Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Research project

The (pre)historic distribution and habitat of the elk in the Netherlands

The project aims to explore Eurasian elk's role in the ecosystems of the past and its relationship with humans through analysis of its distribution and habitat in the Netherlands.

2023 - 2025
Nathalie Brusgaard
KNAW Ecology Fund KNAW Ecology Fund

Archeoplan Eco
VU Amsterdam


The Eurasian elk (Alces alces) is the largest extant deer species in Europe and was once an impressive fixture of the ecosystem in the Netherlands. In recent years, conservation efforts have led to more stable elk populations in Europe, and rewilding agencies have proposed reintroducing them to regions where they have been extinct for several hundred years, like the Netherlands. However, despite being an indigenous animal to the Netherlands, not much is known about the elk prior to extirpation. This project delivers new insights into the past distribution, habitat, and diet of the elk and, thereby, its role in the past ecosystem and human society. It does so through zooarchaeological and stable isotope analysis of archaeological elk remains from the Holocene in the Netherlands.

Research questions

What was the prehistoric and historical distribution and foraging habitat of the Eurasian elk (Alces alces) in the Netherlands? What can this tell us about the elk’s role in the ecosystem and its changing relationship with humans?

This website uses cookies.  More information.