(Amsterdam City Archives, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Keywords: burial history archeology sources
In 1991, the former Dutch Reformed Olof Chapel (Olofskapel) in Amsterdam was transformed into a congress centre. Building activities included digging a large basement, destroying all five still intact layers of burials, dating from 1619 onwards, and the underlying late medieval traces. In advance, the municipal Amsterdam archeologists were able to investigate the medieval phases of the chapel. As for the later periods, the former tombstone floor was documented and – due to lack of time and money – only a part of the deepest burials was properly excavated. Although these were expected to date from the early 17th century, they turned out to be from an much later date: the late 18th and 19th century. In retrospect, this can be corroborated by the grave books of the chapel, that show that burial was common until the 1860’s. The grave books also mention the removal of older burials, depositing the remaining bones in a deeper, sixth layer of ‘charnel’coffins. In 1991, this layer of bone deposits was a surprise as well.
The Olof Chapel might serve as an example of two intertwined realities. On the one hand the historical data stored at the archives. The on-line index of burials (1553-1811) on the website of the Amsterdam City Archive contains 1,1 million records, mentioning the date of funeral and the name of the deceased, leading to the original historical sources that also mention family relations, the street where the deceased lived, and costs of the burial. These records are an important historical source in itself. But they can, as can the church archives, also help in predicting the archeological potential remaining under the old church floors. This paper seeks to highlight and map this aspect.
Archeology, on the other hand, is depending on the state of the soil archive. But modern church restauarations, including constructing floor heating systems, have left their scars in the archeological data that still remain in the ground. This paper seeks to highlight and map this aspect too.
Relevance conference | Relevance session:
Reuse of archival data in understanding archeological data
Predicting archeological remains by using historical sources in an new way