This paper focuses on unravelling the 1st millennium AD in the present-day Netherlands and the applicability of modelling when studying the past. By presenting the results of several studies analysing changes (or persistence) in connectivity and habitation patterns, the significance of these findings for (spatial) modelling is derived. The transition between the Roman and early-medieval periods is particularly interesting in this respect as it is characterised by severe pan-European political, socio-economic and demographic changes. Additionally, recent studies in geosciences increasingly point to marked climatic and landscape changes, such as river avulsions and floods, occurring at the same time. The extent to which these environmental and cultural dynamics were entwined and mutually influential is generally unknown, especially on larger-scale levels. Lowlands, such as the Netherlands, are especially suited to study these complex interactions since boundary conditions, i.e. the set of conditions required for maintaining the existing equilibrium in a region, in such areas are particularly sensitive to change.
In this paper the combined results of several recently developed landscape-archaeological models are presented. These models spatially analyse natural and cultural dynamics in five manifestations: route networks, long-distance transport, settlement patterns, palaeodemographics and land-use systems. Combined, these manifestations provide information on connectivity, persistence and habitation, key concepts for the cultural landscape as a whole. Results show that only by integrating these modelling outcomes is it possible to reconstruct boundary conditions and high-resolution spatio-temporal frameworks for cultural-landscape change. Equally, these models invite reflection on their applicability and, as such, point to the need for new theoretical framing and the development of more multi-proxy, evidence-based and transdisciplinary research approaches in archaeology. The evident interrelationship between cultural and natural-landscape dynamics necessitates a more integrated and transparent research attitude, covering multiple scales and studying the cultural landscape as a whole. Only then can models reflect historical reality as closely as possible.