A day of digging with the archaeologists


ZUTPHEN – Have you ever been allowed to participate in real archaeological digs? This is possible on Saturday 15 October from 10:00 to 16:00 in Zutphen at Spanjaardspoort on Isendoornstraat. “I think it would be really fun, also for children, to be able to discover for themselves what archaeologists do,” says councilor Sjoerd Wannet.

The old gate, built around 1500, looks peaceful in the autumn light. It forms the entrance to Vogelparken between two school buildings. The name recalls a black page in Zutphen’s history. The Spanish largely destroyed the city in 1572. This year marks 450 years since. Ten to one, traces can still be found around the building that can tell us more about that period. That the visitors have a role fits in with the municipality’s aim to make the hidden things from the past (from documents to underground finds) visible and accessible to as many as possible, says Councilor Wannet. “The land of Zutphen has a lot to offer. Everything we do is built on what our ancestors left behind. Zutphen is nationally known for its archaeological wealth and wants to go one step further with public archeology: direct involvement of the inhabitants. In the end In the end, this is the legacy of all of us.”

In preparation, the top layer of soil has already been removed mechanically directly behind the gate. “Visitors, children accompanied by adults, do not need to carry wheelbarrows full of sand,” says archaeologist Jos van Dalfsen. They can get down to business right away, digging additional pieces and – if they’ve come across the remains of an old wall – gently brush in the hope that something interesting will turn up on or near the 2.5 meter wide and many meter long walls. In many other places in the city, gas pipes or data cables are underground; not in the Bird Park. “That is also why it is a suitable place for this ‘unique’ activity,” says Van Dalfsen. As far as is known, this is the first time in the Netherlands that the public is actually carrying out archaeological work themselves. It happens that they hide things in advance, which children then ‘dig up’. Wannet: “Then you know you’ll find something. But in reality, it can happen that it disappoints. It’s also archaeology.”

The construction behind Spanjaardspoort was discovered by accident during the rebuilding of the Bird Park in 2000. A preliminary documentation was then prepared. Van Dalfsen: “Our task now is to look at the quality of the masonry. Has it decreased or remained the same over the last twenty years? In addition, many questions have arisen. What were certain connections like? What was the exact construction like? How is the barbican (large defensive work) constructed? Are there casemates (gun cellars) present?”
Don Fadrique (Don Frederik) and his Spanish warriors shot a hole in the barbican in 1572 to enter the city from there. “Can we find the hole now?” wonders Van Dalfsen.

Over the centuries, the underground walls have become saturated with water. After the examination, they are covered with sand again, otherwise they will freeze to pieces in the winter. On the Monday after Zutphenaren and other archaeological enthusiasts have made their contribution, the municipal archeology team will first ‘measure the situation digitally’. To register everything precisely to the millimeter for later.

In the Baudartius building next to Spanjaardspoort, those interested can attend three lectures. From 10.00, always on time. Each lecture is offered twice, the last at 3 p.m.
‘What is archaeology, what do you do, how do you work?’ by archaeologist Jos van Dalfsen.
‘Building history lecture on the barbican’ by building historian/model builder Constant Willems.
‘1572, the birth of Holland in the Achterhoek’ by urban archaeologist Michel Groothedde.

The Historical Society and the Cultural Heritage Center are present with a stand, as well as volunteers from the metal detector team with their metal detectors: visitors can also hunt for objects in the ground. There is teaching material in the form of a chip game and a teaching box with metals. Information boards on the side and a special folder provide text and explanation.

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