The longest dry spell in the past century in the Netherlands has had at least one silver lining: the foundation of a medieval fortification has been spotted in a field near the Groningen town of Noordlaren.
Translation by Traci White
Dagblad van het Noorden reports that the contours of three separate sites can be clearly seen in aerial photos taken on 2 August by Aerophoto Eelde. The circular patterns have become visible because the medieval pits retain water longer than the surrounding bone-dry soil.
— Dagblad v/h Noorden (@dvhn_nl) August 6, 2018
Diana Spiekhout, a PhD candidate at the University of Groningen whose research is focused on medieval castles, says that the Noordlaren site is part of four military defence structures that were built around 1400 by the bishop of Utrecht, and that they may have been built on top of an even older development.
The bishop was fighting a war with the province of Groningen and wanted to be able to close off the roads into the city. He also had a defensive line built consisting of walls and canals. The largest circle had three walls, two canals or moats and a tower. The two smaller circles may be similar fortifications, but Spiekhout says they could also be burial sites.
The persistent drought in parts of northern Europe have been a blessing for archaeologists: the dry conditions have helped identify several former buildings and settlements. “Parch marks” – the outlines of ancient structures in the soil – are revealed by the dried out soil.
Aerial photography carried out in the United Kingdom and Ireland have found previously unknown sites, including a henge near Newgrange, an 18th century mansion in Nottinghamshire and a Roman camp in Lyne.
Back in July, NOS reported that aerial surveys during droughts to search for archaeological ruins are less common in the Netherlands than across the channel. The practice used to be quite common – according to some Dutch archeaologists, the country was one fo the first to use planes to scan the landscape – but the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands stated a couple of weeks ago that there were no formal plans to look for ruins from the air.
Photo source: Aerophoto Eelde