Category Archives: NETHERLANDS

A large Roman fort built by Caligula discovered near Amsterdam

A large Roman fort built by Caligula discovered near Amsterdam

A large Roman fort believed to have played a key role in the successful invasion of Britain in AD43 has been discovered on the Dutch coast. A Roman legion of “several thousand” battle-ready soldiers were stationed in Velsen, 20 miles from Amsterdam, on the banks of the Oer-IJ, a northern branch of the Rhine, research suggests.

A large Roman fort built by Caligula discovered near Amsterdam
An illustration of the first Roman fort in Velsen. Archaeological evidence was first uncovered in 1945 by schoolchildren who found shards of pottery in an abandoned German anti-tank trench.

Dr Arjen Bosman, the archaeologist behind the findings, said the evidence pointed to Velsen, or Flevum in Latin, having been the empire’s most northernly castra (fortress) built to keep a Germanic tribe, known as the Chauci, at bay as the invading Roman forces prepared to cross from Boulogne in France to England’s southern beaches.

The fortified camp appears to have been established by Emperor Caligula (AD12 to AD41) in preparation for his failed attempt to take Britannia in about AD40 but was then successfully developed and exploited by his successor, Claudius, for his own invasion in AD43.

Roman emperor Caligula is thought to have established the fort at Velsen.

Bosman said: “We know for sure Caligula was in the Netherlands as there are markings on wooden wine barrels with the initials of the emperor burnt in, suggesting that these came from the imperial court.

“What Caligula came to do were the preparations for invading England – to have the same kind of military achievement as Julius Caesar – but to invade and remain there. He couldn’t finish the job as he was killed in AD41 and Claudius took over where he left off in AD43.

“We have found wooden planks underneath the watchtower or the gate of the fort, and this is the phase just before the invasion of England. The wooden plank has been dated in the winter of AD42/43. That is a lovely date. I jumped in the air when I heard it.”

Claudius’s invading forces, untouched by the Germanic tribes, made their landing in Kent and by the summer of AD43, the emperor was confident enough to travel to Britain, entering Camulodunum (Colchester) in triumph to receive the submission of 12 chieftains.

Within three years, the Romans had claimed the whole of “Britannia” as part of their empire.

Bosman said: “The main force came from Boulogne and Calais, but the northern flank of that attack had to be covered and it was covered by the fort in Velsen. The Germanic threat comes up in Roman literature several times.

“It was an early warning system to the troops in France. It didn’t matter what the Germanic tribes put in the field as there was a legion there.”

The first evidence of a Roman fort in Velsen, North-Holland, had been uncovered in 1945 by schoolchildren who found shards of pottery in an abandoned German anti-tank trench. The research was undertaken in the 1950s during the building of the Velsertunnel, under the Nordzeekanaal, and archaeological excavations took place in the 1960s and 70s.

In 1997, Bosman’s discovery of Roman ditches in three places, and a wall and a gate were thought sufficient evidence for the area to become a state-protected archaeological site. But at this stage, the Velsen camp, identified as having been used between AD39 and AD47, was thought to have been small.

This theory was complemented by the discovery in 1972 of an earlier fort, known as Velsen 1, which is believed to have been in operation from AD15 to AD30. A thoroughgoing excavation of that site found it had been abandoned following the revolt of the Frisians, the Germanic ethnic group indigenous to the coastal regions of the Netherlands. Archaeologists discovered human remains in some former wells, a tactic used by retreating Romans to poison the waters.

The existence of the two forts within a few hundred metres of each other had led researchers to believe for decades that they were both likely to have been mere castellum, minor military camps of just one or two hectares.

It was only in November, through piecing together features of the later Veslen fort that were noted in the 1960s and 70s, but not recognised at the time as Roman, and taking into account his own archaeological findings over the last quarter of a century, that a new understanding was reached.

“It is not one or two hectares like the first fort in Velsen, but at least 11 hectares,” Bosman said. “We always thought it was the same size but that is not true. It was a legionary fortress and that’s something completely different.”

Bosman added: “Up to this year I wondered about the number of finds at Velsen 2, a lot of military material, a lot of weapons, long daggers, javelins, far more than we found on Velsen 1.

“And we know there was a battle at Velsen 1, and on a battlefield you find weapons. The number of weapons at Velsen 2 can only be explained in a legionary context. Several thousand men were occupying this fort.

“At 11 hectares, this would not be a complete fort for a full legion of 5,000 to 6,000 men but we don’t where it ends in the north and so it could have been larger.”

