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Research Groningen Institute of Archaeology GIA centennial: 2020

100 years of GIA, a photo history

The GIA is 100 years old. In those 100 years enough has been done and done to write a thick book. Because Archeology is a discipline where a lot of information is told and processed in images, we opted for a different method: we show 100 photos that together reflect 100 years of excavation, top finds, the developments in excavation technology, but also in processing data, research and education and internationalization. With each photo we place a short explanatory text, both in English and in Dutch. The photos will also be posted on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo 22. 2008 - Pontine regio project - survey

Pontine regio project - survey.
Pontine regio project - survey.

Within GIA’s endeavours in the Mediterranean, landscape archaeological research takes a prominent place. Especially the Pontine Region project, established in the 1980s by Peter Attema, has developed into a large collaborative effort that aims to study the long-term history of the Pontine Region in central Italy. This project is internationally at the forefront in the development of new field strategies, especially where it concerns the methodology of so-called field surveys.

This photo from 2008 shows staff and students of the GIA while carrying out such a field survey in the hinterland of the Roman colony of Norba. Ploughed fields are systematically traversed in search of artefacts and sites, in order to find out how, where and when the territory of this town was settled and cultivated. The research showed that the foundation of the colony in the 5th century BC hardly impacted the countryside, but that the area was intensively exploited during Norba’s heydays (3rd/2nd centuries BC).

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

  • Tymon de Haas, 2011 / Fields, farms & colonists : intensive field survey and early Roman Colonization in the Pontine region, central Italy ; thesis RUG

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Photo 21. 1972 - Urnfield at Noord Barge (Hoge Loo)

Urnfield at Noord Barge (Hoge Loo).
Urnfield at Noord Barge (Hoge Loo).

This photo shows a beaker-period grave with an enclosing circular ditch. Placed centrally, close to the main section, is the central grave. The ditch originally contained posts that delimited the barrow. As the site was leveled prior to excavation, no mound body could be observed. In the background of the image, ditches dug to improve the medieval soil quality can be seen.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

  • Kooi, P.B, 1979. Pre-Roman Urnfields in the North of the Netherlands, pp. 10-25: North Barge (Hoge Loo).

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Photo 20. 2014 - Stone Age - Lost craft: how flint tools are made

Stone Age - Lost craft: how flint tools are made.
Stone Age - Lost craft: how flint tools are made.

When we talk about the Stone Age, it quickly turns to stone tools. For this, a lot of use was made of flint, a hard rock that can be easily worked with all kinds of percussion tools such as cobblers and hammers made of antler or wood. The resulting flakes had razor-sharp edges and were used to make all kinds of tools, such as knives, scrapers for working hides or wood, burins for working antler or bone, and drills for making holes. But also axes to cut down trees. Today, few societies continue to make and use stone tools. Archaeological books are full of images of prehistoric specimens, but for non-specialists in this field they are mainly static and abstract pictures. For students who are taught about prehistory during their education, demonstrations are given to give them a better idea of how flint tool manufacturing worked. Which techniques were used? How was the shape of semi-finished products and tools determined? How do you work from a mental concept toward a desired utensil? In this way, all those prehistoric finds acquire more meaning and more information can be extracted from them than a drawing or photo can show. Students who also try to work flint eventually learn to "read" prehistoric objects; "squeezing blood from stones", as an American archaeologist once wrote. But it is wise to have plasters on hand.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 19. 1932 - Graveyard at Laudermarke, Groningen

Graveyard at Laudermarke, Groningen.
Graveyard at Laudermarke, Groningen.

In 1932 in Laudermarke, under A.E. van Giffen, a part of a grave field that had been cut earlier in 1922 was uncovered. The photo shows the many workers who dug up there during times of unemployment as part of relief work. Van Giffen wrote about this “… many people, birds of the most diverse plumage. Even a piano tuner wielded the spade here as a sign of the times”. The photo shows how the two lighter trenches of a grave monument are cut. This grave monument (“.. sod mound (...) with funeral fire and a lot of charcoal in focus”) can be dated to the early Iron Age.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 18. 2019 - Drones in GIA research

Drones in GIA research.
Drones in GIA research.

Archaeology is synonymous with digging, and hence going more or less deep and certainly below the surface. Through the centuries, excavations have helped to change our knowledge of past civilizations and ancient cultures greatly. And yet, sometimes an archaeologist has to put aside shovels and trowels and look at things from the distance. Occasionally, from very far away. Satellite archaeology, and more recently UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), commonly known as drones, are contributing enormously to answer questions tied to large geographical scales, and the embedding of UAVs technology to explore grand themes of archaeology has proved to be particularly effective. Mapping ancient landscapes from the air, to say, is fundamental to understand the dynamics that took place in those very same territories, and how past communities interacted with their own physical space.

