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Replica of unique prehistoric sword unveiled in Oss

The Faculty of Archaeology has a long research tradition in the municipality of Oss. Since 1974, researchers and students have been carrying out archaeological research here. In Januari 2019, an enormous replica of one of the top local finds was unveiled standing in the middle of a roundabout.

The situla roundabout with sword in the centre of Oss. Photo: P. van Erp – Brabants Dagblad

Since January 2019, a 5 metres high bended, massive sword stands in the centre of the town of Oss (Netherlands), in the middle of a roundabout. The concrete edge of the roundabout depicts the rim of the bronze situla in which the sword was found. With an impressive, flaming procession the roundabout was opened by students of the local highschool VMBO Het Hooghuis with a spectacular, self-written theatre play.

The artwork is inspired by archaeological objects found in 1933 by the Museum of Antiquities, under the largest barrow mound known in the Netherlands. In 1997 the Early Iron Age Chieftain grave of Oss was rediscovered by archaeologists from the Faculty of Archaeology.

A unique research project

The Faculty of Archaeology has a long research tradition in the municipality of Oss. Since 1974, researchers and students have been carrying out archaeological research here. This has led to a unique and one of the largest archaeological research projects in the Netherlands. Based on the results we can narrate the deep, local history of a rural landscape as part of the contemporaneous occupation of the surrounding big world.

The spectacular finds of the Chieftain grave of Oss (RMO)

An archaeological ‘quest’

The location of the Chieftain grave of Oss got lost in time. In 1997, Leiden University started an archaeological ‘quest’ for the mound, one of the most extraordinary archaeological finds from Dutch prehistory. Between 1998 and 2002 the remains of the largest barrow mound of the Netherlands and its environment have been excavated and surveyed by researchers and students of the Faculty of Archaeology.

The Chieftain grave of Oss

Another chieftain grave

From 2004 onwards the research was continued at the nearby cemetery Paalgraven. Mounds from the Bronze and Iron Age were excavated here. The last, excavated in 2007, turned out to be an Early Iron Age chieftain grave as well, contemporaneous to the Chieftain grave of Oss. Also a third Early Iron Age mound at Paalgraven is considered to be a chieftain grave, now with an extreme form of a pars pro toto grave ritual. Together this group of three of the largest Early Iron Age barrow mounds in the Netherlands form a unique ensemble.

The discovery of the second chieftain grave at Paalgraven.

Societal valorization …

Since the location of the mound was (re-)discovered in 1997 archaeologists of the Faculty together with local archaeologists and the municipality of Oss have made an effort for the re-erection of this unique monument. In 2003 the Vorstengraf-monument, designed by a landscape architect, was opened, followed by the opening of the Paalgraven-monument in 2013. Together they form a unique archaeological park embedded within a modern highway scenery. Visitors can experience here a prehistoric landscape, based on the archaeological results of our Faculty’s fieldwork.

… and impact

But the archaeological objects and related narrative also inspired various writers, artists and designers. These resulted in a reproduction of the sword by high school students, an artist impression of the Vorst van Oss, archeo-graffit art, a short novel by Linda Dielemans, a construction kit with cardboard sword, a sand sculpture, an archeo-glossy, and a educational program. Together with the now unveiled artwork in the centre of Oss these are illustrations of the powerfulness – the material agency - of an archaeological object and its associated narrative. After 2800 years, the sword still inspires and puts people in motion.

The sword (RMO)

Archaeology within society

And now the sword inspires two designers to create an unique roundabout artwork, refereeing to our prehistoric past in our present-day environment. It demonstrates that archaeology matters. Archaeological narratives and objects inspire others to tell our story in such a way as we cannot do ourselves, reaching groups of people we cannot reach ourselves. The sword is now definitely part of the local identity and collective memory, clearly visible to all residents and visitors of Oss.

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