An archaeological monument is a site that is part of our cultural heritage because of remains, objects or other traces of past human presence that have been preserved on or beneath it.
Visible and unvisible monuments
Visible monuments such as barrows, terpen (dwelling mounds) and dolmens (megalithic tombs, known in Dutch as hunebedden) are the best known. Most archaeological monuments cannot be seen, however, as they are beneath the soil or under water.
Difference in status
Besides the difference between visible and invisible monuments, there is also a difference in the status of sites. Those with the highest status are listed archaeological monuments, sites with remains that are of vital scientific and cultural importance to the nation. They are protected by the state as they constitute important sources of information about our history. The aim is to protect a representative sample of these sources for future generations by listing them as archaeological monuments.
Shift of focus
The listing of archaeological monuments began in 1967, under the first Monuments and Historic Buildings Act. The sharp rise in the number of monuments being listed in the 1970s and 80s was the result of an active policy of protection, with a strong emphasis on protecting visible archaeological remains. From 1987 the figures levelled off somewhat, though the list has continued to grow steadily. Over time, the focus has shifted towards protecting invisible archaeological monuments.
Provincial and local authority archaeological monuments
Some archaeological sites are known to contain archaeological remains but do not have protected status. There are approximately 15,000 such sites in the Netherlands. These monuments are however subject to certain restrictions (e.g. in terms of land use), and some have provincial or local authority status.