The Velsen 2 fort was abandoned in AD47 after Claudius ordered all his troops to retreat behind the Rhine. Roman rule of Britain ended around AD410 as the empire began to collapse in response to internal fighting and the ever-growing threats from Germanic tribes.

Netherlands: They rebuild the face of the first Dutch Neanderthal

Netherlands: They rebuild the face of the first Dutch Neanderthal

You can now gaze into the crinkly eyes of “Krijn,” a young Neanderthal man who had a tumour growing on his skull when he died up to 70,000 years ago.

In 2001, an amateur palaeontologist found a piece of Krijn’s skull while sifting through sediments collected from the bottom of the North Sea, off the coast of the Netherlands.

Now, paleo-anthropological artists have used that hunk of the skull to create a lifelike bust of Krijn, including the bulge above his right eyebrow where the tumour sat. 

“Luckily, it’s a very distinctive piece,” Adrue Kennis, a paleoanthropological artist with Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions, said of the skull specimen in a translated video created by the National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) in the Netherlands, which is showing Krijn’s bust in a new exhibit.

When Krijn was alive, between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago, he lived in Doggerland, a vast swath of land between the United Kingdom and continental Europe, which is now submerged beneath the North Sea.

A 2009 study in the Journal of Human Evolution revealed a few details about Krijn: The young man was highly carnivorous, but his body didn’t show any evidence of seafood in his diet, according to an analysis of the isotopes, or element variants, of carbon and nitrogen found in his skull.

Moreover, a lesion above Krijn’s eyebrow indicated that he had a tumour known as an intradiploic epidermoid cyst.

These cysts are uncommon, slow-growing lesions that are usually benign, especially when they’re small, as Krijn’s is, the 2009 study found. The conduction is associated with a slew of symptoms.

It’s possible that Krijn experienced pain and swelling, headaches, dizziness, convulsions, visual problems or seizures, or maybe he was lucky and didn’t have any symptoms, the authors of the 2009 study wrote. That was the first time such a tumour had been documented in Neanderthal remains, they noted.

The Neanderthal skull specimen was found in sediment from the North Sea.
A facial reconstruction of the Neanderthal who lived in Doggerland between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago.

Despite Krijn’s diagnosis, his new bust depicts him with an infectiously happy smile. The Kennis brothers recreated the Neanderthal’s features by relying not only on the skull specimen but also other Neanderthal skulls, as well as previous data on the Neanderthal eye, hair and skin colour.

The new bust is the latest from their studio, which includes other early human recreations, including one of Ötzi the Iceman mummy, who lived about 5,300 years ago in the Alps.

Krijn may be smiling for another reason; he’s the first fossil hominin dating to the Pleistocene epoch (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) found under seawater and the first recorded Neanderthal in the Netherlands, according to the 2009 study.

A menagerie of animals, including mammoths, lions, woolly rhinoceroses, reindeer and horses used to live on the Doggerland steppe, but it was very cold, meaning that Krijn likely had a challenging life, according to an RMO statement.

In addition to Krijn’s remains, scientists sifting through the North Sea sediments found several middle Paleolithic artefacts, including small hand axes and pointed stones known as Levallois flakes.

The RMO exhibit “Doggerland: Lost World in the North Sea,” which includes Krijn’s bust, is open to the public through Oct. 31. 

Roman Canal and Road Uncovered in The Netherlands

Roman Canal and Road Uncovered in The Netherlands

Dutch archaeologists said on Wednesday they have unearthed a Roman canal and road near ancient military camps that were this week listed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.

The canal—more than 10 metres (33 feet) wide—and road were uncovered last week near the eastern city of Nijmegen, a major Roman-era settlement with permanent military bases that were awarded the UNESCO status.

They are believed to have been built and used by the Roman military, according to RAAP, the country’s largest consultancy for archaeology and cultural history.

A Roman-era canal was discovered in Oosterhout, in the eastern Netherlands, along with a road, both from around 2,000 years ago.
A Roman-era canal was discovered in Oosterhout, in the eastern Netherlands, along with a road, both from around 2,000 years ago.

Nijmegen is on the Rhine, the border of the Roman Empire at the time, it said in a statement, adding that the discovery was “unique” for that region of the country.

Many Roman soldiers were stationed along the river and the canal probably linked Nijmegen and the Rhine and was used to transport troops, supplies and building materials.

The Roman highway, with its original gravel pavement preserved, provides new insight into the road network of around 2,000 years ago, Eric Noord, who is leading the project, told AFP.

18th-century graveyard found at the former Caribbean plantation

18th-century graveyard found at the former Caribbean plantation

The Associated Press reports that investigation ahead of a construction project revealed an eighteenth-century cemetery on St. Eustatius, an island in the northeastern Caribbean Sea colonized by the Dutch in 1636. 

