I am currently undertaking a two-year research project titled Mobility and management of cattle in Iron Age and Roman Netherlands. This research project aims to study long-term developments in cattle management and mobility in the Netherlands, from the Iron Age to the Roman period (750 BC – AD 450). Cattle have always played a crucial role in this region, in supporting arable farming by traction and manure, in providing food in the form of meat and dairy products, and in providing raw materials for clothing and artefacts. I am hoping to improve our understanding of cattle management by an integrated study of traditional and newer methods of research.
The main objectives of the research project are:
• to investigate movements of cattle in the Iron Age, indicating exchange and/or raiding;
• to investigate movements of cattle in the Roman period, indicating import and/or local
• to investigate whether the size increase of cattle in the Roman period was a direct result of
the incorporation in the Empire, or whether it should be seen as a continuation of
developments that started in the Iron Age;
• to provide a comprehensive view of cattle management in the Iron Age and Roman period.
The objectives will be achieved through the applied methodology, which consists of three lines. First, through Strontium isotope analysis, the local or non-local origin of cattle can be
established. Second, biometrical analysis will be used to investigate developments in shape and size over time. And third, mortality profiles offer insight into how cattle were exploited.
Other Research Projects
The settlements of mobile pastoralists. The microregional investigation of a Late Bronze Age cultural landscape in the south of the Republic of Moldova
This research project investigates so-called Aschehügel (ash mounds), which do not represent graves but rather settlement remains. While a previous project focused on ash
mounds in the north of the Republic of Moldova, this project focuses on those in the south. The project is aimed at a better understanding of the site type and the Late Bronze Age
people who inhabited these sites. Since the current theory is that the inhabitants were mobile pastoralists, zooarchaeology can make an important contribution. Analysis of the animal bones can reveal what animals were kept and what products they were exploited for. In addition, they may provide information about the time of year that the settlement was used. In 2017, the first excavation campaign took place in the site of Taraclia Gaidabul. The animal bones collected during this excavation were analysed and the initial results are promising. The next campaign will take place in 2018. This project is funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and directed by Professor Elke Kaiser (FU Berlin) and Dr habil. Eugen Sava (National Museum Chisinau). More information about the project can be found here:
The role of animals in Neolithic circular enclosures
The research project „Gebautes Wissen“ (2012-2018) is concerned with the building history, relation to the landscape and function of Middle Neolithic circular enclosures in northern
Bavaria and central Germany. The project is led by Professor Wolfram Schier (FU Berlin) and funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). As a latecomer to the project,
my role is to identify the animal bones from the last fieldwork campaigns in the site of Quedlinburg and to analyse the data from this site and a second enclosure, Hopferstadt,
building on the work of colleagues who have previously worked on these assemblages.
The Late Iron Age sanctuary of Plakari, Greece
The site of Plakari is located near Karystos in southern Euboia. A sanctuary was located here that is one of the earliest in the Iron Age Aegean. In 2010, VU University Amsterdam
and the 11th Ephorate for Euboia started a multidisciplinary archaeological research project focusing on this site. Important evidence for early cult activities was found during the first two seasons of excavation: a bothros containing votive offerings, specific types of pottery used for (ritualized) eating and drinking, and large quantities of animal bones. The animal bones were identified and analysed in 2012 and 2015. Not only do they provide important information about cult practices and the character of the cult, but also about animal husbandry and the rural economy of Early Iron Age Karystos. The first results give new insight into the customs of animal sacrifice and ritualized consumption of meat. The ultimate aim is to reconstruct the role of animals in cult activities at the Plakari sanctuary. A preliminary report leading to a first published article (Groot 2014) was written during a stay at the British School at Athens, made possible by a Senior Visiting Fellowship from the Fitch Laboratory. The project is directed by Professor Jan Paul Crielaard. More information about the Plakari project can be found here: http://www2.let.vu.nl/plakariproject.
Sustaining the Empire: farming and food supply in two Roman frontier regions (2013-2015)
The Roman conquest of northern Europe had a major impact on local agricultural economies. Not only did the soldiers stationed in the army camps along the frontier and in
the legionary camps away from the border need to be supplied with food and other essentials, but the start of urbanisation placed further pressure on the local economy. The
presence of imported goods in rural sites indicates that local farmers not only managed to produce an agricultural surplus, but also that they were integrated in trade networks.
