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Wim Van Neer

Wim Van Neer
Laboratory of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Genomics
Charles Deberiotstraat 32 - box 2439
3000 Leuven

tel: +32 16 37 36 37



My research focusses on the relationship through time between man and animal in his environment, as reflected in faunal assemblages from archaeological sites in Europe, the Near East and Africa. This research is carried out at the Royal Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels and at the Centre for Archeological Sciences of the K.U.Leuven.

During field work abroad, mainly in Egypt (e.g., Hierakonpolis, Egypt) and Turkey (e.g., KUL-excavations at Sagalassos), I identify faunal remains on the spot and participate in the actual excavation and sampling.

In the lab, I undertake comparative osteological studies of modern skeletons of closely related vertebrate species (mainly fish and mammals) with the aim of defining diagnostic criteria for the identification of isolated bone fragments. This has been done for numerous African antelope species, for African freshwater fish and is now concentrating on both marine and freshwater taxa from Belgium (e.g. fish of the cyprinid family with its numerous species).

Interpretation of the faunal remains (mainly bones and teeth) deals with several issues that interest archaeologists such as the reconstruction offood procurement through time and the relationship between food andstatus or identity (you are what you eat). Other possibilities of interpretation include the establishment of former trade relationships or the role of animals in ritual and religion. Inferences on dietary reconstruction and provenancing can also be made through combining the classical animal bone studies with stable isotope studies. Provenancing of fish has also been successfully applied with the aid ofancient DNA

The faunal remains also allow documenting human impact on the environment. The analysis of a large number of sites in a particular region often shows diachronic changes in the species spectrum or size of the animal taxa that can be related to climatic changes or to processes such as deforestation,  overgrazing, overfishing, overhunting, local extinction, pollution. This type of archaeozoological analysis adds a historical dimension to biodiversity studies and can go back farther in time than previous zoological field studies, or historical documents. For the moment it is tried to find markers for the human impact on former fish populations in Belgium (through euthrophication and overfishing) and to see what the effect may have been on the genetic composition of the populations through time.


h-index: 12
Google Scholar Citations
Van Neer, W., Ervynck, A., Monsieur, P. (2010). Fish bones and amphorae: evidence for the production and consumption of salted fish products outside the Mediterranean region. Journal of Roman Archaeology, 23, 161-195.
Linseele, V., Van Neer, W., Hendrickx, S. (2007). Evidence for early cat taming in Egypt. Journal of Archaeological Science, 34 (12), 2081-2090.
Dufour, E., Holmden, C., Van Neer, W., Zazzo, A., Patterson, W., Degryse, P., Keppens, E. (2007). Oxygen and strontium isotopes as provenance indicators of fish at archaeological sites: the case study of Sagalassos, SW Turkey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 34 (8), 1226-1239.
Van Neer, W., Ervynck, A., Bolle, L., Millner, R. (2004). Seasonality only works in certain parts of the year: The reconstruction of fishing seasons through otolith analysis. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 14 (6), 457-474.
Van Neer, W. (2004). Evolution of prehistoric fishing in the Nile Valley.Journal of African Archaeology, 2, 251-269.


1981 PhD in Sciences on archaeozoology; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
1978 Aggregation Higher Secundary Education (didactics); Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
1976 Licence Degree in Zoology; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


2005 - today: senior scientist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels 
1988 - 2004: curator at the Vertebrate Section of the Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren.
1995 - today: part-time professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
1987 - 1988: maître de conférences, Musée national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris
1986 - 1987: postdoc researcher at University Köln, fellow of the von Humboldt Foundation 
1980 - 1986: researcher at Laboratory of Prehistory, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
1976 - 1980: PhD student at the Royal Museum of Central Africa (Tervuren) and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Leuven)




Articles in international reviewed journals (163)

Articles in national journals (60)

Books from international publisher (10)

Books from local publisher (3)

Chapters in books from international publisher (99)

Chapters in books from local publisher (37)

International conference papers (38)

National conference papers (8)

Talks at international conferences (45)

Talks at national conferences (4)

Doctoral theses (4)

Science popularisation (5)

Various (31)


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