Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 3-1 (November 2011)Felix Weijdema; Otto Brinkkemper; Hans Peeters; Bas van Geel: Early Neolithic human impact on the vegetation in a wetland environment in the Noordoostpolder, central Netherlands

6 Conclusions

The evidence for human impact in the surroundings of site Schokkerhaven-E170 is based on micro-fossils. The pollen record provides strong evidence for cereal cultivation, while indications for grazing were found in the presence of spores of coprophilous fungi (Podospora-type with Cercophora-type).

The 14C dates corresponding to zones of agricultural activity suggest a date of about 3750 cal BC. This is somewhat later than the evidence from sites like Swifterbant-S3, Schokland-P14 and Urk-E4, with dates hovering between 4300 and 4000 BC. However, the results for Schokkerhaven-E170 provide evidence for another phase with agricultural activity in wetland environments in the later phase of the Swifterbant Culture. These data support Cappers and Raemaekers’ (2008) suggestion that small-scale agriculture became an inherent aspect of wetland hunter-fisher-gatherer based economies. This applies to both the wetlands in the Flevoland area and other regions, for example along the coast in the Rhine-Meuse delta (Louwe Kooijmans 2006), and the northeastern Netherlands where pollen records show evidence for agricultural activity within a time frame that corresponds to the Swifterbant Culture (Bakker 2003).

The results of our research are surprisingly positive, considering the rather bad preservation of plant remains at this site. Our research establishes a link between human presence and their impact on the surrounding vegetation. The potential for further investigations and the possibility to expand our knowledge on earlier Neolithic environmental and cultural dynamics is subject to serious threats. The artificially lowered groundwater tables in the polder areas in Flevoland have damaged, and will further damage, the natural archive of the peat layers. To preserve this palaeoenvironmental archive for the future, groundwater tables should be kept relatively high, at least in areas of archaeological interest.