Past studies of archaeological bog finds, such as bog bodies, wooden trackways and a wide variety of other materials, are characterized by a strong focus on material culture. Their original environmental and cultural context has received far less attention. This paper centres on the original landscape setting of bog bodies. Interdisciplinary reconstructions of the physical and cultural landscape at the time of deposition can lead to significant new and more detailed insights into the context and meaning of this remarkable phenomenon. We aim to show the value of such interdisciplinary research by reconstructing the original physical and cultural landscape setting of the most iconic bog body of The Netherlands: Yde Girl. This approximately 16-year-old girl was killed about 2000 years ago and deposited in a bog south of the modern-day village of Yde (province of Drenthe). Our interdisciplinary research team used a combination of research methods from physical geography, geomorphology, palynology and archaeology to analyse both the site itself and its wider environment. This kind of integrated, detailed landscape research on bog bodies has hardly been done yet. We expect that our research design, methodology and results may also be applied in future research of other bog bodies. Furthermore, they may inspire research on other types of archaeological find categories from peatlands.
Bog bodies are among the best-known archaeological finds worldwide. Much of the work on these often extremely well-preserved human remains has focused on forensics, whereas the environmental setting of the finds has been largely overlooked. This applies to both the ‘physical’ and ‘cultural’ landscape and constitutes a significant problem since the vast spatial and temporal scales over which the practice appeared demonstrate that contextual assessments are of the utmost importance for our explanatory frameworks. In this article we develop best practice guidelines for the contextual analysis of bog bodies, after assessing the current state of research and presenting the results of three recent case studies including the well-known finds of Lindow Man in the United Kingdom, Bjældskovdal (Tollund Man and Elling Woman) in Denmark, and Yde Girl in the Netherlands. Three spatial and chronological scales are distinguished and linked to specific research questions and methods. This provides a basis for further discussion and a starting point for developing approaches to bog body finds and future discoveries, while facilitating and optimizing the re-analysis of previous studies, making it possible to compare deposition sites across time and space.
Commercialisation of resources taken from commons is considered problematic in several ways in traditional commons scholarship. In particular common-pool resource (CPR) theory argues that institutions for collective action such as commons are largely autonomous, experiencing little influence from either the market or the state, and focusing only on the needs of entitled (local) communities. Consequently, commercialisation and sustainable collective use of common-pool resources are largely considered incompatible. Moreover, the dominant focus of CPR theory is on renewable resources rather than non-renewable resources such as peat. Although commons scholarship has broadened over the last decades and come to more nuanced views on the state-market-common trichotomy, our study adds historical depth and does pay attention to peat as a valuable non-renewable resource. We analyse historical sources on two cases of peat commercialisation from raised bog commons in the early modern Low Countries: the Bakelse gemeint in the Dutch Peel region, and the commune de Xhoffraix in the Belgian Hautes-Fagnes. In terms of volume, the share of commercialised peat in the total peat exploitation was limited; the significance of peat commercialisation lay in its permanence, recurrence, and/or regional outreach. Taxes and high debts placed communities in dire financial straits, which was one of the motives for peat commercialisation. In addition, state institutions could intervene in commons management if there was an (internal) conflict. Sources indicate that these institutions had a pragmatic attitude towards peat commercialisation, probably to foster social harmony and local prosperity in times of resource contestation and economic hardship. This study adds a novel intermediate category of peat exploitation to the traditional binary subdivision in domestic peat extraction from commons versus large-scale commercial exploitation of privatised bogs. We demonstrate that long-term use of common-pool resources could go together with a moderate degree of commercialisation. Rather than being fully autonomous, commons in the early modern Low Countries were-permanently or at times of internal conflict-clearly impacted by markets, notions of private user rights, and state institutions.
Wetland archaeology has long been dominated by a focus on single archaeological sites and palaeoenvironmental sequences, in part due to the time and expense required for investigation. Consequently, the broader spatial and chronological patterns of landscape scale processes in the evolution of wetland systems are in general poorly understood. Reconstructing wetland evolution and wider environmental change from site scale to landscape is critical for understanding the role of different 'drivers' (e.g. climate, relative sea level, human impacts etc.) and for contextualising the archaeological record and human activity. Such investigations present significant problems and little concerted effort has to date considered the methodological and theoretical challenges faced by wetland archaeological, palaeoenvironmental and chronological research seeking to understand how to move across and between spatial and chronological scales. In addition, questions concerning the character of human activity in wetland landscapes and between wetlands and drylands necessitate an integrated approach drawing on scientific and humanities-based research. In this session we intend to move beyond single sites and records to discuss progress in method and theory, moving towards a landscape archaeology of wetlands. We especially welcome contributions addressing the following themes: Methodological approaches addressing the theoretical challenges of 'scaling up' site specific palaeoenvironmental records to larger spatial and temporal scales; Potentials and problems of connecting archaeological records from wetlands and dryland to better understand macroscale processes of environmental and cultural change; Recent insights gained from landscapescale research projects or from studies on the specific archaeological sites within their wider landscapes; Integration of humanities and scientific data and approaches at various scales, and the difficulties of 'disentangling' social and environmental drivers of resilience and change. If you are intested in submitting a paper for the session please see: https://forms.ncl.ac.uk/view.php?id=1365317
Culturally oriented studies on raised bogs in the Netherlands and neighbouring areas either focus on regional scale levels or on site/object-based information. Interdisciplinary microregional studies are key to bridge the gap between these types of data and to reconstruct human-land relations in detail. This paper analyses which cultural and natural processes were involved in the long-term development of a raised bog near Vriezenveen (province of Overijssel), by integrating geological, palynological, archaeological and historical geographical data. The study area includes both the bog, which has largely been reclaimed, and the nearby drylands. The landscape was subject to continuous change, driven by a complex and dynamic entanglement of environmental, socio-economic and ideological factors. The research results point to differences in the pace of landscape change between wetland and neighbouring drylands, and variability in the resilience of different cultural landscape elements and practices. They also illustrate the potentials as well as the problems of producing integrated narratives of landscape change and human activity for wetland environments and how these sorts of studies might be progressed in the future.
Raised bogs are popular research subjects in various scientific disciplines such as palaeobotany, climatology, archaeology and historical geography. However, interdisciplinary studies using a long-term cultural perspective are rare. This paper aims to make a contribution in that field by exploring the long-term development of raised bogs in the Netherlands, with a main focus on man-land relations. Central are the peatlands in the Pleistocene areas of the country that — with regard to peat inception, development, human use and exploitation — show patterns that are probably similar to those in larger parts of the North-west European Plain. Three spatial research levels are used. The first level offers a concise summary of the current knowledge level on bog development in the Netherlands and adjacent areas. The second level centres on the eastern Dutch region of Twente, and especially attempts to reconstruct the former maximum peat cover. In this region, as in most other parts of the Netherlands, hardly any peat remnants have survived to the present day. The third level consists of two detailed case-studies of smaller areas in Twente. This study shows that raised bogs, soon after they started developing, became intrinsic parts of settlement territories and were used in spatially and temporally varying ways. The assessment and integration of different types of data allows a more detailed and reliable reconstruction and analysis of long-term habitation patterns and man-land relations. The interdisciplinary approach also demonstrates which research deficits exist, allows new interdisciplinary questions to be asked and shows which methods may be applied in future studies.
Abstract of the proposed session 'The archaeology of European peatlands from an interdisciplinary perspective: how to move forward?' for the EAA 2017 Conference (August 30 - September 3, Maastricht, The Netherlands).