GIA students and staff members are increasingly integrating drones in their fieldwork activities, and with incredible results. For example, this aerial picture was taken by the GIA researcher on the left. It shows an artificial mound called Tell Balyuz which is located on the outskirts of Duhok, a city in Northern Iraqi Kurdistan. Drone mapping research carried out in this region is providing the archaeological community with high-resolution topographic maps and 3D models of a previously untouched landscape, also contributing to the monitoring of the archaeological and historical heritage of a critical region for the ancient world.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 17. 1982- 1988 - A terp profile in Heveskesklooster

A terp profile in Heveskesklooster.
A terp profile in Heveskesklooster.

Industrial expansions southeast of Delfzijl, which were never realized, threatened a still intact mound called Heveskesklooster. In the years 1982-1988, the mound was fully excavated by the then Biological Archaeological Institute (BAI), led by J.W. Boersma. A yet unknown Neolithic hunebed and stone cist were covered by a layer of peat. On the clay situated on top of this peat they discovered a house platform that was erected here in the decades before the start of the common era. During the Roman period and the Middle Ages, this stage gradually grew into an extensive mound, on which there was a monastery (Commanderij Oosterwierum) between about 1300 and 1610 and then a farm until 1975.

In the photos, archaeological draftsman of the GIA looks at two profiles showing a section of the lower part of the mound. The bottom of both profiles consists of natural peat (dark brown), covered by a layer of sea clay (light gray). A complex play of colors is visible on the sea clay, reflecting layers of elevation (large photo) and the filling of a wide ditch (small photo). On the ribbon, which is stretched in front of the profile, the measurements can be taken while drawing the layers. The further interpretation of the drawing is a time-consuming and detailed work, even for an experienced draftsman. Seated in a wooden chair, he gazes at the layers that each tell a piece of history of Heveskes Monastery, century by century.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

  • Boersma, J.W., 1988: A preliminary overview of the archaeological research of the Weed Heveskes Monastery (Gr.). In: M. Biersma, A.T.Clason, E. Kramer & G.J. de Langen (ed.), Terpen and Wierden in the Frisian-Groningen coastal area. Groningen, 61-87.

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Photo 16. 1995-2006 - The Southeast gate of Halos

The Southeast gate of Halos.
The Southeast gate of Halos.

About ten excavation campaigns, between 1995 and 2006, archaeologists and GIA students spent excavating the Southeast Gate of the Hellenistic city of Halos. Like the houses and city walls, the gate was badly damaged by an earthquake around 265 BC. A large number of inhabitants will have left the city, but a few built new accommodation along the remains of the city wall. This also applies to the location of the Zuidoostpoort. In the passage of the gate, an enterprising resident set up a grain and olive processing and storage company.

Measuring walls, a water basin, fireplace, well, stairs, olive presses and storage vessels worked well. The top photo was taken in 2005, a GIA employee and a student record measurements via a total station (a total station is a surveying device that records all measurements in 3D). However, it turned out to be difficult to visualize the structures between the sometimes 4 m high walls, because at that time we were not yet able to use drones during an excavation. Photographer Thanos Efthimiopoulos provided the solution. Early in the morning he came with hot air balloons and a camera drawn over the excavation with long lines. The photos provided us with a glimpse into a Hellenistic company.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

  • H.R. Reinders et al. 2014. The City of New Halos and its Southeast Gate (GAS; 27). Groningen

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Photo 15. 2016-2021 - Survey and excavation in Ayios Vasilios

Survey and excavation in Ayios Vasilios.
Survey and excavation in Ayios Vasilios.

This is an animal figurine of clay from the Mycenaean period (Late Bronze Age, ca. 1300 BC). It is probably an ox or cow: you can recognize the head, the horns, the beginning of two front legs and even an eye. These kinds of figurines are found in houses, graves and shrines; they are modest offerings or votive gifts from ordinary people, who most likely wanted to obtain protection for their flocks. It was found in 2017 during the survey of Ayios Vasileios, a palace complex from the Mycenaean period. Archaeologists have long fantasized about the possible existence of a Mycenaean palace in this region (Lakonia) in the southern mainland, but could not find it for a long time - until 2008, when a local farmer found a clay tablet bearing Linear B, an early Greek script, which was used almost exclusively for the palace administration. The subsequent excavations confirmed that there was a palace here. Between 2016 and 2021, this site was mapped by the GIA and led by Prof. dr. Sofia Voutsaki the Mycenaean cemetery of Ayios Vasileios was excavated.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 14. Reconstruction drawing Peelo,

300-400 AD.

