New knowledge about old archaeological excavations

26 March 2014

A total of 31 forgotten excavations have been re-examined in recent years using new techniques and with financial support from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and NWO in collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. In the twentieth century thousands of archaeological excavations and projects were realised in the Netherlands but were never properly completed after the dig. Finds and documentation even disappeared unseen in boxes and drawers. During the closing symposium of the Odyssey programme on 14 April 2104 and the subsequent exhibition at the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden the fifty plus researchers who took part in this project will show their results.

Archaeological treasure (photo: Evert van Ginkel)Photo: Evert van Ginkel

NWO and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science together with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands started the Odyssey research programme in 2008. It was discovered that more than half of the 8000 excavations that took place in the Netherlands in the twentieth century were never properly completed due to a lack of time and money. The outcomes remained unused for science and invisible to the public. Within the Odyssey programme 31 of these forgotten excavations were reinvestigated. The 32nd project was aimed at digitising the research results.

 

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and NWO jointly invested three million euros in the Odyssey programme. The remaining two million euros was made up of contributions from participants in the projects such as Dutch municipalities and provinces.

 

Projects throughout the Netherlands

The 31 projects are rooted throughout the Netherlands. Some of the excavations were carried out more than 100 years ago. The excavations took place, for example, in or near to Aardenburg (Zeeland), Ezinge (Groningen), Nijmegen (Gelderland), Rhenen (Utrecht), the Bergumermeer (Friesland), Flevoland and Dorestad/Wijk bij Duurstede (Utrecht).

 

The current researchers delved into the boxes and folders with discoveries, drawings, photos and documentation, and sometimes very surprising discoveries were made. Within Odyssey, for example, previous investigations of the largest urn field in the Netherlands (45 football fields in size) were brought together. Research was also done on the Roman forts near Velsen (North Holland), the River Vecht near Dalfsen (Overijssel), Roman graveyards near Oss (North Brabant), Mierlo (North Brabant) and Geleen (Limburg), the town centre of Zutphen (Gelderland) and an historical shipwreck near the coast of Texel (North Holland). This wreck known as ‘Aanloop Molengat’ sunk between 1635 and 1640 with a valuable cargo on-board. Completing the investigations of this archaeological site has yielded insights into the history of the Netherlands as a trading nation.

Digitale ontsluiting

NWO and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science together with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands started the Odyssey research programme in 2008. It was discovered that more than half of the 8000 excavations that took place in the Netherlands in the twentieth century were never properly completed due to a lack of time and money. The outcomes remained unused for science and invisible to the public. Within the Odyssey programme 31 of these forgotten excavations were reinvestigated. The 32nd project was aimed at digitising the research results. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and NWO jointly invested three million euros in the Odyssey programme. The remaining two million euros was made up of contributions from participants in the projects such as Dutch municipalities and provinces. Projects throughout the Netherlands The 31 projects are rooted throughout the Netherlands. Some of the excavations were carried out more than 100 years ago. The excavations took place, for example, in or near to Aardenburg (Zeeland), Ezinge (Groningen), Nijmegen (Gelderland), Rhenen (Utrecht), the Bergumermeer (Friesland), Flevoland and Dorestad/Wijk bij Duurstede (Utrecht). The current researchers delved into the boxes and folders with discoveries, drawings, photos and documentation, and sometimes very surprising discoveries were made. Within Odyssey, for example, previous investigations of the largest urn field in the Netherlands (45 football fields in size) were brought together. Research was also done on the Roman forts near Velsen (North Holland), the River Vecht near Dalfsen (Overijssel), Roman graveyards near Oss (North Brabant), Mierlo (North Brabant) and Geleen (Limburg), the town centre of Zutphen (Gelderland) and an historical shipwreck near the coast of Texel (North Holland). This wreck known as ‘Aanloop Molengat’ sunk between 1635 and 1640 with a valuable cargo on-board. Completing the investigations of this archaeological site has yielded insights into the history of the Netherlands as a trading nation.

Digital disclosure

The many thousands of pages of knowledge that the Odyssey programme has produced are being made digitally accessible to professional archaeologists and other interested parties. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands is incorporating the data from Odyssey into a national infrastructure that links the agency's own data sources with those of partners and then professionally discloses these. This programme Digital Heritage Netherlands will be completed in 2017 and will consist of different portals including Archaeology in the Netherlands. In addition to this the Cultural Heritage Agency is currently developing a new archaeological information system (ARCHIS 3).

 

Exhibition

After the closing symposium Marjan Hammersma, Director-General Culture and Media of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will open the exhibition Bij nader inzien – nieuw onderzoek naar oude opgravingen [On second thoughts new research into old excavations] at the National Museum of Antiquities. In this exhibition, for which the museum is collaborating with NWO, the public become acquainted with previously hidden archaeological finds. The exhibition runs from 15 April to 15 September 2014.

About NWO

With a budget of 625 million euros per year, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) is one of the biggest funding bodies for scientific research in the Netherlands. NWO promotes quality and innovation in science by selecting and funding the best research. It manages research institutes of national and international importance, contributes to strategic programming of scientific research in the Netherlands and brings science and society closer together. Research proposals are reviewed and selected by researchers of international repute. More than 5000 scientists can carry out research thanks to funding from NWO.

Source: NWO

Details

Science area

Humanities

Programme

Odyssey

Objective

Collaboration in themes (2011-2014) Theme: Cultural Dynamics (2007-2010)

Further information

NWO, Information and Communication Department, tel.: +31 70 344 07 41