Category Archives: NETHERLANDS

Archaeologists unearth 4,000-year-old ‘Stonehenge of the Netherlands’

Archaeologists unearth 4,000-year-old ‘Stonehenge of the Netherlands’

Archaeologists unearth 4,000-year-old ‘Stonehenge of the Netherlands’
The Tiel sanctuary featured a solar calendar that was used to determine important events including festivals and harvest days, say archaeologists.

Dutch archaeologists have unearthed an approximately 4,000-year-old religious site – nicknamed the “Stonehenge of the Netherlands” – that includes a burial mound that served as a solar calendar.

The mound, which contained the remains of about 60 men, women and children, had several passages through which the sun shone directly on the longest and shortest days of the year.

The town of Tiel, where the site was discovered, said on its Facebook page: “What a spectacular archaeological discovery! Archaeologists have found a 4,000-year-old religious sanctuary on an industrial site.”

It added: “This is the first time a site like this has been discovered in the Netherlands.”

Digging on the so-called open-air sanctuary started in 2017 in the small village, about 31 miles (50km) south-east of Utrecht, and the results were made public on Wednesday.

Studying differences in clay composition and colour, the scientists located three burial mounds on the excavations, a few miles from the banks of the Waal River.

An artist’s recreation of the intact sanctuary.

The main mound is about 20 metres (65ft) in diameter and its passages are lined up to serve as a solar calendar. “People used this calendar to determine important moments including festival and harvest days,” the archaeologists said.

NOS, the national broadcaster, added: “This hill reminded one of Stonehenge, the well-known mysterious prehistoric monument in Britain, where this phenomenon also occurs.”

Scientists also discovered two smaller mounds. The three mounds were used as burial sites for about 800 years, the archaeologists said.

They made another fascinating discovery: a single glass bead inside a grave, which after analysis was shown to have originated in Mesopotamia – present-day Iraq.

“This bead travelled a distance of some 5,000km four millennia ago,” the chief researcher, Cristian van der Linde, said.

“Glass was not made here, so the bead must have been a spectacular item as for people then it was an unknown material,” added Stijn Arnoldussen, a professor at the University of Groningen.

He told the NOS the Mesopotamian bead may have been around for a long time before eventually ending up in the area around Tiel, called the Betuwe in Dutch.

“Things were already being exchanged in those times. The bead may have been above ground for hundreds of years before it reached Tiel, but of course, it didn’t have to be,” Arnoldussen said.

Netherlands’s unique treasure finds of medieval gold jewelry and silver coins

Netherlands’s unique treasure finds of medieval gold jewelry and silver coins

Netherlands’s unique treasure finds of medieval gold jewelry and silver coins

The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (the National Museum of Antiquities) in the Netherlands has announced that a unique treasure of 1000-year-old gold jewelry and silver coins has been found and will be public as part of a new exhibition.

The hoard was found in 2021 by a metal detectorist in Hoogwoud (Opmeer municipality in North Holland).

The hoard consists of four decorated gold search earring pendants in the shape of a crescent moon, along with two pieces of gold leaf that fit together, and 39 small silver coins from the medieval period. The coins date from 1200 to 1248, indicating that the hoard was buried around the middle of the 13th century. However, the jewelry, a prized heirloom collection, was already 200 years old when it was buried with the coins.

Lorenzo Ruijter, a Dutch historian and metal detectorist, discovered the hoard in Hoogwoud, in 2021. He informed regional heritage authorities about his discovery. He had to keep his discovery hidden for two years while experts at the National Museum of Antiquities cleaned, conserved, and investigated the hoard before announcing the incredible find.

The most important pieces in the hoard are four earrings from the 11th century. They are large, about two inches wide, and crescent-shaped. Two of the four pendants have intricate filigree decoration. The other two are engraved with decorative scenes.

The search earring pendants are decorated on one side and have fragile suspension brackets, implying that they were most likely not pierced through the ears but rather worn on a hood or a headband.

