The Netherlands Institute for the Near East

Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten  -  Institut néerlandais du Proche-Orient

René Cappers holds the chair of Ecology and palaeo-ecology of the Near East at Leiden University, by special appointment. The chair is co-funded by NINO and the Faculty of Archaeology.

Cappers (1957) studied biology at Groningen University and specialized in plant ecology and archaeobotany. After finishing his study, he worked at the Dutch National Institute of Educational Measurement (Cito, Arnhem) and wrote his PhD thesis dealing with methodological aspects of archaeobotanical research. Postdoctoral projects concerned the study of the modeling of the transition to farming in the Near East and the Roman trade with Africa south of the Sahara, Arabia and India.

Research projects and excavations

Cappers has several archaeobotanical research projects ongoing in the Near East. In Turkey he is working on botanical remains from Barcın Höyük, Tepecik-Çiftlik and Güvercinkayası. Ongoing archaeobotanical research from Syria includes the study of plant remains from Tell Sabi Abyad, Tell Bazi and Tell Chuera. Recent archaeobotanical research in North Africa includes sites in Kordofan (Sudan; in cooperation with University of Münster) and Ethiopia (Shire; in cooperation with the UCLA).

Ethno-archaeobotanical research is performed in the Near East and North Africa in order to document and standardize the traditional crop processing and food preparation. Publications and website are part of the Digital Plant Atlas project, a collaboration between the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Berlin.

Since 2019 Cappers participates in the Millet project, which is a joint project of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and the Goethe Universität.


Cappers teaches several courses at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and Leiden University including Environmental history of the Near East, Economy of food and The archaeology of death and burial. He supervises several PhD-students and MA-students from Groningen, Leiden, Paris, and Istanbul.

Selected publications