Early history

It is generally believed that Roman land division is not represented in the Dutch archaeological record with the possible exception of the province of Limburg. However, long-term research of the Roman Landscape in Midden-Delfland near Delft and Rotterdam gives evidence for the presence of a systematic and large-scale field system on clay soils extending well into the fenland areas from the second century onwards. Through the mapping of these field systems, analysis could be done on the character of the systematic approach. Field systems were oriented along the winding creeks and stretch over vast areas forming a Roman reclamation of the wetlands north of the Meuse estuary close to the capital of the Cananefates, Forum Hadriani. Moreover, the major ditches of the field system are often found placed directly over the trajectory of channels, thereby pointing to the usage of the natural drainage towards the sea. Clear patterns were found in land division that show the use of the Golden Section ratio. The Golden Section divides a line of unit length in the ratio 0.382: 0.618. The ratio can be constructed in various ways, such as the pentagram, the “golden triangle” or the “golden rectangle”.

The ratio allows natural formations to be followed, as a precondition for drainage, and also allow the use of normal units of Roman land division, such as the actus. This hypothesis implies that use of the Golden Section may be seen as a land division strategy of a wetland area. The appearance of the field systems in the second century coincides with the large-scale restructuring of the Limes road and the heightened status of Forum Hadriani. The reclamation of the wetland area is believed to be part of centralised planning allowing for the raising of taxes and is closely related to the role of the region’s capital.