Regional variation in the use of early pottery in Northwest Europe


This research project examines the use of pottery dating to the Late Mesolithic Swifterbant culture from an inter-site, regional, and inter-regional perspective.

Sample preparation at the University of York in 2016 (Özge Demirci).

The Swifterbant culture is a unique hunter-gatherer-fisher society with pottery. Dating from ca. 5000 BCE, it was distributed throughout northwest Europe, from Belgium to northern Germany. The culture is extremely interesting due to the introduction of domesticated plants and animals that takes place gradually throughout its existence. This 'transition' differs markedly compared with the majority of Neolithic transitions elsewhere in Europe.

The introduction of pottery into hunter-gatherer communities is traditionally explained by ecological change and the need for adaptation to develop new food processing strategies. Recent studies on the use of ceramics from hunter-gatherer cultures, however, strongly suggest variance with the Swifterbant culture demonstrating a continuation of hunter-gatherer lifeways alongside a gradual shift towards agriculture, To illustrate this, numerous ceramics from the Swifterbant sites of S2, S3 and S4 as well as Brandwijk, Hazendonk and Hardinxveld located in the Rhine-Meuse Delta region, and Hüde I from Lower Saxony have been selected for organic residue analysis. By examining the components that have been absorbed into the pottery, it is possible to explore pottery function, variation, and diet in the past. Having gained access to numerous assemblages, this will be the first large-scale study of Swifterbant pottery.

A sampled sherd from the site of Brandwijk (Özge Demirci).


This project is part of a Marie Sklodowska-Curie European Joint Doctoral Training Program, funded by the European Union’s EU Framework program for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 under the Grant Agreement No 676154. It is a collaboration between the University of Groningen, Netherlands and the University of York, UK. It is being undertaken by Özge Demirci under the supervision of Daan Raemaerkers and Oliver Craig.