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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
# below the surface
Coins, ID cards, and false teeth... what they found when they dredged canals in Amsterdam
All of the items are on display on a fascinating website.

STUFF-44 Below The Surface A book has been compiled, detailing everything that was found. Below The Surface

ISLAMIC COINS, IRISH coins, ID cards and arrowheads were among the many treasures that have been found in the riverbed of part of the River Amstel in Amsterdam.

The incredible archaeological finds have all been washed, categorised and photographed, and are on display online on the Below The Surface website. They were discovered while work on the city’s North/South metro line between 2003 and 2012, and show the huge range of people that passed through the city for hundreds of years.

Including many Irish people:

NZD1.00533MTL027(01) Below The Surface Below The Surface

The River Amstel is described on the site as once being “the vital artery, the central axis, of the city”. A small trading port originated at the mouth of the Amstel 800 years ago – people gathered there, traded there, walked up and down its banks. But until work began at two points of the river – Damrak and Rokin – archaeologists had never had extensive access to the riverbed.

At the two sites, the river was pumped dry, and the bed was “systematically examined”. In all, 700,000 items were uncovered – some of which were broken, some of which were still whole. Together, they help tell the story of Amsterdam’s development as a city.

NZD1.00077MTL069(01) Below The Surface Below The Surface

Some of the items were dumped, some accidentally lost, but all tell a story.

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. This is what makes this archaeological collection so fascinating, so poetically breathtaking and abstract at one and the same time.

Together, the Department of Archaeology, Monuments and Archaeology, and the City Amsterdam, along with the Chief Technology Office, put together the Below the Surface website which catalogues everything they found.

It’s an incredible experience to look through everything – you can scroll through the items in chronological order, from 2005 to 119,000 BC. You can spot prehistoric blades from, parts of jugs  from the Bronze Age-Roman period, a marriage token from 1642, clay pipes from the 16th century, French mustard pots from the early 19th century, a coin from the Weimar Republic, an undeveloped roll of film from sometime between 1990 and 2005, all the way up to a plastic spinning top.

NZR2.00313XXX004(01) Below The Surface Shells dating from 124,000 - 114,000 BC Below The Surface

It’s incredible to see what makes a city a city, and also how items evolved over the years. The project makes you think – under the bicycles and traffic cones, what else could we in Ireland’s city’s rivers and canals?

To find out more, and to view the entire collection, visit the Below The Surface website.

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