The colonization of the salt marshes of Friesland and Groningen: The possibility of a transhumant prelude


  • A.L. van Gijn
  • H.T. Waterbolk


An inventory of anthropogenic sand-drift phenomena from the late prehistoric and early historic period on the Drenthe plateau (Northern Netherlands) casted doubt on the idea that these drifts had caused a 'crisis' situation on the plateau, inducing large-scale emigration of the people to the salt marshes. It is argued that, instead, the combined effect of sand-drifts, peat formation and soil exhaustion during the Early Iron Age diminished the economic potential of the area with its steadily increasing population. Simultaneously, the salt marshes became available for exploitation and it is suggested that the inhabitants of the plateau gradually incorporated these areas into their economic system, i.e. to graze their herds. The idea is put forward that during the Early Iron Age transhumance was practised between the plateau and the marshes preceding the permanent settlement of the latter during the Middle Iron Age. The lightly built structures at the base of the site of Middelstum-Boerdamsterweg are interpreted as summer encampments.