Some regions, such as the lowland of Switzerland, saw the development of villas: agricultural businesses that produced mainly crops at a large scale. In other regions, such as the limes zone of the Netherlands, villas were rare, and rural settlements consisted mainly of small farms. The different ways in which such different regions managed to produce and supply enough food for the non-agrarian population is still not completely understood. This project aimed to further the understanding of food production in and supply to Roman frontier regions, by analysing local farming and the supply of exotic foodstuffs. This was achieved by bringing together archaeozoological and archaeobotanical data from the Dutch limes zone, and comparing these data with archaeozoological and archaeobotanical data from Switzerland. The choice for these two regions is based on both scientific arguments (both frontier regions, but with a different development and environment) and pragmatic arguments (well- researched archaeologically, good preservation of animal bones and plant remains). This project was supported by a Marie Curie Fellowship from the Gerda Henkel Foundation and carried out at the Institute for Integrative Prehistory and Archaeological Science, University of Basel (IPNA).
Livestock for sale: the effect of a market economy on rural communities in the Roman frontier zone (2009-2012)
The Roman army and administrative urban centres in northwestern Europe could only function if food supply was adequate. Since staple food was acquired locally, it was vital that
local rural communities were able to adapt their previously self-subsistent agrarian economies to accommodate the new demand for food. How they managed to do so formed
the main topic of this project. Animal husbandry in the northern frontier zone of the Roman Empire - the Lower Rhine area – is at the heart of this case study. This area is relatively well-known archaeologically, and offers the combination of the Roman frontier, urban centres and a rural landscape. Zooarchaeological data from rural settlements in the civitas Batavorum –consumer sites – are analysed in an attempt to identify developments in animal husbandry (species proportions, exploitation and size of animals) caused by market-oriented production. Data from towns and army camps are analysed in order to understand the complex interaction between production and consumption in this region. Comparing data from different rural sites can identify differential production strategies. Analysing animal bones at household level in several settlements has resulted in new insights: not every family farmed the same way, and the role of veterans seems to have played a vital role in developments in animal husbandry. The project has resulted in several papers, and a monograph is currently being prepared. This project was made possible by a Veni Fellowship from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and carried out at VU University Amsterdam.
M. Groot, 2016: Livestock for sale: animal husbandry in a Roman frontier zone. The case study of the civitas Batavorum, Amsterdam (Amsterdam Archaeological Studies 24).
M. Groot, D. Lentjes, J. Zeiler (eds), 2013: Barely surviving or more than enough? The environmental archaeology of subsistence, specialisation and surplus food production, Leiden.
M. Groot, 2010: Handboek Zoöarcheologie, Amsterdam (Materiaal & Methoden 1).
M. Groot, 2008: Animals in ritual and economy in a Roman frontier community. Excavations in Tiel-Passewaaij, Amsterdam (Amsterdam Archaeological Studies 12).
M. Groot, 2017: Developments in animal husbandry and food supply in Roman Germania Inferior, European Journal of Archaeology 20 (3), 451-471.
M. Groot, S. Deschler-Erb, 2017: Carnem et circenses - consumption of animals and their products in Roman urban and military sites in two regions in the northwestern provinces,
Environmental Archaeology 22 (1), 96-112.
M. Groot, 2016: Paleopathologie: gezondheid en welzijn van dieren in het verleden, Argos – Bulletin van het Veterinair Historisch Genootschap 54, 125-131.
M. Groot, S. Deschler-Erb, 2015: Market strategies in the Roman provinces: Different animal husbandry systems explored by a comparative regional approach, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 4, 447-460.
M. Groot, 2014: Burned offerings and sacrificial meals in Geometric and Archaic Karystos. Faunal remains from Plakari (2011-2012), Pharos 20 (2), 447-460.
M. van Haasteren, M. Groot, 2013: The biography of wells: a functional and ritual life history, Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 4 (2).
M. Groot, L.I. Kooistra, 2009: Land use and the agrarian economy in the Roman Dutch River Area, Internet Archaeology 27 (http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue27/5/1.html).