One of the pendants depicts a man’s head surrounded by sunlight rays, which has been interpreted as a portrait of Sol Invictus, the “Unconquered Sun.”

Sol invictus on gold earring.

The 39 silver coins are small pennies from Holland, Guelders and Cleves, the Diocese of Utrecht, and the German Empire. Textile traces discovered with the coins suggest they were originally buried in a bag or wrapped in cloth.

The most recent of the coins were struck in 1247-8 by William II of Holland when he was elected King of Germany after Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II was excommunicated by Pope Innocent IV.

William died in 1256 in Hoogwoud where the hoard was found.  He and his horse were in the area fighting one of his many wars against the West Frisians when they fell through weak ice into a frozen lake.

His West Frisian adversaries murdered him before the cold lake could finish what it had begun, and buried him beneath the floorboards of a nearby house.

As a result, the hoard has enormous archaeological significance in the history of Holland as a region and the Netherlands as a whole.

The hoard is on display at the museum until mid-June of this year. It will go back on display in October as part of The Year 1000 exhibition.

400-year-old Ship Figurehead from 80 Years War Caught By Dutch Shrimpers!

400-year-old Ship Figurehead from 80 Years War Caught By Dutch Shrimpers!

A carved wooden statue in exceptional condition has been attached to fishing nets off the coast of Texel, one of the Dutch Wadden Islands. On Tuesday, August 1, the crew of the shrimp boat Wieringer 22 caught the sculpture.

400-year-old Ship Figurehead from 80 Years War Caught By Dutch Shrimpers!
The rare and exceptionally preserved Dutch wooden ship figurehead was found off the island of Texel in the Wadden Islands in early August 2022.

The crew that named the statue Barry posted it on social media where he garnered an instant following.

Considering that it might have been submerged since the 17th century, their unexpected solid oak haul was astonishingly well preserved.

The head is made of oak, which would normally be vulnerable to shipworm depredations, but the sculpture avoided this fate by embedding itself in the sea floor after the wreck.

The sediment kept marine organisms from eating the figurehead and kept it from rotting. That is the only reason it is in such excellent condition.

Acting on advice from archaeologists, the crew placed the head in an eel tub filled with seawater to keep the wood from drying out and deteriorating while the ship was still out shrimping.

According to Michiel Bartels, a municipal archaeologist for that region of the Netherlands, the “very special discovery” came from a warship, possibly during the Eighty Years’ War, which lasted from the mid-1500s to the mid-1600s.

Archaeologist Michiel Bartels said the man in the carving wore a special headdress called a Phrygian cap.

Bartels added, “This hat symbolizes freedom and independence,” he said. “The Phyrigians were enslaved by the Romans. Slaves were shaved bald. When released from slavery, [Phyrigians] wore a cap to hide their baldness and signify their freedom.”

Bartels, the local archaeologist, thinks that finding Barry could be a sign that someone needs to do a bit more underwater exploration in that area.

Phrygian cap

In European and colonial cultures, the idea of liberty has long been connected with red Phrygian or “liberty” caps. They became symbols of allegiance to the republican cause after being worn and used as icons during the French and American Revolutions in the late 1700s.

Phrygian caps are soft conical hats with the top curled forward. Although these hats, named after Phrygia, a part of modern Turkey, are associated with many ancient nations, the oldest depiction of the Phrygian cap is from Persepolis in Iran.

Prisoner with Phrygian cap (Roman statue from the 2nd century), Louvre

The Phrygian cap was associated in ancient times with various peoples in Eastern Europe and Anatolia, including the Persians, Medes, and Scythians, as well as in the Balkans, Dacia, Thrace, and Anatolia.

In ancient Rome freed slaves wore a similar style of hat, called the pileus, to indicate their liberty. In Europe, it was later assumed that the pileus and the Phrygian caps were one and the same.

