Mapping the paleolandscape in the Lower Scheldt valley (2011-2015)

The land-sea transition zone at Doelpolder Noord: the impact of sea level rise on the palaeolandscape and human occupation. (Doctoral research: Jeroen Verhegge)

The significance of coastal and estuarine areas for understanding former human life and palaeolandscapes is nowadays recognized internationally. The large preservation potential of these sites, on the transition of the terrestrial and marine environment, makes them ideal to study the evolution of the palaeolandscape through time. Whereas onshore coastal research in Belgium has developed over recent years, the survey of marine and estuarine waters for archaeological purposes is still in its infancy.

In this project we aim to develop a specific interdisciplinary research strategy, combining geophysical (EMI, land seismic, …) and geotechnical (CPT) methods both onshore and offshore, for a structured and cost-effective exploration of buried palaeolandscapes and their archaeological significance across the land-sea transition zone.

The focus-area is a specific section of the Scheldt polders (Doelpolder Noord), know to be rich in well-preserved prehistoric sites and landscapes. By bridging the gap between the present onshore and offshore coast (including the intertidal zone) a detailed and continuous picture can be obtained of the gradual drowning and evolution of the landscape and its effects on the human occupation, from the prehistory to medieval times. This methodology can then be applied to other similar coastal areas in Belgium and abroad.


  • Verhegge J., Missiaen T. & Crombé Ph. (2012). Preliminary results of an archaeological survey of the land-sea transition at Doelpolder Noord (prov. Of Antwerp, B.). Notae Praehistoricae 32: 165-174.
  • Verhegge J. , Van Strydonck M., Missiaen T. & Crombé Ph. (2014). Chronology of Wetland Hydrological Dynamics and the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition along the Lower Scheldt: A Bayesian Approach. Radiocarbon 56(2): 883–898.
  • Crombé Ph. & Verhegge, J. (2015). In search of sealed Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites using core sampling: the impact of grid size, meshes and auger diameter on the discovery probability. Journal of Archaeological Science 53: 445-458.
  • Missaen T.,Verhegge J., Heirman K. & Crombé Ph. (2015). Potential of Cone Penetrating Testing for mapping deeply buried palaeolandscapes in the context of archaeological surveys in polder areas. Journal of Archaeological Science 55: 174-187.
  • Crombé Ph., Verhegge J., Deforce K., Meylemans E. & Robinson E. (2015). Wetland landscape dynamics, Swifterbant land use systems, and the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in the southern North Sea basin. Quaternary International 378: 119-133.
  • Verhegge J., Missiaen T. & Crombé Ph. (in press). Exploring integrated geophysics and geotechnics as a palaeolandscape reconstruction tool: archaeological prospection of (prehistoric) sites buried deeply below the Scheldt polders (NW Belgium). Archaeological Prospection.


Prof Dr Philippe Crombé

Dr Jeroen Verhegge