What lies at the bottom of the Amstel? Project “Below the Surface” wants you to know

They lied undisturbed at the bottom of the Amstel river for years, even ages. Now they resurfaced to live their second life as unexpected gifts for curious eyes. These archaeological finds have been washed, categorized and photographed, and are displayed online on the website Below the Surface, created by the Department of Archaeology, Monuments, and Archaeology (MenA) of the City of Amsterdam. They have been found during the excavations for the construction of the city’s North/South subway line, between 2003 and 2012, when the river was pumped dry.

Miniature horse – 1900-1937

The riverbed was painstakingly analyzed. Overall, 700,000 objects were discovered, and they tell a captivating story which the MenA unveils to us.

Chinese Porcelain Vase (Khangxi) 1700/1725

The beauty of this archeological endeavor is bringing back to life some extremely ordinary objects that, unlike those exhibited in museums,  aren’t meant to impress us. Most of them are ugly, terribly wittered ID cards, buttons,  combs, cellphones…There’s a sense of aloofness about them, and the result is intriguing as we observe the displays created by the team of archeologists at the subway station Rokin.

The website is so versatile that you can even create your own displays with the objects in the catalog, as this one I easily created using their drag-and-drop interaction:

I can see the Amstel riverbed from here!!

There are also the usual suspects that collectors love, like miniatures, coins (many, many coins), porcelain vases (or pieces of them)…

You can read the story of many of these objects here.

Miniature Soldier – 1650/1700

It is an amazing experience to check through: you can scroll through the items in chronological order, from 2005 into 119,000 BC.! These pieces are neatly arranged and the visual effect is enticing.  As you scroll back in the past  you can spot prehistoric blades , a piece of a broken jug from the Bronze Age-Roman period, a marriage token dated from 1642, clay pipes from the 16th century, a medicine bottle from 1825-1875, a pot of the iconic French mustard Maille in the early 19th century, a coin in the Weimar Republic, an undeveloped roll of film from sometime between 1990 and 2005…the list goes on and on, it’s really addictive.

You can buy the catalog, XXX Stuff -Catalogue Archeological Finds Amsterdam’s North/South Metro Line here and watch a brief documentary about this fascinating project here.

Vending machine token -2001/2005


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