large-scale fieldwork since 1999, using adapted survey methods, has revealed numerous well-preserved new sites and has placed known sites in a larger context. All evaluated sites since then have proved to be very extensive, sometimes spread over several kilometres, and always situated on dry surfaces, mostly on sand ridges along former marshes or open water. Their dimension and nature has led to the idea that these site complexes were ‘persistent places’ (Schlanger 1992), visited time and again by small groups of hunter-gatherers over a period of several centuries or even millennia. It is not yet clear, however, how these site complexes are positioned in the wider landscape and how they functioned in the hunter-gatherer settlement system.


Fig. 1 Location of Arendonk Korhaan

At Arendonk Korhaan, a Stone Age surface site in such a landscape context has been known since the early 20th century. Several finds were reported on a sand ridge bordering fens or in the immediate surroundings (fig. 2a, 2b, 5a, 5b 6, 7). One of the most remarkable finds was a very rich but as yet unpublished site on a levelled field at approximately 1 km west of Korhaan (fig. 2a, 2b, 8). This surface site apparently almost completely resulted from a Final Palaeolithic Federmesser occupation (C. Verbeek, pers. comm.).

The combination of these finds at and near Korhaan suggested the presence of an extensive site complex, rather than several individual sites. The actual extension of the site complex and the precise position of the archaeological remains in the landscape remained, however, unanswered. New fieldwork was conducted at the Arendonk site in 2003 and 2008 to answer these questions. This paper presents the first results and proposes new hypotheses regarding the Late Glacial and early Holocene settlement patterns at Korhaan in particular and in the coversand region in general.


Fig. 2a Part of Landschap De Liereman on DEM constructed from Lidar data (© Flemish Community).


1, 2, 3 White polygons: soil evaluation by 7 cm drillings; red polygons: surveyed by 20 cm drillings.

4 Arendonk Korhaan, surveyed by 20 cm drillings. Surface and auger finds:

5 Oud-Turnhout Heihuisken, early 20th century.

6 Arendonk Korhaan I-IV, Arendonk Reenheide IV ( Heirbaut 1999 ).

7 Arendonk I, 82 DJ ( Heirbaut 1999 ).

8 Oud-Turnhout Bergstraat.

9 Surface and auger finds ( Van Gils et al. 2009 )

10 Surface and auger finds near Luifgoor depression ( Van Gils & De Bie 2002 )

11 Arendonk II, Reenheide I and II, Surface finds on arable land ( Heirbaut 1999 : 81 DI) and auger finds in forest

12 The Korhaan sand ridge

13 Figures 2b and 10


Fig. 2b Detail of the Korhaan sand ridge with zone 4.