All  
Aerial photo of Old Harlem showing the newly found ancient Dutch castle      Source: Saricon / NHNieuws

A Rare Ancient Dutch Castle Has Been Uncovered in the Netherlands

Print

The Netherlands isn’t known as a country that announces weekly archaeological discoveries. However, there are countless ancient sites of medieval interest in the Netherlands ranging from Anglo-Saxon holy wells, churches, cathedrals and missionaries, to stone landmarks commemorating medieval murders. The recent find, hidden beneath the country’s medieval top soils, according to a news report by Holland daily, NH NIEUWS , marks the discovery of an ancient Dutch castle, and it is the oldest example of its type found in the Netherlands.

The newly discovered ancient Dutch castle was found on the grounds of Oud Haerlem castle in Heemskerk, Netherlands. The archaeologist who identified it, Nancy de Jong, said she “cannot believe her luck” after making this exceptionally rare find. Oud Haerlem comprises the ruins of a former castle located on the east side of Heemskerk town, about 400 meters southwest of Slot Assumburg. Oud Haerlem castle was built in 1248 AD by Simon van Haerlem. It was destroyed in 1351 AD during the Hoekse and Kabeljauwse disputes (Hook and Cod wars) which were a series of battles that took place in Holland between 1350 and 1490 AD. The battles were fought over the title of “ Count of Holland .” The castle was rediscovered in the 1930s by aerial archaeologists.

Area of land where the newly discovered ancient Dutch castle is located  (Gemeente Heemskerk / YouTube Screenshot)

Area of land where the newly discovered ancient Dutch castle is located  (Gemeente Heemskerk / YouTube Screenshot )

Newly Found Dutch Castle: Classic Castle With Towers

The ancient Dutch castle site was first examined in 1960 by Professor J.G.N. Renud who excavated parts of the castle remains and mapped the outer castle. At that time Bronze Age artifacts were discovered at the site dating back to the 14 th century. In 2016, a series of irregular elevations were observed in the meadow surrounding the former castle. When these features were examined, unbeknown to the archaeologists, they were only a few meters from the buried second castle that was recently discovered by archaeo-geophysical specialist Nancy de Jong and the team.

Dr. de Jong said:

"We knew that there was a wall, a kind of city wall, around the site, but not what could still be found inside, and we are very happy that we made such a unique find so quickly - you don't just find a castle in the Netherlands, every day!”

The newly discovered Dutch castle dates from 1250 AD and preliminary surveys have determined that it was destroyed about a century later. As the site has not been developed, the castle remains are well-preserved. And according to Nancy de Jong, when visualizing what this building might have looked like, “this castle reminds us of the classic idea of a castle with towers.”

Image produced using magnetometry and electromagnetic induction revealed the foundations of the newly discovered ancient Dutch castle. (Gemeente Heemskerk / YouTube Screenshot)

Image produced using magnetometry and electromagnetic induction revealed the foundations of the newly discovered ancient Dutch castle. ( Gemeente Heemskerk / YouTube Screenshot )

New Ancient Dutch Castle Part of a Double-Layered Defense

Measuring 45 by 45 square meters (49 by 49 yards) and consisting of several rooms and out buildings, the newly found castle was a square defensive fortress protecting the main Slot Oud Haerlem castle behind it, and this is why stables and sleeping quarters for workmen were discovered by archaeologists within the ruined walls of the new castle. Until now, archaeologists in the Netherlands had always assumed that the construction of square castles occurred after 1280 AD, during the rule of Floris the Fifth, but this newly discovered example dates from 1250 AD, which pushes back the mainstream archaeological timeframe by three decades. This also makes it the oldest square, tower castle type in the Netherlands.

The new castle was discovered during a geophysical survey undertaken in May 2020, which continued through June 2020. To further illustrate life at the ancient fortress, a non-intrusive soil survey is currently being conducted. The team of archaeologists are about halfway through scanning this 90,000 square meter (10,7640 square yard) archaeological site, and excavating for artifacts hasn’t even been considered at this writing. For the full story on this discovery, watch the YouTube video published by the municipality of Heemskerk, in which the research project leading to the castle’s discovery are explained at length. In this film, Dr. de Jong describes the castle in thoroughly non-archaeological terms, as “really spectacular and very beautiful.” If the research is successful, the new ancient Dutch castle may one day become a popular tourist destination for medieval era and Game of Thrones fans.

Top image: Aerial photo of Old Harlem showing the newly found ancient Dutch castle      Source: Saricon / NHNieuws

By Ashley Cowie

Next article