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Extraordinary Merovingian cemetery excavated by Leiden University

In the last weeks of May 2017 a team of students, PhD’s and postdocs of Leiden University led by prof. Frans Theuws excavated a small but exclusive cemetery from the late 7th and early 8th century in the town of Veldhoven in the southern Netherlands. Leiden University cooperated with the Town of Veldhoven, archaeological companies ARCHOL (Leiden) and ADC (Amersfoort) and ArchAeO Consultancy (Eindhoven).

Veldhoven Huysackers Merovingian cemetery Discussing the complicated sequence of layers in chamber grave 8. Photograph Melvin van Liebergen, (L-Mount Media)
Veldhoven Huysackers Merovingian cemetery Discussing the complicated sequence of layers in chamber grave 8. Photograph Melvin van Liebergen, (L-Mount Media)

Burials on the farmyard

The cemetery was located in a settlement and must have been used by two households over two successive generations. The first generation graves were large chamber graves in which at least three men and a woman were buried. The men in these graves were lavishly buried with weapons (sword, seax, lance and shields), pottery. Two men were buried with spurs on their left foot. One man was given a coin in his mouth. Metal belt fittings completed the grave inventories. The woman was buried with beads around her neck and a pot.

Testing new excavation strategies

New excavation strategies were tested such as making longitudinal sections over the graves. The sections proved to be highly informative on the construction of the grave chambers as well as their post-burial decomposition and treatment. Complex sequences of sedimentation in the grave chambers could be observed and the collapse of the wooden constructions could be studied. It is for the first time that such information was documented systematically.

Micromorphological research

Many samples for micromorphological analysis were taken which will be analysed by the State Archaeological Service (Amersfoort) in an attempt to contribute to new understandings of the archaeological formation processes of Merovingian graves and the nature of sedimentation in the grave chambers as well as the process of decay.

Archaeology and the Public

The town of Veldhoven and ArchAeO consultancy invested considerably in public outreach. The public was allowed to enter the excavation and follow the excavation of the graves. The excavation could be followed with a webcam broadcasting from 6 AM till 22 PM. Guided tours were organised and there was a lot of interest from the press and local and provincial politicians. Melvin van Liebergen (L-Mount Media) was commissioned to make photographs and video recordings during the whole period of excavation. A video of the excavation will be available in due time.