Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 1-1 (May 2009)E. Smits; J. van der Plicht: Mesolithic and Neolithic human remains in the Netherlands: physical anthropological and stable isotope investigations


This article presents an overview of the interdisciplinary study of skeletal remains from Late Mesolithic and Middle Neolithic sites in the Lower Rhine Basin. The combination of archaeological, physical anthropological and chemical analysis has led to a better understanding of the treatment of the dead, demographic parameters and diet of the populations during the transition from forager to farmer in this area. Burial ritual was variable during this whole period, with an above-ground treatment of corpses alongside the burial of deceased. The physical anthropological study has revealed that the sites were inhabited by family groups. Stable isotope analyses have indicated that immigrants were sometimes present and that diet varied per population. Intersite variation in diet is explained by the exploitation of the local habitat. Intrasite variability in diet can be influenced by cultural and social factors as attested by the burial traditions and the isotope study of provenance. It is posited here that the Neolithisation process was not as unambiguous as in some other parts of Europe, but diverse with small-scale variations at the site level.