An 18th-century burial ground has been discovered at a former sugar plantation on the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius, officials said Monday, and archaeologists said it likely contains the remains of slaves and could provide a trove of information on the lives of enslaved people.

Government officials said 48 skeletons had been found at the site so far, most of them males, but also some females and infants.

In this photo provided by St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research, SECAR, the skull of what is believed to be an enslaved man sits in the ground at an excavation in the former Golden Rock plantation west of the international Airport in Oranjestad, on the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius, on the Leeward Islands
An archaeologists excavates in the former Golden Rock plantation west of the international Airport in Oranjestad, on the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius, on the Leeward Islands

Alexandre Hinton, the director of the St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research, said many more remains were expected to lie in the graves at the former Golden Rock Plantation.

“We are predicting that the number of individuals buried here will surpass the burial site discovered at Newton Plantation on Barbados, where 104 enslaved Africans were excavated. This is one of the largest sites of its kind ever discovered in the Caribbean,” she said.

Authorities said the site was found while archaeologists checked an area needed for the expansion of an airport.

“We knew the potential for archaeological discoveries in this area was high, but this cemetery exceeds all expectations,” Hinton said.

Given the location near the former plantation, Hinton said the graves most likely contain the remains of enslaved people.

“Initial analysis indicates that these are people of African descent,” she said. “To date, we have found two individuals with the dental modification that is a West African custom. Typically plantation owners did not allow enslaved persons to do this. These individuals are thus most likely first-generation enslaved people who were shipped to St. Eustatius.”

The majority of the burials contain remnants of coffins, coffin nails and objects that were buried with the deceased, such as several intact tobacco pipes, beads and ceramic plates. A coin from 1737 depicting King George II of England was found resting on a coffin lid.

An archaeologist shows a coin found on top of the remains of an enslaved man, dated 1737, at the former Golden Rock plantation west of the international Airport in Oranjestad, on the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius, on the Leeward Islands

Experts at several universities around the world will analyze the remains to learn more about the lives of the buried individuals.

Hinton said Leiden University in the Netherlands will conduct “stable isotope analysis” to determine the peoples’ diets as well as whether they were born on the island. Harvard will do the DNA analysis to find where the people came from, and England’s Northumbria University will do protein studies to discover what diseases they might have suffered.

One of the most important outcomes of the research will be a more thorough understanding of the lives of slaves in the Caribbean.

Most of what is known about their lives come from the writings of people in power, such as colonial administrators and plantation owners, sources that can be biased or incomplete.


St. Eustatius, which lies in the northeastern part of the Caribbean, was colonized by the Dutch in 1636 and became an important transit port for the regional trade in sugar and slaves from West Africa

6,000-year-old baby found cradled in mother’s arm

6,000-year-old baby found cradled in mother’s arm

A 6,000-year-old baby with its teeth still intact and resting in the arms of a woman, believed to be its mother, has been found in a grave in the Netherlands.

The grave dates back to the Stone Age and is thought to be around 6,000 years old

Archaeologists said it was the oldest baby grave ever found in the Netherlands. The grave, uncovered at a site in Nieuwegein in the province of Utrecht, dates back to the Stone Age.

The discovery only came to light after four exhumed skeletons were examined by archaeological consultancy RAAP in Leiden.

Scientists noticed that the right arm of the 30-year-old woman’s skeleton was bent at a strange angle. It was crooked instead of straight – the usual posture of other skeletons at the site.

Closer inspection showed bone fragments of an infant by her arm and revealed that the woman was buried cradling a baby.

“The posture of the woman’s body did not conform to what we had found so far, that is, bodies whose limbs are placed parallel to the body. We then made the moving discovery that she was in fact cradling a little baby,” project leader Helle Molthof told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

6,000-year-old baby found cradled in mother’s arm
Left: The baby was found tucked under its mother’s arm in a grave in Nieuwegein, the Netherlands

The bone fragments sent for analysis included a tiny jaw holding several baby teeth. From this, scientists concluded that the infant had died when it was just a couple of months old.

“It really makes an impression when you find little baby teeth buried in clay for 6,000 years and see how similar they are to all those milk teeth that are kept in matchboxes by parents everywhere,” Molthof said.

DNA tests will reveal whether the woman was the infant’s mother as well as the sex of the baby.

Archaeologists hope that the grave will inform them about the burial ceremonies of the hunter-gatherer communities who lived along the banks of the River Vecht.