Reconstruction drawing Peelo.
Reconstruction drawing Peelo.

This drawing shows the settlement of Peelo in late Roman times, consisting of four yards with stable houses, sheds and grain storage in spiekers. In the foreground are bottle-shaped iron ovens next to the house. To the right of this is a building with a pyramid-shaped roof, a forge where iron is worked.

The reconstruction is based on the soil traces found during the field investigation in Peelo. These ground traces are recorded on the field drawings made during the excavation campaigns in - formerly - the hamlet of Peelo, between 1977-1994.

The drawing was made by H. Roelink, a draftsman of the GIA, on the instructions of the person in charge in the field in Peelo, P.B. Kooi.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 13. 1991 - Mammoths in Drenthe

Mammoths in Drenthe.
Mammoths in Drenthe.

Drenthe is rich in archaeological remains, of which tens of Neolithic dolmens (hunebedden) visible in the present-day landscape have become the province’s icon. Less known are remains from times long gone, when Neanderthals were hunting in the plains of Ice Age northern Europe. Stone tools, such as handaxes, have been found at various locations in Drenthe, but remains of the animals they hunted are scarce in these parts of the Netherlands. However, during construction works for a gas pipeline in 1991, remains of at least three woolly mammoths – adult and juvenile – and a woolly rhinoceros were discovered near Orvelte. A number of radiocarbon dates has indicated that the bones, among which a complete mandible, were about 45,000 years old. Investigations by a multidisciplinary team from Groningen and Utrecht demonstrated that these animals died in a swampy, treeless valley dominated by dwarf birch and grasses. The animals remains got “trapped” in stagnating open water, and were quickly covered with muddy sediment (gyttja). Were these the remains of Neanderthal hunting parties? The researchers found no evidence for this, but it cannot be excluded either. Bones from so-called “kill sites” do not always show traces of the kill itself or subsequent butchery.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 12. 1977 - Excavation Swifterbant-S3

Excavation Swifterbant-S3.
Excavation Swifterbant-S3.

During the construction of the polder Eastern Flevoland, kilometers of new ditches were dug. Already In 1962 prehistoric finds were made. We now use the term Swifterbant culture, named after the polder village where these finds come from. Around 4300-4000 BC, hunter-gatherer-farmers lived here on the banks along a small river. The archaeological field research is a Groningen stronghold: during the summers of 1972-1979, a team led by J.D. van der Waals excavated and in the summers of 2004-2020 it was a team led by D.C.M. Raemaekers.

The photo gives an overview of the fieldschool at location S3. In the background the height of a point in the trench is measured using a level; in the middle student administer finds in paper bags and in the foreground students use a shovel to slice off thin layers of the find layer, in search of new finds.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 11. 2007 - A blocklift from Crustumerium

A blocklift from Crustumerium.
A blocklift from Crustumerium.

An initial phase of the expansion of the city-state of Rome in the 6th century BC meant the demise or subjugation of neighbouring towns along the Tiber. For example, Crustumerium (inhabited from the 9th century BC) was defeated by Rome in 499 BC.

Little has been found of the settlement, but the various cemeteries still contain a lot of information, based on which a reconstruction of society and its contacts with neighbouring ethnic groups such as the Latins, the Etruscans and the Sabines is possible.

Archaeological research at the necropolis of Monte del Bufalo regularly reveals complex burials. The extreme working conditions (sun and drought) sometimes lead to turning a part of a grave into a so-called blocklift (photo). This block truck is further investigated under laboratory conditions. For example, X-rays are taken prior to the mini excavation.

The blocklift in the photo is the top half of a burial of a woman of about 45 years old who was buried around 650 BC. Her age can be deduced, among other things, from wear on the teeth. She received a lot of personal jewellery and also tools associated with weaving. The colour of her teeth is caused by corrosion: metallic copper dissolves from the jewellery and deposits in the enamel of the teeth. The X-rays shows very clearly the metallic grave gifts such as the fibulae (numbers 1,2,3,5,6,7,8 and 9) and also the beads (around number 4). Under the beads around the mouth area of the person you can still faintly recognize the teeth - can you distinguish them?

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 10. 1984 - Unveiling Bronze find in the GIA canteen

Unveiling Bronze find in the GIA canteen.
Unveiling Bronze find in the GIA canteen.

