Putting Life into Late Neolithic Houses

Investigating domestic craft and subsistence activities through experiments and material analysis

In the years 2021-2025, Leiden University will be coordinating “Putting Life in Neolithic Houses”. EXARC is one of the partners. The other partners are: BIAX Consult Biological Archaeology & Environmental Reconstruction, Stichting LAB (Leids Archeospecialistisch Bureau), Woud en Beek, York University, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, Masamuda, Studio Kelvin Wilson, Het Stenen Tijdperk, and TGVideo. This project is funded by the Dutch Research Council NWO. 

At Masamuda, a houseplan from the Neolithic Vlaardingen culture was reconstructed with help of Leiden University. Having constructed this house, how should we subsequently bring this to life? We know surprisingly little about the role of material culture and the activities tools and objects were involved in. In this project we will use a combination of experimental archaeology, microwear and residue analysis to enrich our knowledge about daily life in the Vlaardingen period. This project intends to perform a detailed biographical analysis of objects from a cross-craft perspective: can we detect toolkits composed of different objects made of different materials, involved in one specific activity? 

In a series of workshops, volunteers of Masamuda will carry out various experiments related to daily life in the Vlaardingen period. In doing so, they will be actively involved in the furnishing of the house, and in the tasks that will be carried out in and around the house and in the surrounding landscape. 

This project is funded by the Dutch Research Council NWO (AIB.19.020).


Many reconstructions in archaeological open-air museums look quite similar. However, providing more detailed stories in displays, text, and images, is essential. We will therefore involve two illustrators to translate the scientific findings into evocative images. The juxtaposition of two different reconstructions of the same data will be published with EXARC asking for comments, suggestions, and critique. These will subsequently be incorporated in new experiments and a new look at our scientific observations. It is this constant dialogue between scientific analysis, experimentation, evocative images, and the public, that forms the innovative core of this project and that will hopefully push the limits of our imagination.


Investigating domestic craft and subsistence activities through experiments and material analysis

Public participation in archaeological projects is becoming ever more essential and experimental archaeology is an excellent way of reaching out: doing things together and exploring the various technological choices of the past creates a scientific community in which both scientists and the general public can benefit. This approach has been fundamental to the reconstruction of a houseplan from the Neolithic Vlaardingen culture in the Vlaardingen-Broekpolder, an initiative of the Federatie Broekpolder (see video). This reconstruction was based on a houseplan from Haamstede-Brabers and forms part of the open-air museum of Masamuda (www.masamuda.nl). The Vlaardingen culture (VLC) refers to Neolithic sites which are for the most part located in the Rhine/Meuse delta, have thick-walled, quartz-tempered pottery with S-shaped profiles. The sites are characterized by a diversity in location, subsistence base and choice of flint... Read more ↓


Making a dugout canoe - big project for 2021, to be made by the Masamuda boat builders

The major project for 2021 is the making of a dugout canoe. At the end of May a huge 6,5 meter long oak trunk was delivered at the Vlaardingen house. Over the summer volunteers of the Masamuda center will turn this trunk into a canoe with which we will explore the waters around Vlaardingen. A literature search by Caroline Vermeeren and Kirsti Hänninen showed that Quercus was regularly used in the Neolithic for making canoes. More importantly, a canoe fragment of oak had been found at the Hazendonk, a site with Vlaardingen levels. Diederik Pomstra made several polished flint axes of the Buren type, which were documented microscopically before being put to use. This way we would be able to follow the development of the wear traces on such a newly made axe.

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Scraping Seal Skins with Mineral Additives

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Neolithic scrapers from the Vlaardingen Culture (3400-2500 BC) display a variety of hide-working traces, amongst which traces interpreted as being the result of contact with dry hide. It has been suggested that, potentially, some of these implements were used to scrape fatty hides with mineral additives. Therefore, a series of experiments...