Phytolith aided paleoenvironmental studies from the Dutch Neolithic

Gergo Persaits, Sándor Gulyás, Katalin Náfrádi, Pál Sümegi, Csaba Szalontai

Research output: Article

2 Citations (Scopus)


There is increasing evidence for crop cultivation at sites of the Neolithic Swifterbant culture from ca. 4300 B.C. onwards. Presence of cereal fields at the Swifterbant S2, S3 and S4 sites has been corroborated from micro morphological studies of soil samples. Swifterbant sites with evidence for cultivated plants are still scarce though and only emerging, and have produced very low numbers of charred cereals only. The major aim of our work was to elucidate the environmental background of the Dutch Neolithic site Swifterbant S4 based on the investigation of phytolith remains retrieved from soil samples. In addition to find evidence for crop cultivation independently from other studies. Samples were taken at 1 cm intervals vertically from the soil section at the central profile of site S4. Additional samples were taken from pocket-like structures and adjacent horizons above and below. Pig coprolites yielded an astonishing phytolith assemblage which was compared to that of the soil samples. A pig tooth also yielded evaluable material via detailed investigation using SEM. The evaluation of phytolith assemblages retrieved from the soil horizons plus those ending up in the droppings of pigs feasting in the area enabled to draw a relatively reliable environmental picture of the area. All these refer to the presence of a Neolithic horticulture (cereal cultivation) under balanced micro-climatic conditions as a result of the vicinity of the nearby floodplain. These findings corroborate those of previous soil micro-morphological studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)732-741
Number of pages10
JournalOpen Geosciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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