Category Archives: NETHERLANDS

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.

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.

See Also: MORE ARCHAEOLOGY NEWS

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