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Celtic fields are a remarkable remnant from the Iron Age. They were built around 700 BCE and use of them continued until the second century. They used small, square fields of about 40 by 40 metres to grow crops. Together these little fields formed a honeycomb pattern. That's where they get their Dutch name from, 'raatakkers' (comb fields).
The agricultural system of small, square fields covered huge areas of sometimes several dozen hectares. In the fields, farmers mainly grew naked barley and emmer wheat. The crops were harvested using flint sickles. The livestock provided fertiliser for the poor soil and the fields often lay fallow. The fields were walled using sods, boulders, tree trunks, and harvest waste. The farms were located within the walls or on the edge of the fields and usually lasted for about a generation, gradually moving through the system of fields.
Initially, the Celtic Fields were mainly planted on the dry, sandy plains where the Bronze Age farmers also worked and lived. As the Iron Age progressed, the farmers moved the fields to the heavier, boulder clay soils. The use of the Celtic Fields stopped by the second century CE. Over the centuries, many of the Celtic Fields were ploughed over. In some places they are still visible in the landscape, particularly with the help of drones.
Visible Celtic Fields in Drenthe can still be found on the Balloërveld, the Hijkerveld, the Sleenerzand, and the Noordse Veld bij Norg.
Margin Photo: Aerial photo of the Celtic Fields near the Sleenerzand, from RAAP report 3554 – 'Een actualisatie van de Drentse Celtic fields en een inventarisatie van Drentse karrensporen. S. van der Veen & T.J. ten Anscher'.