The substratum of the New Land

Concepts and instruments for sustainable management and presentation of a super archive for climate change, landscape formation and human habitation.

Don van den Biggelaar officially started as a PhD candidate on 1 January 2011 with the subproject The substratum of the New Land. Both the professional world (historians, geographers and archaeologists) and policy makers and administrators are not sufficiently aware that the substratum of Flevoland is a ‘super archive’ for climate change, landscape development and human habitation during the past 170,000 years.

Because Flevoland was covered by water for almost a millennium (until the reclamation in the 20th century), the information on landscape development and human habitation has been preserved exceptionally well. There is also, partly as a result of the New Monument Law, a growing number of archaeological and geological reports, which contain a wealth of data and offer good perspectives for synthesizing research on the substratum of the polders, but are all but inaccessible to the public.

Subproject 3 of Biography of the New Land has 4 objectives. It aims to demonstrate that:

  • the substratum of Flevoland is a large archive of landscape development over a period of 170,000 years;
  • a succession of well-preserved ‘relict landscapes’ can be found in this archive over large areas, containing valuable information about landscape development, hominin habitation and land use in the region;
  • this archive is relatively very well preserved because of the sedimentary environment and the depth below ground level;
  • insight into the geological composition of the subsurface is necessary to place known archaeological sites in the context of the landscape.

The objectives of this research are divided into two main themes:

  1. Landscape reconstructions of the past 170,000 years.
  2. The presence or absence of human habitation in a changing landscape. These traces could possibly be up to 220,000 years old.

Flevoland 3D four layers
Overview of the four selected periods of investigation studied in this PhD research. For each of these periods the palaeogeographical context is given, together with the age. (Van den Biggelaar, in prep.)
To attain the goals of this research four periods of investigation are selected that fall within the last 220,000 years. For each investigated period a study area in the central Netherlands is selected (predominantly focusing on Flevoland). The areas and time periods that are selected contain important landscape transformations and (possible) traces of hominin presence.

From old to new, the four periods of investigation are as follows: Middle to Late Saalian; Younger Dryas; Mid-Holocene; Late Holocene.
Together, these periods cover the start of the biography of Flevoland (Middle to Late Saalian) up to AD 1942 (8 BP), the year that the reclamation of the first polder (Noordoostpolder, northern part of Flevoland) was completed.

Middle to Late Saalian (220 – 170 ka)
ka = thousands of years before AD 1950 (BP)
In the first period of investigation an overview is given of the landscape setting of the central Netherlands during the Middle to Late Saalian. Furthermore, an assessment is made of whether the gravel fraction of the Urk Formation along the line Rhenen – Almere (central Netherlands) is large enough for the production of artefacts (Van den Biggelaar et al., in review).

Younger Dryas (12.9 – 11.7 ka)
For the second period of investigation an inductive predictive modelling approach is used to select areas in southern Flevoland (central Netherlands) which are most likely to contain archaeological remains dating to the Younger Dryas (Van den Biggelaar et al., accepted).

Mid-Holocene (6000 – 5400 BP)
For the third period of investigation a geoarchaeological perspective on the adoption of crop cultivation in wetland areas is presented. To better understand the reason for this adoption in the Eem and IJssel/ Vecht valleys (Flevoland), the Mid-Holocene inundation history and soil condition of these valleys were investigated (Van den Biggelaar et al., 2015).

Late Holocene (1200 – 8 BP)
In the fourth period of investigation the clay sequence of Schokland was studied to reconstruct the island’s flooding history during the last 1200 years (Van den Biggelaar et al., 2014). In addition, OSL dates are provided for the sandy laminae of late Holocene storm surges in the clay deposit on the former island Schokland. These dates improve the age model of the island’s flooding history during the last 1200 years (Van den Biggelaar et al., in prep.).

Project details

Don van den Biggelaar MA MSc

Prof. Dr. Henk Kars

Dr. Sjoerd Kluiving

Prof. Dr. Jan Kolen


Publications 2015

  • Van den Biggelaar, D.F.A.M., Wallinga, J. & Versendaal, A.J., Van Balen, R.T., Kasse, C., Troelstra, S. & Kluiving, S.J., in preparation. Optical dating of late Holocene storm surges from Schokland (Noordoostpolder, the Netherlands) (working title).
  • Van den Biggelaar, D.F.A.M., Van Balen, R.T., Kluiving, S.J., Verpoorte, A. & Alink, G., in review. Depositional context of the Early Middle Palaeolithic secondary context assemblages from the central Netherlands, submitted to Journal of Quaternary Science.
  • Van den Biggelaar, D.F.A.M., Kluiving, S.J., Kolen, J. & Kasse, C., accepted. Predictive modelling of Younger Dryas archaeological remains in southern Flevoland (central Netherlands). Proceedings of Landscape Archaeology Conference 2014.
  • Van den Biggelaar, D.F.A.M. & Kluiving, S.J., in press. A niche construction approach on the central Netherlands covering the last 220,000 years. Water History.
  • Van den Biggelaar, D.F.A.M., Kluiving, S.J., Bohncke, S.J.P., Van Balen, R.T., Kasse, C., Prins, M.A. & Kolen, J., 2015. Landscape potential for the adoption of crop cultivation: Role of local soil properties and groundwater table rise during 6000-5400 BP in Flevoland (central Netherlands). Quaternary International 367: 77-95.

Publications 2014

  • Van den Biggelaar, D.F.A.M., Kluiving, S.J., Van Balen, R.T., Kasse, C., Troelstra, S.R. & Prins, M.A., 2014. Storms in a lagoon: Flooding history during the last 1200 years derived from geological and historical archives of Schokland (Noordoostpolder, the Netherlands). Netherlands Journal of Geosciences 93 (4): 175-196.

Publications 2012

  • Van den Biggelaar, D.F.A.M. & Pieters, H.D., 2012. Boringen op Schokland. Van de strijd tegen het water naar de strijd tegen de inklinking? In Het spoor terug. Cultuurhistorisch Jaarboek voor Flevoland 2012: 90-99.

Publications 2010

  • Van den Biggelaar, D.F.A.M., 2010. Historical landscape reconstruction of Schokland (Noordoostpolder, the Netherlands): a combined archaeological, geological and historical geographical approach. In IGBA-rapport 2010-12, VU University, Amsterdam, p. 119.

Publications 2009

  • Van den Biggelaar, D.F.A.M., 2009. A reconstruction of an Archaic Age Lithic Assemblage on Saba, Dutch West Indies. In: Dekker, M., Horn Loper, J., Kootker, L.M. (eds): SOJA Bundel 2008. Stichting Onderzoek Jonge Archeologen (Amsterdam): 1-11.