Archaeology in The Hague

The story of The Hague is one of sea and dunes. People have been attracted by its favourable location for thousands of years.

Pots excavated in The Hague
Pots excavated in The Hague

At first the sea’s impact was strong and parts of the area were regularly flooded. That stopped 6,000 years ago, when a range of dunes formed. Its higher parts were ideal places for Stone Age people to hunt, live and till their fields.

The coastline slowly moved westwards, and people have lived in this land of sandbars and dunes ever since.

The first settlers

The first people to live in what is now The Hague settled on a dune near Ypenburg between ca. 3800 and 3400 BC. Their houses, the oldest in The Hague, have been excavated there together with one of the largest prehistoric cemeteries in the Netherlands: 31 graves containing the remains of 42 people.

A smaller Iron Age cemetery was discovered near the Hubertustunnel, at the entrance to the Oude Waalsdorperweg. Recognisable traces of fields from the Bronze and Iron Ages were found at the site of the World Forum, and some of the most beautiful middle Bronze Age pottery ever found was discovered during excavations near Bronovo Hospital.

A Stone Age settlement was found on top of The Hague’s oldest coastal barrier, in Wateringse Veld near the Rhijenhof sport and housing development. An interesting site from the Iron Age was discovered in the nearby Boezemland and Noordhof housing developments. It contained small pottery trays used to extract salt from seawater.

Roman Age

During the first few centuries of the Common Era, the area around The Hague was located at the very edge of the Roman Empire. Many Roman sites have been found throughout the city, and a small Roman fort was excavated near the Ockenburgh housing estate.

Several horse burial sites were found, evidence that cavalry units were stationed there to guard the border and the coast. The small fort also yielded Roman pottery, bronze objects and coins. One of the largest sources of Roman military gear in the Netherlands is the Scheveningseweg site, which was also excavated.

The spectacular discovery of four milestones at Wateringse Veld provided clues to the precise location of the Roman road to Forum Hadriani, the then regional capital, near modern Voorburg. Replicas of the milestones have been placed near the site, while the originals can be admired in Museon in The Hague.

Roman artefacts were also found near the Uithofslaan, including an altar fragment and a bronze incense burner.

There were also excavations of farms belonging to the native population at the time, the German tribe called the Canninefates.

Middle Ages

A 6th to 7th century AD weapons grave found at the Solleveld nature preserve was an exceptional discovery. The second surprise at the same site was a boat-shaped grave with walls revetted with ship’s timber.

Traces of a 13th century farmhouse were found near the Hubertustunnel while another farm was excavated on the Uithofslaan. This was a grange belonging to the monastery at Noordwijkerhout, and it had existed from the 13th to the 17th century. The ruins of a 13th century manor are still to be found in the Madestein residential area. Its walls have been restored and there are information panels and signposts leading to it.

The remains of the Valkhuis, the 15th-century hunting lodge for the counts of Holland, were excavated near Musuem De Gevangenpoort (Prison Gate). Excavation of the St. Nicolaas Hospital in the Driehoekjes area provided information on the diet of its 14th century guests and patients.

Monasteries

Remains of 15th and 16th century monasteries have also been excavated, and a cemetery belonging to a nunnery was investigated near the Westeinde area. The monastery which once stood between the Lange Voorhout and the Kazernestraat later functioned as an army dispensary and a canon foundry, and traces of it from every period of its existence have been found. Museon has an exhibit with a model of this monastery as well as the most interesting finds.

Grote Kerk

During restoration of the floor of the Grote Kerk, some 13th century foundations were investigated and a combined effort of archaeology and history led to the discovery of the exact location of the tomb of the great statesman, poet and composer Constantijn Huygens and his son Christiaan Huygens.

Department of Archaeology

The Department of Archaeology falls under the Department of City Management (Dienst Stadsbeheer). It evaluates building plans, carries out excavations and stores archaeological finds and information.

Archaeology in The Hague

Published: 25 November 2011Modified: 10 May 2017