Researchers Examine Neolithic Grave Goods in the Netherlands

Researchers Examine Neolithic Grave Goods in the Netherlands

New archaeological research into grave goods and skeletal material from the oldest grave field in the Netherlands shows that male-female roles 7,000 words ago were less traditional than was thought.

The research was conducted by a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by Archol, the National Museum of Antiquities and Leiden University.

New analyses of male-female goods

A team of chemical analysts, physical anthropologists and archaeologists studied the Elsloo grave field (Municipality of Stein, Limburg). Dr Luc Amkreutz, curator of prehistory at the National Museum of Antiquities and Professor by Special Appointment of Public Archaeology at Leiden University, was closely involved.

The researchers examined the grave goods and skeletal remains. They could determine the sex and age of some of the deceased from the cremation remains. This enabled them to conclude that flint arrowheads and stone axes, which are traditionally attributed to men, are also frequently found in women’s graves in the Elsloo field.

Researchers Examine Neolithic Grave Goods in the Netherlands

This casts new light on the traditional idea that grave goods, as personal possessions, are representative of the daily life and sex of the deceased. They turn out to be less gender-specific than previously thought.

Objects not linked to sex or age

The graves of the elderly, especially those of women, were richly furnished. There appears to be a certain status associated with age. There also seems to be a ‘burial tradition’ with specific grave goods and rituals, which are often related to hunting, food preparation, woodworking and body decoration.

Many of the deceased were sprinkled with red ochre, for example.

And almost all of the grave goods had been intensively used, regardless of the sex and age of the deceased.

The goods seem to be specific utensils that belonged to the deceased’s relatives and were deliberately placed in the grave. This gives a good impression of the role of the living, their choices and the rituals surrounding death.

The research reveals a clear nuance in the roles of prehistoric men as hunters, herders, warriors and builders, and women as caregivers and potters.

Oldest known burial field in the Netherlands

The Neolithic burial field at Elsloo belonged to the Linear Pottery culture, the first farming communities in the Netherlands and large parts of Europe over 7,000 years ago.


The Elsloo burial field is the oldest known burial field in the Netherlands (circa 5100-4950 BC). It was excavated by the Cultural Heritage Agency under the leadership of prehistorian Pieter Modderman (1959) and Leiden University (1966).

The finds have since been in the care of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden.

This research was carried out within the Cultural Heritage Agency’s Knowledge of Archaeology project. A selection of the finds from the burial field will be on display for a year from 24 June 2022 at Historiehuis van de Maasvallei in Elsloo.

Dutch Archaeologists Unearth 2000-Year-Old Roman Temple Complex

Dutch Archaeologists Unearth 2000-Year-Old Roman Temple Complex

The excavation was carried out in the village of Herwin-Hemeling situated in the eastern central province of Gelderland close to the Netherland-German border, also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site

A 2,000-year-old Roman temple complex in Netherland was uncovered by Dutch archaeologists. The archaeologists belonged to the private archaeological consulting firm RAAP.

These religious relics belonged to Netherlands’ Roman era. These were the first actual ruins of the temple found in the entire country. A part of it belonged to the northernmost territory of the legendary Roman Empire which was very powerful.

One of the votive blocks or small altars dedicated to the gods was found at one of the two Roman temples, the first ever found on Dutch soil.

The excavation was carried out in the village of Herwin-Hemeling situated in the eastern central province of Gelderland close to the Netherland-German border. The site was situated close to Roman Limes (Limes Germanicus) UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to a report, the Cultural Heritage Agency in a press release said,” The remains of statues of deities, reliefs and painted plasterwork have all been discovered at the site.

One particularly remarkable feature is the discovery of several complete votive stones, dedicated to various gods and goddesses. This is a highly unusual find in the Netherlands, but also in international terms.”

As per the findings, Roman soldiers erected votive stones which were small altars that were found at the Herwin-Hemeling site. These votive stones paid homage to Hercules Magusanus, a hybrid figure which represented Greek-Roman Hercules and a mythic hero, Magusanus – who was worshipped by the German tribes who had occupied the area during the Roman era.

