Lynx presence in Roman times in the lower germanic Limes region: The case of Alphen aan den Rijn

Ivo R. Horn*, Aviva Shuman, Irene Chan, Cornelis H. Maliepaard, Lisette M. Kootker, Marcel Eurlings, Roderick Bakker, Barbara Gravendeel, Chiara Cavallo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In 2001 and 2002 an excavation conducted in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn in the Netherlands revealed the vestiges of a Roman fort, Castellum Albaniana, situated along the historical Rhine delta and used for centuries during the Roman occupation (41 AD − 275 CE). Among the animal bones retrieved from the surrounding defensive ditches, remains of Lynx lynx bones were found. Lynx is currently not native to the Netherlands but might have been in historical times and it could have been transported to the Limes region by the Romans or caught in the direct surroundings of the castellum. In the present study, we describe the retrieved lynx bones initially identified based on morphology. We performed ancient DNA amplification, sequencing and alignment to confirm species identification and to determine the haplotype. Previous haplotyping of lynx from various sites reported by other studies has shown that lynx distribution in Europe during Roman times was very different from its current distribution. DNA analysis of cytochrome oxidase I and cytochrome B confirmed the identification of the animal species as Lynx lynx. Sequencing of the mitochondrial control region revealed that the animal carried a DNA haplotype, different from those from North Sea fossil lynx remains, but comparable to a haplotype found in southern France. Analysis of stable isotope of the bone materials, to determine the region where the animal lived, suggests the provenance of the animal from a region which comprises southern and central Europe including a part of the Netherlands.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102835
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Early online date1 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • DNA haplotyping
  • Lynx distribution
  • Roman period
  • Sr isotope analysis


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