At the end of November 1984, a plot in the Drouwenerveld (Drouwen, Drenthe province) was plowed deeper than before. An amateur archaeologist searched this field because earlier pottery shards had been found there; he found a number of bronze fragments. He reported this to the provincial archaeologist and after an agreement had been made about the finder's wages, the location was visited, together with GIA staff members. After a first search with a metal detector, the top edge of a pot, with bronze objects in it, was visible from a 2x2 meter test pit. Because it would soon be dark and they did not want to leave the find unattended, the pot + contents were lifted in their entirety and transported to the GIA in a finds chest.

A few days later pot and objects were, in the presence of staff, students and press, carefully unveilded in the canteen of GIA. Also the precise location of the pieces was sketched. The pot turned out to be filled with mainly broken bronze objects (70 pieces), sometimes incomplete. It was probably an amount of bronze that was intended to be melted down for casting new objects.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

  • NDV 1986 – Kroniek van opgravingen en vondsten in Drenthe in 1984
    / P.B. Kooi, p. 38 (146)
  • NDV 1987 – Drouwen: het eind van de Noordse regenboog?
    / J.J. Butler, pp. 3 (103) – 50 (150)


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Photo 9. 1957-1958 - Excavation at Anlo

Excavation at Anlo.
Excavation at Anlo.

This photo shows Jan Lanting sr., Trained in archeology by A.E. van Giffen. He carefully prepares a vase from a beaker grave during the excavation of a stockyard / bronze age settlement in Anlo in 1957-1958. He probably wants to take a photo, using a matchbox as a measuring stick.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 8. 2008 - Reconstruction drawing of Midlaren around 200 AD.

Reconstruction drawing of Midlaren around 200 AD.
Reconstruction drawing of Midlaren around 200 AD.

This is a reconstruction of the settlement on De Bloemert during the late Iron Age (approx. 200 BC), with the Hondsrug on the left and the Hunzedal on the right. Seen from the south.

The process of the reconstruction drawing is extensive and diverse: photographs were taken and the drawer visited the excavation site to get an impression of the surroundings. Subsequently obtained advice from GIA-experts was necessary: interpretation of ground tracks for late Iron Age buildings, ground tracks for agricultural activities, pollen found for impression of agricultural activities and vegetation, spread of building land over the surface, animal bone material for type of fauna. A lot of feedback to experts took place every time after making sketches. Unfortunately an error still occurred: the presence of chickens in the yard is incorrect, because chickens were only introduced by the Romans. This information is processed in a reconstruction - watercolour on paper.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology –
draw. S. Boersma.

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Photo 7. 2020 - Zooarchaeology at GIA

Zooarchaeology at GIA.
Zooarchaeology at GIA.

Zooarchaeology has played an important role since the foundation of the GIA. The thesis of A.E. van Giffen - the founder of the GIA, originally the BAI - was entitled “Die Fauna der Wurten” and shows that research in this discipline goes back more than 100 years in Groningen. In the past 100 years, a zooarchaeological reference collection has been compiled: more than 5000 mammal, bird, fish, reptile, amphibian and shellfish remnants are part of it. Part of this collection is physically attached to a wall - this is part of the collection of vertebrae and ribs.

As part of the Bachelor course "Practical Zooarchaeology", students learn to deal with animal remains from archaeological contexts. In the photo, a Bachelor student is identifying and analyzing some dolphin bones. Identification to species is very important in zooarchaeology because it provides a lot of information about the interaction between humans and animals in the past.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 6. 1933 - Excursion to Ezinge

Excursion to Ezinge.
Excursion to Ezinge.

In april 1933 van Giffen organized a congres for a group of German archaeologists. During a tour through the province of Groningen the excavations in Ezinge were visited. As usual during these gatherings a groupsphoto was made. The group posed for the managers office (a wooden barrack), named Azinga. Tables lend from a local pub were used to display finds from the excavation.

The excavations in Ezinge took place between 1923 and 1934 and because of this length a barrack was placed on the site, for use of van Giffen and his direct staff members. Standard they used a white officer tent which can be seen on the first picture in this series, made during the excavation at the Wierhuizen.

One year later, after the last campaign was completed, the barrack was disassembled and transported to Diever, where it was rebuild on the Heezeberg. It functioned up to 1979 als a holiday home for the van Giffen family.

© Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Groninger Instituut voor Archeologie.