“We know how they lived, what sort of food they ate, what their houses were like but we don’t know very much yet about how they buried their dead and what happened to the children,” Molthof said.

Traces of Historic Fort Found in the Netherlands

Traces of Historic Fort Found in the Netherlands

NL Times reports that traces of a Spanish fort built in the sixteenth century during the Eighty Years’ War have been uncovered in Leiden. 

The location of a Spanish fort used in the 1573-1574 Siege of Leiden during the Eighty Years’ War.

The remain of a Spanish fort established during the Eighty Years’ War was uncovered by archaeologists in Leiden.

The Lammenschans fort is part of a well known local legend that when Spanish troops fled at the end of the Siege of Leiden they left behind a pot still filled with a stew that may have been the origin for hutspot, a Dutch dish now made from boiled and mashed potatoes, carrots and onions.

Legend has it that Dutch orphan Cornelis Joppenszoon found the stew, then made with parsnips and carrots, and the abandoned fort on 3 October 1574.

Some 446 years later, pieces of pewter forks or spoons, drinking cups, pottery, fishing line and a bead were found at the site, along with portions of the moat dugout to protect the location.

Joppenszoon grabbed the stew and hiked a kilometre north to the Leiden city walls. The Watergeuzen, a collection of beggars and pirates who helped fight off the Spanish, arrived in the city with white bread and herring.

A tradition was born, and the city has celebrated its liberation under the banner “Leiden is no longer in trouble” ever since, where hutspot, white bread and herring are served annually on 3 October.

“De Lammenschans is found. Just in the month that we celebrate that ‘Leiden is no longer in trouble’, our archaeologists find the remains of what sometimes seemed like a legend,” said Willy de Zoete, the Deputy for Culture and Heritage for the Province of Zuid-Holland.

“Our Zuid-Holland land represents a special remnant of our connection to our history.”

The exact location of the site was completely unknown with few attempts made to find it until 2017 when a crowdfunding campaign was launched. This was tied in with the RijnlandRoute infrastructure project, which made it possible to excavate at and below the Europaweg.

The items found at the site were dated to the 16th and 17th centuries, according to a statement from the province. Several other bags of soil were also collected at the location and will be analyzed in the coming months.

Traces of Historic Fort Found in the Netherlands
Archaeologist Ivar Schute with a discovery at the Lammenschans, a 16th-century Spanish fort Used during the Siege of Leiden and re-discovered in October 2020

17th-century Dutch merchant ship off southern England have recovered a 30-foot-long wooden carving of a mustachioed warrior

17th-century Dutch merchant ship off southern England have recovered a 30-foot-long wooden carving of a mustachioed warrior

Archeologists greeted a carving of the face of a moustachio warrior as they lifted part of a huge shipwreck in the 17th century in the English Channel The head was carved into the 28 ft long section of the rudder of a Dutch trading ship that sunk nearly 400 years earlier in Poole, Dorset.

Its accidental discovery by a dredger led to six years of underwater investigations, which prompted experts to hail the find as the most significant since the Mary Rose. Divers found the sizable carving covering the stern and bow castle of the 130ft-long merchant vessel, which would have been one of the largest of its kind on the seas at the time.

It was decked out with opulent carvings of mermen whose eye sockets would have been decorated with precious stones. Other baroque-style carvings, similar to the one on the rudder, were also found on parts of the ship including the gunports.

The head was carved into the 28ft long rudder section of a Dutch trading ship that sunk off Poole, Dorset, nearly 400 years ago

Marine archaeologists from Bournemouth University have already recovered scores of artifacts from the vessel that is known as the Swash Channel Wreck after the area of sea where it sunk.

And after being given a grant of £500,000 from English Heritage, the team completed the recovery of the five-tonne wooden rudder that had become separated from the main hull.

Divers spent seven days digging the rudder from out of the sea bed and placing a large steel frame around it, similar to the operation that raised the Mary Rose in 1982.

Marine archaeologists from Bournemouth University have already recovered scores of artefacts from the vessel that is known as the Swash Channel Wreck after the area of sea where it sunk. The black squares indicate the gunport locations

It was then towed four miles into Poole Harbour where today it was hoisted onto the quayside by a crane in front of the excited team of archaeologists.

The baroque facial carving at the end of the rudder shows a military man wearing a classical helmet. It will be constantly sprayed with special chemicals for the next two years to help conserve it.

The rudder will then put on display at Poole Museum alongside other artifacts recovered from the wreckage. Dave Parham, a senior lecturer in marine archaeology at Bournemouth University, said: ‘Before now we had just seen the rudder underwater where you could only make out a few feet of it at a time.