Other artefacts that were discovered were Jupiter and Serapis, a syncretic deity which represented the king Roman gods Jupiter and the Egyptian god known as Serapis. Along with these, Mercury, a Roman god was also erected. He was a messenger between the realm of the living and the land of the dead.

Not just statues alone, archaeologists also discovered deep pits where Roman soldiers lit large sacrificial fires. They also uncovered inscribed roof tiles, plasterwork decorated with painted images and other broken remnants of limestone sculptures.

Along with religious findings, other military objects were also discovered like battle armour, horse harnesses and spears and lances.

Other Findings

Archaeologists were aware of the possible Roman settlement in the area before they began the excavation process. In 2021, archaeologists discovered a few ancient Roman artefacts there.

According to the Dutch national cultural heritage agency, archaeologists informed the authorities of the possibility of the discovery of artefacts on a larger scale. The research team discovered remains of two Roman-era temples which dated long back to the first and fourth centuries.

Archaeologists uncovered a large Gallo-Roman temple on a hill which displayed a tiled roof and brightly painted walls. The second temple which was discovered was smaller and was situated a few metres from the first temple. The area suggested an important and pious gathering place for Roman soldiers.

Skeletons in Dutch Mass Grave Are British Soldiers

Skeletons in Dutch Mass Grave Are British Soldiers

More than 80 British soldiers who were buried in a mass grave in the Netherlands 200 years ago died of disease rather than during combat, archaeologists have revealed. The mass grave, which contains 82 skeletons, was found by chance in the town of Vianen in November 2020.

Archaeologists discovered the mass grave by chance on the city moat in Vianen in November 2020

The soldiers buried there are believed to have died during the Flanders Campaign of 1793-1795, in which the British fought the French.

The campaign was part of the First Coalition war, which pitched post-revolutionary France against an alliance made up of Britain, Prussia, Russia, the Netherlands and Austria.

Skeletons in Dutch Mass Grave Are British Soldiers
The soldiers are believed to have died during the Flanders Campaign of 1793-1795, in which the British fought the French

Now, analysis of some of the remains has shown that the soldiers endured extremely tough conditions, both in civilian life and after they joined up.

Instead of dying of sabre wounds, musket bullets or artillery fire, they died of disease.

“Most of them died of illness rather than fighting on the battlefield,” Hans Veenstra, an archaeologist, told The Telegraph.

“The conditions in which they lived were extremely poor. They slept in small tents in all weather, their food was not of good quality and there were all kinds of bacteria that had the chance to spread disease.”

The mass grave was found close to the site of what was a British military field hospital, which was set up in December 1794.

The mass grave was discovered close to the site of what was a British military field hospital, set up in December 1794

Of the six skeletons which have so far been examined with isotope analysis of their bones, three are believed to be British – two came from Cornwall and another from a town somewhere in central England. Two others are of possible English descent, while the sixth was German.

“That is not particularly strange because German forces were fighting with the British during the Flanders campaign,” said Mr Veenstra, from De Steekproef, a Dutch archaeological research company.

A mass grave found during research for the new canal

The mass grave was found by chance when archaeologists were conducting research in the area prior to plans to excavate a new canal.

“It was a big surprise, it was found purely by accident. The chances of finding so many bodies, centuries later, is very small,” he said.

While the average age of the soldiers was 26, some were teenagers.

They were buried in wooden coffins but without their uniforms. “Those would have been taken by the army and given to other soldiers,” said Mr Veenstra.

18th-Century Bones of Sick Soldiers Identified in the Netherlands

18th-Century Bones of Sick Soldiers Identified in the Netherlands

Eighty-two skeletons found in a mass grave in the Dutch city of Vianen were mainly British soldiers who died of illness in an 18th Century field hospital, archaeologists say. The remains were found outside the city’s old wall in November 2020 and then researched by forensic anthropologist April Pijpelink.

