700,000 Artifacts were found in Dutch Canal Excavation

700,000 Artifacts were found in Dutch Canal Excavation

A huge collection of remains were found in Amsterdam.

Archeological Extractions have always helped humanity to find historical information about our past. The canals of Amsterdam were excavated, earlier this year, with the intentions of building a new metro line through the city. This archeological dig was one-of-its-kind as researchers found nearly 700,000 artifacts during this project. According to experts, these ancient finds cover the entire 800-year history of the country’s capital. The list of artifacts include bones, weapons, and toys. In addition to that, the curators of the project also found pieces of sharpened stone and medieval coins during the excavation process. Talking about their archeological site, they said,

Rivers in cities are unlikely archaeological sites. It is not often that a riverbed, let alone one in the middle of a city, is pumped dry and can be systematically examined. The excavations in the Amstel yielded a deluge of finds.

The idea of constructing a new north/south metro line was initially proposed some 50 years ago but no practical steps were taken until the early 2000s. One of the massive reasons for this delay was the demolitions of the canal-side building as masses of the general public were not in favor of further development. In order to cope with this issue, the authorities decided to minimize the losses to this historical surrounding by digging a tunnel instead.

This proposal got more strength when the Office of Monuments & Archeology (M&A) of Amsterdam got involved with it. They provided different options for excavating and suggested that all the finds should be documented along the way. Consequently, dissimilar techniques were adopted for vertical and horizontal excavation. Vertical dug stations offered an opportunity to make controlled discoveries while horizontal boring was done in a less-controlled fashion. This ensured easy sorting of artifacts as the ground was carved in form of layers. The archeological team mentioned the importance of adopting this method in the following words:

Spatial or landscape context is paramount for archaeological interpretation. Finds have added value if they are mutually related and connected with their surroundings … otherwise, out of context, their only significance is their intrinsic value. Based on sediments, shells, diatoms, pollens, seeds and other such organic and geological remains (ecofacts), data was collected on the development and age of the river and the role it played in the wider landscape. It was not confined to the period of Amsterdam’s history but spans the long (prehistoric) period that predated this, for as a landscape element the River Amstel is much older than the city.

This excavation also pointed towards an important question: why are waterways of particular interest? The answer to it is quite simple. The remains of different materials can sink to the bottom of open water in large quantities. These archeological remains carry significant information about the activities ashore. For instance, they can provide some useful insights about the buildings along the bank. Similarly, some of these objects may have come from passing ships from time to time. All this makes a waterway a perfect archeological site for any explorer.

The most important result of this exercise came in the form of a ‘Digital Archeological Database’ where all these artifacts are arranged in different groups on the basis of their attributes. You can make all kinds of comparisons to search the artifact of a specific time or origin. The researching team elaborated the working mechanism of this amazing database by saying,

An interpretive instrument that can be organized in different ways based on the data categories. Finds can be sorted into groups by establishing links between their respective attributes. All sorts of comparisons can be made, based, for example, on dating, type of material, use, special origins, or combinations of these. Further connections can be established, thereby refining the find categories in response to specific research questions. For example, researchers can group all the knives with brass fittings from Damrak dated between 1500 and 1600.

All in all, this massive collection of remains is surely a rare finding and paints an incredibly detailed image of that era. Having said that, it is a completely random one as the chances of objects sinking down into the riverbed and being retrieved from there are pretty bleak. That’s the reason why this collection was regarded as ‘fascinating’ at the time of its discovery.

You can have a look at some of these artifacts ahere:


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