M. Groot, S. Heeren, L. Kooistra, W. Vos, 2009: Surplus production for the market? The agrarian economy in the non-villa landscapes of Germania Inferior, Journal of Roman
Archaeology 22, 231-252.
M. Groot, 2009: Searching for patterns among special animal deposits in the Dutch River Area during the Roman period, Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 1 (2).
M. Groot, 2005: The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) in the Netherlands during the Roman period, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 15, 15-22.
L.I. Kooistra, M. Groot, 2015: The agricultural basis of the Hoogeloon villa and the wider region, in N. Roymans, T. Derks, H. Hiddink (eds), The Roman villa of Hoogeloon and the
archaeology of a marginal region in the Lower Germanic frontier zone, Amsterdam (Amsterdam Archaeological Studies 22), 141-162.
M. Groot, 2014: Changing diets in the Low Countries, in W. Hupperetz, O.E. Kaper, F. Naerebout, M.J. Versluys (eds), Keys to Rome, Amsterdam, 83-86.
M. Groot, D. Lentjes, 2013: Studying subsistence and surplus production, in M. Groot, D. Lentjes, J. Zeiler (eds), Barely surviving or more than enough? The environmental
archaeology of subsistence, specialisation and surplus food production, Leiden, 7-27.
J. Van Dijk, M. Groot, 2013: The Late Iron Age-Roman transformation from subsistence to surplus production in animal husbandry in the Central and Western parts of the Netherlands, in M. Groot, D. Lentjes, J. Zeiler (eds), Barely surviving or more than enough? The environmental archaeology of subsistence, specialisation and surplus food
production, Leiden, 175-200.
M. Groot, 2012: Animal bones as a tool for investigating social and economic change: horse-breeding veterans in the civitas Batavorum, in I. Schrufer-Kolb (ed.), More than Just
Numbers? The role of science in Roman archaeology, Portsmouth, Rhode Island (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 91), 71-92.
M. Groot, 2012: Dealing with deposits in the Dutch River Area: animals in settlement rituals in the Roman period, in A. Pluskowski (ed.), The ritual killing and burial of animals:
European perspectives, Oxford, 137-151.
M. Groot, 2011: Household specialisation in horse breeding: the role of returning veterans in the Batavian river area, in R. Wiegels, G.A. Lehmann, G. Moosbauer (eds): Fines imperii -imperium sine fine? Römische Okkupations- und Grenzpolitik im frühen Prinzipat, Rahden/Westfahlen, 203-218.
M. Groot, A. Ervynck, F. Pigière, 2010: Vagrant vultures: archaeological evidence for the cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) in the Low Countries, in W. Prummel, J.T. Zeiler,
D. Brinkhuizen (eds), Birds in Archaeology. Proceedings of the 6th Meeting of the ICAZ Bird Working Group in Groningen (23.8-27.8.2008), Groningen (Groningen Archaeological
Studies 10), 241-253. Vossen, I., M. Groot, 2009: Barley and Horses: Surplus and Demand in the civitas Batavorum, in M. Driessen, S. Heeren, J. Hendriks, F. Kemmers and R. Visser (eds), TRAC 2008. Proceedings of the 18th annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference held at Amsterdam 4-6 April, 2008, Oxford, 89-104.
M. Groot, 2008: Surplus production of animal products for the Roman army in a rural settlement in the Dutch River Area, in S. Stallibrass/R. Thomas (eds), Feeding the Roman
Army: the Archaeology of Production and Supply in the North-West Roman provinces, Oxford, 83-98.
M. Groot, 2008: Understanding past human-animal relationships through the analysis of fractures: a case study from a Roman site in the Netherlands, in Z. Miklikova, R. Thomas
(eds), Current research in animal palaeopathology: Proceedings of the Second ICAZ Animal Palaeopathology Working Group Conference, Oxford (BAR International Series 1844), 40-50.
M. Groot, 2005: Palaeopathological evidence for draught cattle on a Roman site in the Netherlands, in J. Davies, M. Fabiš, I. Mainland, M. Richards, R. Thomas, Diet and health
in past animal populations: current research and future directions, Oxford, 52-57.