New Web Site Showcases 700,000 Artifacts Dug Up from the Canals of Amsterdam, Some Dating Back to 4300 BC

Ams­ter­dam has many plea­sures to offer, not least boat­ing through its hun­dred-kilo­me­ter net­work of canals. First laid out in the ear­ly 17th cen­tu­ry, they con­sti­tute a rich his­to­ry les­son in and of them­selves. But Ams­ter­dam is also, of course, a mod­ern city with mod­ern infra­struc­ture, such as a metro sys­tem with a new line set to open this month. Ams­ter­dammers have been wait­ing for that line for fif­teen years now, and the rea­sons for the pro­longed con­struc­tion have to do with the old canals, or rather part of the Riv­er Ams­tel that feeds them.

Bor­ing the tun­nels entailed drain­ing the riv­er, and drain­ing the riv­er turned out to offer anoth­er his­to­ry les­son, and a much deep­er one than expect­ed. “It is not often that a riverbed, let alone one in the mid­dle of a city, is pumped dry and can be sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly exam­ined,” says the web site Below the Sur­face. “The exca­va­tions in the Ams­tel yield­ed a del­uge of finds, some 700,000 in all: a vast array of objects, some bro­ken, some whole, all jum­bled togeth­er.”

The unin­tend­ed archae­o­log­i­cal ben­e­fit of drain­ing the riv­er amounts to “a mul­ti-faceted pic­ture of dai­ly life in the city of Ams­ter­dam. Every find is a frozen moment in time, con­nect­ing the past and the present. The pic­ture they paint of their era is extreme­ly detailed and yet entire­ly ran­dom due to the chance of objects or remains sink­ing down into the riverbed and being retrieved from there.” At Below the Sur­face you can browse the exten­sive cat­a­log of all these arti­facts, the old­est of which date to around 4300 BC, more than five and a half mil­len­nia before the found­ing of Ams­ter­dam itself.

Below the Sur­face’s col­lec­tion is orga­nized into ten dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories includ­ing “inte­ri­ors and acces­sories,” “crafts and indus­try,” “arms and armor,” “com­mu­ni­ca­tion and exchange,” and “games and recre­ation.” On your dig­i­tized object-based his­tor­i­cal jour­ney there, you’ll encounter objects from all of those realms of human life across time, from 13th-cen­tu­ry coins, 15th-cen­tu­ry keys, 18th-cen­tu­ry tiles, and 20th-cen­tu­ry med­i­cine tins. To we humans of the 21st cen­tu­ry, in the Nether­lands or else­where, some of these might look sur­pris­ing­ly con­tem­po­rary — or at least not near­ly as ancient as a mobile phone from the 1990s. Enter Below the Sur­face here.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Rijksmu­se­um Puts 125,000 Dutch Mas­ter­pieces Online, and Lets You Remix Its Art

16th-Cen­tu­ry Ams­ter­dam Stun­ning­ly Visu­al­ized with 3D Ani­ma­tion

Flash­mob Recre­ates Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” in a Dutch Shop­ping Mall

20,000 Endan­gered Archae­o­log­i­cal Sites Now Cat­a­logued in a New Online Data­base

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.