The rudder is being temporarily stored at Poole docks, before being transported to York. It was towed four miles into Poole Harbour where today it was hoisted onto the quayside (pictured) by a crane in front of the excited team of archaeologists

‘So to see it in daylight in all its glory is really quite spectacular.

‘It is a very large and impressive item itself so you can imagine how spectacular this merchant vessel would have looked.

‘Its discovery is an extremely significant one and has given way to one of the largest shipwreck investigations within the UK.’

Another carving previously discovered at the wreck of the Dutch trading ship near Poole, Dorset

Unlike the Mary Rose, little is known of the Swash Channel Wreck, including its identity. Tests on the oak wood from it have dated the felling of the timber to 1628 and from forests on the Dutch/German border. Analysis of some of the recovered artifacts dates to the middle of the 17th century.

This has led the experts to believe the vessel was an armed Dutch trading ship that was either going to or returning from the Mediterranean or the Far East. It is thought it hit a sandbank in the approaches to Poole Harbour and water flooded its bilges. The ship is then believed to have rolled over and sunk in 22ft of water.

Mr. Parham said: ‘It would have been a very big vessel for its day and the whole vessel would have been a spectacular work of art.

It was a sign of prestige and wealth. It was making a statement, showing how great and wonderful the owners were. They would have been a large Dutch conglomerate, similar to the East India Company.

‘It would not have been a million miles from a 17th-century version of the Titanic, although the Titanic was ornate for the passengers and not for those on the outside.

‘We think it was a Dutch trading ship and would have taken high-quality European goods like tweed to the Far East and traded them for things like exotic spices.

It was either going out or coming back when it sank outside of Poole Harbour. We have received a grant to fund the recovery of all the material that is at risk of erosion.

So far the team has brought up artifacts including five baroque carvings, ceramic pieces, leather shoes, copper and pewter plates and cups, and a bronze compass divider. They have also recovered animal bones of sheep and cows that would have fed the crew.

Mr. Parham said: ‘Last month we spent seven days excavating beneath the rudder in order to put strops around it and lift it into a steel frame.

It was then moved four miles to the quayside in Poole and lifted out of the water. We have no idea who the male carving on the rudder might be. It is a mustachioed man with a classical helmet on so it is depicting a military man of some sort. About 40 percent of the port side of the wreck lies intact on the sea bed but it will be too costly an operation to recover that.

Archaeology world: Archaeologists unearth Roman road in the Netherlands

Archaeologists unearth Roman road in the Netherlands

Archaeologists unearth Roman road in the Netherlands
The dig is metres away from a main road

Archeologists in the Netherlands have discovered a 2,000-year-old stretch of Roman road and the remains of a Roman village in the town of Katwijk, which once marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire.

The road is 125 meters (410 ft) long and lies close to a busy highway in the Valkenburg suburb. The Roman village comes complete with a canal and burial ground, the Omroep West regional broadcaster reports.

Province of South Holland asked archeologists to examine the entire area where the new RijnlandRoute bypass is to run, aware of the local Roman legacy and anxious to preserve any finds.

At the mouth of the Old Rhine River, which still flows through Katwijk, Emperor Claudius built the city of Lugdunum Batavorum, and ships would sail to Britain from there.

But no one expected to find such well-preserved remains in Katwijk itself.

‘ Great surprise’

“The extent to which the Roman road is complete is a great surprise”, the province says on its official website.

Even the tall oak piles that stood alongside the road to stop it from subsiding are in remarkably good condition. Archaeologists reckon the road was built in about the year 125 CE, during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.

Roman building material with paint and plaster intact
Roman building material with paint and plaster intact

The dig also uncovered pottery, leather footwear, coins, a fish trap and other household objects, but the rarest find is a piece of building material with fragments of plaster and paint still intact after two millennia.

The excavation will take another few weeks, and the archaeologists should complete their study of the site by end of the year. The public will be allowed to visit the dig on 13 October – Archaeology Day in the Netherlands.

World Heritage

Work on the new road is due to start in the second half of 2019 but will not disturb the site, the provincial authorities promise. The most important finds from the dig will go on display at the RijnlandRoute’s information centre, and this may not be the end of the story.

The excavations are part of the Lower German Limes – the old northern border of the Roman Empire – which the Netherlands has nominated for special UN international status, the Rheinische Post reported earlier in the year.

If the application is successful, the old boundary that runs from Bad Breisig in Germany to Katwijk – including the Roman road – will become a World Heritage Site.

The UN’s World Heritage Committee is to consider the bid in 2021.

Chief archaeologist Jeroen Loopik with an oak pile that stopped the road from subsiding