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This research group focuses on the spatial and ecological aspects of archaeology, including both cultural and natural environments, and the interaction between past and present in cultural landscapes.

Description of the research group

The research group is part of continuing research at the Amsterdam Archaeological Centre (ACASA) and closely related to the groups on Archaeology and material culture. This particular research group focuses on the spatial and ecological aspects of archaeology, including both cultural and natural environments, and the interaction between past and present in cultural landscapes. Since the 1970s and 1980s, archaeology has developed from a discipline strongly focused on cultural objects to a more interdisciplinary field of research in which spatial and environmental aspects (in their widest sense) play important roles. This has stimulated research on ‘eco-facts’, human use of organic and inorganic raw materials and the technologies involved, and the development of new fieldwork methods and approaches, particularly field survey. Developments in ICT, especially of GIS software, remote sensing and automated mapping and positioning have further stimulated spatial approaches in archaeology. Over the last decade, the AAC, which already had a strong tradition in ecological archaeology, has also developed several lines of research involving cultural landscapes, both urban and rural ones.

An important theme in this research is human impact on the landscape in diachronic perspective, viz. the ‘biography’ of the landscape. This involves tracing, mapping, in some cases excavating and explaining the complex historical layering of landscapes and foci of human activity they contain – or looking at the human activity that formed complete landscapes. Of particular importance is the ways in which people through the ages have created meaning in the landscape through interactions of natural, material and immaterial landscape elements. Development and use of research methods and ICT infrastructure (online and offline), both in research and in management and education play crucial roles in this field, just as methods of scientific analysis of artifacts, eco-facts and remains of living beings which involve environmental aspects – from isotope analysis of bones to petrography of ceramics or reconstructions of production and use processes of objects. Likewise, research of landscapes often involves remote sensing, geo-archaeology and cultural anthropology.

A particular aim of this research group is to stimulate approaches which combine and integrate various methods of analysis, and relate them to the archaeology of the landscape more generally, but also to the archaeological research focusing on material culture and aspects of heritage, as covered by other research groups. The work in this research group will focus on landscapes and societies in the Mediterranean and north-western Europe. Interdisciplinary approaches with links to planning, history, social sciences and of course natural sciences and ICT are a self-evident part of the research of this group. In particular, four fields will be central to the group: 

  • Human and animal bones in their natural and cultural environments 
  •  Production of pottery from raw materials to firing (this has some overlap with the Biographies of pottery section in the Material Culture research group) 
  • The biography of landscapes (this has some overlap with the Heritage and contemporary society research group) 
  • Theory, methods and technologies in landscape archaeology 

Envisaged results

  • Development of research methods and tools, including ICT-applications, related to field work and analysis of materials 
  • Maintaining a survey archaeology website (in cooperation with national and international partners) 
  • Publications in peer reviewed journals 
  • Fieldwork publications 
  • Lecturing series at the Amsterdam Archaeology Centre 
  • Applications for individual PhD research and small projects involving education, research and/or documentation or data-processing 
  • Programmatic research application at NWO (VENI, VIDI and Vrije Competitie) and at EU or other international funds 

Societal relevance

Archaeological remains play a substantial role in the identity of people on a local, national and international level, and the spatial aspect plays a crucial part in this, both directly, regarding the visibility of the past, and indirectly, because most research is organized in a spatial framework and archaeological objects exist in environmental contexts, from their production till their retrieval (and beyond). The results of the archaeological research from this group will be disseminated not only in academic publications, but also to a wider audience through popular books and journals, interactive websites and through exhibitions in museums. 

Research Group Type: Network group 
Duration: 2021-2025 

Group Coordinator

Prof. dr. V.V. (Vladimir) Stissi

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Archeologie

Dr. E. (Liesbeth) Smits

Faculty of Humanities

Members of the research group 

Anne Versloot 
drs. D.J. Biesiekirska 
dr. C. Cavallo 
J. Eerbeek MA 
prof.dr. J. Eidem 
prof.dr. M. Gnade 
dr. S. Heeren 
dr. J.R. Hilditch 
drs. M. Hogervorst 
dr. A.M.J.H. Huijbers 
dr. A. Kotsonas 
drs. C. Beestman - Kruijshaar 
dr. H. van Londen 
dr. P.S. Lulof 
M. Merlino MA 
dr. C.W. Neeft 
dr. R.G.A.M. Panhuijsen 
drs. N. Pieters 
dr. W.D.J. v.d. Put 
dr. E. Smits 
prof.dr. V.V. Stissi 
dr. L.L. Therkorn 
dr. A.A.A. Verhoeven 
dr. G.J.M. van Wijngaarden 
S. Ximeri MSc 
J. Waagen  

External members 

  • S. Rückl 
  • The research group will cooperate closely with colleagues from VU University at the Faculty of humanities and the faculty of Earth sciences.