In 2017 there were 4,225 archaeological investigations registered in the Netherlands, a slight increase since 2016 (4,015). The number of registrations of archaeological research carried out in the Netherlands since 1908 amounts to 64,304 in total.
The diagram shows the different types of archaeological investigation in the Netherlands by year of implementation, based on notifications in Archis.
Increase in watching briefs and desk studies
Up to 1980 most archaeological research reported in Archis were excavations. By the late 1980s archaeological field surveys accounted for the largest proportion of archaeological research in the Netherlands. From 2001 archaeological watching briefs began to steadily increase in number, to 534 in 2013. The number of desk studies also grew, peaking at 1,313 in 2009.
Significantly more research has been performed since 1980 than prior to this date. However, in many cases the type of investigation is not specified. Since the mid-1990s, archaeologists have been working more ‘in the spirit of Malta’, and specification of the type of research has become more common in notifications. Since 2003 the proportion of investigations in the ‘other’ category has dwindled to virtually nothing.
Growth in archaeological field surveys and desk studies
The number of archaeological field surveys rose steadily from 165 in 1996 to more than 3,100 in 2008. After this, the number fell gradually to 2,223 in 2013, probably due to a decline in the number of construction and infrastructure projects. Desk studies show a similar rise and fall, with a peak of 1,313 in 2009.
Number of excavations remains stable
The proportion of excavations has remained fairly stable throughout the entire period. Even during the period of sharp growth in the number of archaeological field surveys, the number of excavations did not increase proportionally. This could be because fewer sites were being prospected or deemed worthy of preservation. Another explanation might lie in the fact that more sites are being preserved in situ, in accordance with the Archaeological Heritage Management Act. At the same time, we see a gradual increase in the number of archaeological watching briefs, which suggests that watching briefs are being employed more frequently as a means of preservation ex situ. This is the only form of investigation that has continued to increase, despite the downward trend in the total number of archaeological investigations since 2009.
Archaeological Information System (Archis) - Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE)
31 December 2017
Some types of investigation have been grouped to make the diagrams more readable:
- ‘archaeological field survey’ = surface prospection, borehole survey, geophysical survey, inspection, test pit/trial trench
- ‘indeterminate’ = indeterminate, unknown
- ‘other’ = archive, aerial photography/remote sensing, and non-archaeological dredging, boreholes, excavation, prospection, metal detector.
Reports of investigations are registered in Archis by the party conducting the investigation. The Cultural Heritage Agency checks that a plan of action or project brief has been drawn up for excavations, test pits, trial trenches and archaeological watching briefs.
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