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Archaeologist Daniel Postma in TV documentary on reconstruction of Old Frisian turf house

08 October 2013

On 12 October, Nederland 2 will broadcast the first of a 2-part documentary on the reconstruction of an Old Frisian turf house. The Archaeology Department reconstructed a farmhouse and stables dating back to AD 700 in Firdgum, Friesland. The most unique aspect of the experiment is the 1 metre-thick walls made from turfs, which are able to bear the weight of the roof. Archaeologists had long assumed that this was not possible.

Omrop Frysl â n recorded the entire building process. The documentary will be broadcast for the first time on the weekends of 12 and 19 October. Daniel Postma from the Groningen Institute for Archaeology coordinated the building of the turf house as part of his PhD research. He outlined the design of the house in his prize-winning Master’s thesis, before putting his theory into practice in a follow-up study.


The summer of 2013 saw the volunteers add the final touches to the construction of a 17-metre long farmhouse. This is the first archaeological reconstruction in Northwest-Europe whereby the turf walls bear the entire weight of the roof. The result can be seen in the Frisian village of Firdgum. The turf house is open to the public in the Yeb Hettinga Museum at weekends and by appointment.


In the days before dykes, regular flooding prevented trees from growing in the north of the Netherlands. As a result, very little wood was available to build houses. In around AD 400, the houses in the area were built on artificial hills and the thick walls were created by stacking grass turfs.

For the elite

Building with turfs is often associated with miserable living conditions, as seen in the turf huts in Drenthe in 1900. But despite the commonly held association with poor peat workers at the turn of the twentieth century, in the early Middle Ages, turf houses were probably home to the wealthy elite. So what were these early Middle-Age turf houses like? And how exactly did they build them? Answers to these and other questions can be found in the Turf House Centre (Terpencentrum) of the University of Groningen.

TV documentary

Omrop Frysl â n made a two-part documentary about the turf house project. The documentary follows University of Groningen archaeologist Daniel during his work in Friesland and his research in Scotland and Iceland.

Broadcast part 1:
Saturday 12 October 2013  NED 2 10.30 a.m.
Sunday 13 October 2013  NED 2  3.30 p.m. (repeated on Omrop Fryslân from 6.00 p.m. onwards)                                  

Broadcast part 2:
Saturday 19 October 2013  NED 2 10.30 a.m.
Sunday 20 October 2013  NED 2  3.30 p.m. (repeated on Omrop Fryslân from 6.00 p.m. onwards)

Uniepers Uitgevers is to publish a general interest book on this research later this year.

More information

Daniel Postma MA is a PhD student at the Groningen Institute for Archaeology and coordinator of the Turf House Project. He was awarded the Wadden Academy Prize for his graduation thesis about the building of turf houses. More information about the research is available on the blog or Twitter @postmapost. Daniel Postma can be contacted for questions via daniel.postma rug.nland +31 (0)6-47238435.


Last modified:21 May 2019 4.51 p.m.
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