Original Article

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 243-255

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

An objective method based on assemblages of subfossil plant macro-remains to reconstruct past natural vegetation: a case study at Swifterbant, The Netherlands

  • Mans SchepersAffiliated withGroningen Institute of Archaeology, University of Groningen Email author 
  • , J. F. ScheepensAffiliated withSection of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku
  • , René T. J. CappersAffiliated withGroningen Institute of Archaeology, University of Groningen
  • , Onno F. R. van TongerenAffiliated withData-Analyse Ecologie
  • , Daan C. M. RaemaekersAffiliated withGroningen Institute of Archaeology, University of Groningen
  • , Renée M. BekkerAffiliated withCommunity and Conservation Ecology Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen


We present a new method of identifying past plant communities based on a palaeobotanical dataset. The dataset used as a case study consists of plant macro-remains retrieved from the Neolithic settlement Swifterbant S4, The Netherlands. Taxa were grouped based on their present-day concurrence values. Subsequently, phytosociological analysis was performed on the subfossil taxon groups using the software package PALAEOASSOCIA, adjusted for this type of research. Results show that syntaxonomic knowledge on the concurrence of plant species can be used to reconstruct parts of the past vegetation. We further discuss the theory behind the reconstruction of syntaxa, with special emphasis on actualism.


Actualism ASSOCIA Phytosociology Plant macro-remains TURBOVEG Vegetation reconstruction