Although the shifting of deltaic river branches (avulsion) is a natural process that has become increasingly influenced by humans, the impact of early human activities as a driver of avulsion success has remained poorly explored. This study demonstrates how two important avulsions in the downstream part of the Rhine-Meuse delta, The Netherlands, were stimulated by human activities in the first millennium CE, before historic embankment constrained the river courses. Peatland reclamation induced land subsidence in the lower delta. This effect, together with a human-induced increase in suspended fluvial sediments and tidal backwater effects, allowed for a gradual ingression of tidal creek channels and progradation of fluvial crevasse channels into human-occupied and drained peatlands, where they eventually connected. We reconstructed the initial situation and identified the feedback loops among overbank sedimentation, tidal incursion, and land drainage subsidence that led to avulsion success. The processes and feedbacks resulting from human activities are generic and hence relevant to many other deltas today where human-induced subsidence results in tidal ingression, potentially connecting to rivers and causing unexpected avulsions.