dr. M. (Maaike) Groot

  • Telephone:+31 20 59 86507
  • Room nr:14a-00
  • E-mail:m.groot@vu.nl
  • Unit:faculteit der letteren (oudheid)
  • Position:Researcher Archaeology

Office hours: by appointment only


Introduction in Environmental Archaeology (in Dutch)


Post-doctoral research

Sustaining the Empire: farming and food supply in two Roman frontier regions

From 2013 to 2015, I will be working at the University of Basel as a Marie Curie Fellow. The research project I will be carrying out builds on my Veni project. The project focuses on differences and similarities in the developments in livestock farming and food production for the military and urban markets. 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 aims 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 will be 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). During my time in Basel, I will be affiliated to VU University as a guest researcher.


Livestock for sale: the effect of a market economy on rural communities in the Roman frontier zone

In January 2009, I started my post-doctoral project, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (€208,000 Veni grant for early post-doctoral researchers - part of the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme). This project focuses on animal husbandry in the northern frontier zone of the Roman Empire: the Lower Rhine area. This area is relatively well-known archaeologically, and offers the combination of the Roman frontier, urban centres and a rural landscape: consumers and producers. Research objectives are:

  • identify market-driven changes in animal husbandry strategies in rural communities. What production strategies were needed to accomplish surplus production?
  • establish the nature and extent of surplus production of animal products for the Roman market, by integrating animal bone data with other archaeological data.
  • identify differential production strategies of animal products by different rural communities, and by different people within those communities.

The research objectives are achieved through the study of animal bones from archaeological sites, by analysing changes in species ratios, mortality profiles and skeletal element distribution. I am currently analysing zooarchaeological data collected from ca. 60 sites in the Dutch River Area, and will use the outcome to understand the complex interaction between producer and consumer in the Roman frontier zone. One part of the project consists of producing a synthesis of the available data, in order to identify broad patterns of similarity. On the other hand, comparing data from different rural sites will allow the identification of differential production strategies. This is further investigated by looking into detail at several sites that have large animal bone assemblages, and by analysing these assemblages at household level. This part of the project has already revealed the existence of differential animal husbandry strategies within settlements. The output of the project consists of several papers in international journals and books, as well as a monograph on animal husbandry in the Roman Dutch River Area.


PhD research: Animals in ritual and economy in a Roman frontier community

My PhD research (2003-2007) focused on animal bones from a rural settlement and cemetery dating to the Roman period. Two different aspects were investigated. First, I looked for evidence that small rural settlements produced animal products for the Roman market. By quantifying bone fragments per species and analysing slaughter ages of livestock, and more importantly by identifying changes over time, I was able to conclude that while no specialised production of beef existed, specialised wool production did occur. I also confirmed the hypothesis of horse breeding in rural settlements, and offered ideas on how this tied in with the specific possibilities of the river landscape. The second aspect that was discussed was the use of animals in both funerary and settlement ritual. While the use of pig, chicken and sheep in funerary ritual was already well-known, this research proved for the first time that horse also played a role in the cemetery. Domestic animals were also used in various settlement rituals, as evidenced by so-called special deposits of skulls, articulated limbs, complete skeletons or bone concentrations. The location of the special animal deposits suggests that many of the rituals were related to the protection of households and the demarcation of farmyard boundaries. This thesis forms the first systematic analysis of special animal deposits in a Roman rural settlement. 



  • Groot, M., 2010: Handboek Zoöarcheologie, Amsterdam (Materiaal & Methoden 1).
  • Groot, M., 2008: Animals in ritual and economy in a Roman frontier community. Excavations in Tiel-Passewaaij, Amsterdam (Amsterdam Archaeological Studies 12.

Edited volumes

Groot, M./D. Lentjes/ J. Zeiler (eds), 2013: Barely surviving or more than enough? The environmental archaeology of subsistence, specialisation and surplus food production, Leiden: Sidestone. 

Publications in international journals and books

  • Groot, M./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: Sidestone, 7-27.
  • Dijk, J. van/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: Sidestone, 175-200.
  • Haasteren, M. van/M. Groot, 2013: The biography of wells: a functional and ritual life history, Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 4 (2).
  • Groot, M., 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.
  • Groot, M., 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.
  • Groot, M., 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/Westf.  (Osnabrücker Forschungen zu Altertum und Antikerezeption Bd. 14), 203-218.
  • Groot, M./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.
  • Groot, M./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).
  • Groot, M./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.
  • 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.
  • Groot, M., 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).
  • Groot, M., 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.
  • Groot, M., 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.
  • Groot, M., 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.
  • Groot, M., 2005: The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) in the Netherlands during the Roman period, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 15, 15-22.

Publications in archaeological site reports

During my work in commercial archaeology, I have contributed more than 50 chapters on zooarchaeology to archaeological site reports. These publications deal with assemblages varying from a handful of fragments to over 18,000 fragments. Various time periods are represented, from the Bronze Age to the 20th century. A full list of these publications can be found on www.acvu-hbs.nl.





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