4,000-year-old sanctuary discovered in Central Netherlands

Shrine built to align with the sun on the solstices, archaeologists unearthed the “Stonehenge of Netherlands” alongside a burial mound with human remains and a Mesopotamian bead.
Shubhangi Dua
Archaeologists discover 4000-year-old shrine nicknamed, "the Stonehenge of Netherlands"
Archaeologists discover 4000-year-old shrine nicknamed, "the Stonehenge of Netherlands"

gemeente Tiel / Youtube 

Similar to the stone circle in southern England, Stonehenge, scientists spotted a four-thousand-year-old mythological shrine dedicated to the sun in the central Netherlands near the town of Tiel on Wednesday. 

The burial mound that served as a solar calendar also harbored animal skeletons, human skulls, and valuable items such as a bronze spearhead, which was found in areas where the sun shone through the openings on the longest and the shortest days of the year. 

The Guardian reported that the mound contained the remains of about 60 men, women, and children at the excavated site.

“The sanctuary consisted of several earthen hills, it must have been a momentous place as people kept track of special days in the year, performed rituals, and buried their dead there and rows of poles stood along pathways used for processions,” the Municipality of Tiel said. 

Watch this government curated video about the archaeological findings with illustrations below (the commentary is in Dutch).

Momentous discoveries

The shrine has been in use for 800 years, adds the Municipality of Tiel, the main days being June 21, the summer solstice (longest day), and December 21, the winter solstice (shortest day).

Researchers also said that people used the holy shrine to determine significant dates such as festivals and harvest days

Another important discovery at the archaeological site was a glass bead. The origin of the bead has been traced back to Mesopotamia. (now Iraq). It was located in the oldest part of the burial field. 

“It shows that the inhabitants of this area had contact with people almost 5000 kilometers away 4000 years ago,” stated the municipality.

Stijn Arnoldussen, a professor at the University of Groningen said that since glass was not manufactured in the Netherlands back then, the bead must have been a spectacular item for people to witness as the material was unknown. 

“Things were already being exchanged in those times. The bead may have been above ground for hundreds of years before it reached Tiel, but of course, it didn’t have to be,” Arnoldussen said.

Lengthy exploration

Between November 2016 and September 2017, scientists conducted the largest archaeological excavation in Betuwe since the Betuwe Line project in the late 90s. The excavation took place as part of research for the expansion of the Medel business park.

Archaeologists made the discovery after six years of research as more than a million finds were excavated. The findings dated back to the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Roman Empire, and the Middle Ages, The Guardian reports.

After the completion of the excavation, the site was covered again to allow construction work. 

The Municipality of Teil said that some of the discoveries will be displayed at a local museum in Tiel and the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities.

To view the findings imminently, the local authorities said that a temporary presentation has been set up in the Flipje en Streekmuseum in Tiel until 20 October this year.