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Stratigraphic and palaeoecological evidence for late medieval to early modern peat extraction from bogs in Het Gooi (Western Netherlands)

  • Jan Sevink (a1) and Bas van Geel (a1)

In the Monnikenberg estate, built in the mid-19th century in a Pleistocene coversand area to the south of Hilversum (the Netherlands), a depression with a small man-made mire was found to contain the remains of a complex peaty fill of a larger mire. Microfossil study and radiocarbon dating showed that its development started at the beginning of the third millennium BC through water stagnation on a podzol in combination with a high groundwater level, and about two millennia ago the vegetation had progressed from a mesotrophic mire to an ombrotrophic bog. Such origin, development and age are in conformity with the results for some other recently studied mires in the Het Gooi region (Gijzenveen; Van Geel et al., 2016). In the Monnikenberg mire, a discrepancy was found between the radiocarbon age of the upper part of the peaty fill and its clearly medieval or younger age as evidenced by its microfossil content, notably the occurrence of pollen of buckwheat (Fagopyrum) and cornflower (Centaurea cyanus). These species were first introduced in the Netherlands during the late Middle Ages. From further observations in a large pit in the former border zone of the mire, it is concluded that this discrepancy and the unique sedimentary structures, observed in this pit, result from peat exploitation and contemporary reworking of its sandy overburden during the Late Middle Ages or Early Modern Times. This is the first evidence for local early peat exploitation for such mires in Het Gooi. The results underpin the importance of microfossil analyses for proper interpretation of radiocarbon data, when studying mire fills. Additionally, they provide further proof for the development of podzols and ericaceous vegetation prior to and independent of early prehistoric agriculture in the Dutch Pleistocene coversand areas, and for the early (pre-medieval) start of wind erosion and deposition of drift sands.

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