The widespread occurrence of celtic Field Systems in the central part of the Netherlands

M.J. Kooistra, G.J. Maas

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The detailed elevation model based on airborne laser altimetry (AHN) proved to be a reliable tool to detect well-developed Celtic field systems, characteristic arable plots of the Iron Age. They were detected in the central part of the Netherlands, where only a limited number of Celtic field systems have been recognized in the past. Most of these previously detected systems were identified in the northern part of the Netherlands or in the southern part, but not in this zone. About 1200 ha of well-developed systems could be identified by AHN in the central part of the Netherlands, of which only 136 ha were registered as an archaeological monument. Another 335 ha of archaeologically identified Celtic field systems were not accepted or recognized by AHN, because they were morphologically less well-developed. Most of the around 1050 ha new discoveries occur in rough vegetations and forested areas, and can hardly be identified with previously used geodetic methods and aerial photography. Less well-developed or preserved systems were even more extensive and remnants were traced as fossil arable layers below plaggen soils or on lower slopes incorporated in mediaeval reclamations. The newly identified Celtic field systems, therefore, can be considered as remnants of much larger areas once covered with these arable plots. In the central part of the Netherlands, the estimated area once covered was at least around 4500 ha, more than enough to supply 10,000 people with cereals. Well-developed Celtic field systems started to develop in the late Iron Age with formation intensifying during the early Roman Period. The central part of the Netherlands is situated just north of the river Rhine, the former boundary of the Roman Empire, the Limes. The newly discovered extent of Celtic field systems will have influenced the interaction between different cultures on the border of the Roman Empire in the early Roman Period, about which very little is known. This perspective underscores the need for an integrated conservation policy and in-depth research through excavations in the near future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2318-2328
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Airborne laser altimetry (AHN)
  • Archaeological Monument Map (AMK)
  • Celtic field systems
  • Central Netherlands
  • Food production
  • Geomorphology
  • Limes
  • Micromorphology
  • Soils


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