Reconstructing human-centered interaction networks of the Swifterbant culture in the Dutch wetlands: An example from the Archaeoecology Project

Philip Verhagen*, Stefani A. Crabtree, Hans Peeters, Daan Raemaekers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In archaeology, palaeo-ecological studies are frequently used to support archaeological investigations, but linking and synthesizing datasets and concepts from ecology, ethnography, earth sciences, and archaeology has historically been rare. While advances in computational approaches and standards of data collection have enabled more collaborative approaches to understanding the past, these endeavors are only now beginning to pick up pace. Here, we propose a method to collect data of these assorted types, synthesize ecological and archaeological understanding, and move beyond subsistence-focused studies to those that incorporate multifaceted economies. We advocate for the use of ‘human-centered interaction networks’ as a tool to synthesize and better understand the role of culture, ecology, and environment in the long-term evolution of socio-ecological systems. We advance the study of human-centered interaction networks by presenting an archaeoecological (archaeological-ecological) perspective on the Neolithic transition of the Swifterbant culture in the northwestern Netherlands (approximately 4700–4000 BCE). We employed network science to better understand the relationships of animal and plant species to the uses that people made of them. The analysis of the Swifterbant system reveals a highly connected set of interactions among people, plants, and animals, as could be expected on the basis of the hypothesis of an ‘extended broad-spectrum economy’. Importantly, this broad spectrum extends beyond the subsistence sphere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4860
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number11
Early online date25 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was supported by a grant from the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis (CfAS), and was developed with support from the Santa Fe Institute and the Quadra Centre for Coastal Dialogue and the Tula Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Archaeoecology
  • Human-centered interaction networks
  • Network analysis
  • Swifterbant culture


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