18th-Century Bones of Sick Soldiers Identified in the Netherlands
The skeletons were dug up during excavations in late 2020

All but four were men and many originated in southern England.

“It’s most likely these young men came to fight against the French,” she said.

But they lost their lives because of poor hygiene in a field hospital, she told the BBC. “At first we thought these men died of injuries in battle, but during my research, it became clear that around 85% of them suffered from one or more infections, while basically, all their trauma wounds had healed.”

Samples were taken from six of the skeletons and isotope analysis of their bones concluded that one came from southern England, possibly Cornwall, another from southern Cornwall and a third from an urban English environment. Two more may have been from the Netherlands but of possible English descent while the other was from Germany.

The men would have been treated at a field hospital at Batestein Castle in Vianen. As it was a mass grave and they all died under the same circumstances, a sample of six was sufficient, archaeologist Hans Veenstra told the BBC.

There were two wars there in the 18th Century, but only one involved British soldiers: the Flanders Campaign of 1793-95 against France. German soldiers from Hessen and Hanover worked closely with the British during the campaign.

This was part of the First Coalition war, between post-revolutionary France and several other European powers including Britain, Russia, Prussia, Spain, the Netherlands and Austria.

The bones in the mass grave all came from the same period in the 1790s

From late 1794-to 95, British soldiers have treated a short distance from the mass grave, and the researchers believe that the poor and cramped conditions of army life led to reduced resistance to bacterial infection.

The average age of the adult victims was about 26 although some of those who died were just teenagers. Around 60% showed traces of one or more infections which all had one cause – pneumococcal bacteria.

“If you read history books it’s always about the people in power – mostly about armies and generals, kings and queens but never about the ordinary man who had to do all the dirty work,” said Mr Veenstra, who believed this discovery helped fill in a gap in our knowledge of the time.

“That’s what makes this interesting. They lived in very poor conditions, they all had a poor upbringing with a lot of malnutrition and hard work. They’d already damaged their backs by doing hard labour.”

The skeletons were well preserved because they were found in clay outside Vianen’s historic walls

2,000-Year-Old Intact Roman Glass Bowl Uncovered in the Netherlands

2,000-Year-Old Intact Roman Glass Bowl Uncovered in the Netherlands

Archaeologists excavating a site in Nijmegen — the oldest city in the Netherlands, situated on the Waal river about six miles from the German border — have discovered a blue glass bowl estimated to be some 2,000 years old, in pristine condition. 

2,000-Year-Old Intact Roman Glass Bowl Uncovered in the Netherlands
2,000-year-old glass bowl unearthed in Nijmegen in the Netherlands

The bowl, just small enough to sit comfortably in the palm of a hand, has a trim rim and a vertical stripe pattern with ridges on the outside.

With no chips or cracks on its surface, the object is stunningly intact. Lead archaeologist Pepjin van de Geer remarked that it was “really special,” deserving pride of place in a museum. 

The ancient Roman bowl is thought to have originated from glass workshops in German cities like Cologne and Xanten, though van de Geer also entertains the possibility that it may have been traded from Italy. 

“Such dishes were made by allowing molten glass to cool and harden over a mould,” he told the Dutch regional newspaper De Stentor.

“The stripe pattern was drawn in when the glass mixture was still liquid. Metal oxide causes a blue colour.”

Archaeologists hope to produce a map of the historic settlement.

Van de Geer’s team had been excavating the site ahead of construction for a new housing and green development project called Winkelsteeg, which promises to be a “dynamic living and working area” for the growing city.

Around the time the bowl was in use, Nijmegen was a Roman military camp that subsequently drew civilian settlement.

It was the first city in the modern-day Netherlands that was named a municipium, or Roman city, so the local Batavi inhabitants were the first in the region to be granted Roman citizenship.

The same excavation effort has unearthed Roman tombs, trinkets like dishware and jewellery, and traces of construction — which the archaeologists hope will be definitive enough to allow them to produce a map of what the settlement layout looked like.