Literature:

  • Ezinge, IJkpunt van de archeologie / P.B. Kooi & K. van der Ploeg, 2006 (978-90-367-7403-1)
  • En dan in hun geheel, de vondsten uit de opgravingenin de wierde Ezinge / Annet Nieuwhof (red), 2014 (ISSN 0920-2587, ISBN 978-90-811714-6-5)

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Photo 5. Celtic Fields in Someren - De Hoenderboom, Brabant

Celtic Fields in Someren - De Hoenderboom, Brabant
Celtic Fields in Someren - De Hoenderboom, Brabant

In 2012 and 2013, the GIA carried out a targeted excavation of a prehistoric agricultural plot or Celtic field in Someren - De Hoenderboom. These are walled fields from the final phase of the Bronze Age. This project was carried out together with the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE) as it concerned a protected monument, and with the cooperation of Staatsbosbeheer and the municipality of Someren. In these trenches it was established for the first time that plough traces of an ard plough were preserved in the fields as well as in their banks. This was important evidence for the presumed slow growth of the Celtic field banks. The large grazers that keep the Hoenderboom open today are taking a look at the working pit.

© Pir Hoebe.

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Photo 4. Archaeobotany at GIA

Archaeobotany at GIA.
Archaeobotany at GIA.

The GIA archaeobotany department is located in the Broerstraat 9 building. Archaeobotany is a supportive discipline in which plant remains, found during excavations or coring, are studied. The botanical reference collection built up by GIA staff over the past 100 years, has been used to conduct targeted archaeobotanical research. Part of this collection can be seen in the background of photo 3b. This collection is used to answer questions about what used to be eaten, which plant species are native and exotic, and what kind of climate can be expected based on the plant species found at a site.

Photo 3a shows a page from the Digital Seed Atlas of the Netherlands1, which has been compiled from the reference collection. The photo shows fruits from the Asteraceae (Composites) family. Within this family fall ragwort and marigold flowers. These have been found in botanical samples taken in the field. In the second photo, a researcher conducts microscopic research to identify and count plant species. Bottles with water can be seen in the foreground. By adding water to a sample it can be seen whether certain residues float. Also the wet-preserved seeds and fruits remain unchanged in shape.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

  1. Cappers, R.T.J., R.M. Bekker & J.E.A. Jans (2012; 2nd ed.): Digitale zadenatlas van Nederland/Digital seed atlas of the Netherlands. Groningen: Barkhuis & Groningen University Library.

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Photo 3. 1927 - Excursion to Buinen

Excursion to Buinen.
Excursion to Buinen.

In A.E. van Giffen’s career the research of the megalithic tombs in Drenthe are recurrent subjects. Until many years after his retirement in 1955, he carried out excavations and restaurations. In 1927 he excavated megalithic tomb D28 near Buinen. This photo shows an excursion. At the left you can see van Giffen, holding a piece of paper in his hand. The excavation yielded exceptional finds like two beads made out of copper thread. These still are the oldest metal objects in the Netherlands. The beads are part of the collection of the Drents Museum. The excavation photo’s pictures are part of the GIA collection. This is a fine example of the cooperation between provincial museums and a predecessor of GIA, the BAI (Biological Archaeological Institute).

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Photo 2. 2014 - Levelling in Crustumerium, Italy

Levelling in Crustumerium, Italy.
Levelling in Crustumerium, Italy.

An important aspect for every excavation is the precise measurement of the height of a location, track or object. On the photo a measurement is made of a point at the burial mound 'Quilici O' on the pre-Roman excavation Crustumerium in Italy, where the GIA has been excavating since 2006. The vertical measuring rod in the hands of the employee is called a level staff. With the levelling instrument (bottom of photo) you can read the relative height of the point (or object) on which the level staff stands. This measurement is related to a national measuring point.

© Tim Kauling.

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Photo 1. 1917 - Appingedam, de Wierhuizen

Appingedam, de Wierhuizen
Appingedam, de Wierhuizen

In 1916 Jan Evert Scholten bought the remainder of the dwelling mound (wierde or terp) Wierhuizen in Appingedam. Jan Evert was one of the co-founders of the Vere(e)niging voor Terpenonderzoek (1916 - Association for Terp Research), an association that is still active and closely linked to the GIA. The excavation was carried out by a young Albert Egges van Giffen. In 1917 he was assisted in the excavation by 20 interned Belgians. During the First World War, soldiers from countries at war were interned in a neutral country (following the Second Peace Conference of The Hague - 1907). In the terp, remains of houses, farms and graves were found. The rows of posts in the photo were interpreted as “wall houses.” Although later they were re-interpreted as the remains of three-aisled buildings, van Giffen's publications laid the foundations for modern terp research.

© University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology.

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Last modified:07 July 2020 8.17 p.m.
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