Maastricht Archaeology

After an archaeological dig, the finds are washed, numbered, studied and documented and are then stored at an archaeological depot. These ‘archaeological monuments’, as the finds are referred to in the Dutch Monuments and Historic Buildings Act, tell the story of our ancient history. The Maastricht Archaeology collection contains nearly every archaeological find in Maastricht since 1979. Work is underway to digitise the collection.


Origins of the collection

The Municipality of Maastricht has had its own excavation permit for conducting archaeological studies since 1979. The finds have been stored at the municipal depot since that time. Finds from before that time are kept at the Limburg Provincial Depot for Archaeological Finds (PDBL).

The last large-scale survey performed by the municipality was in 2001. Prior to 1999, only certain municipalities, universities and the central government were allowed to carry out archaeological excavations. The liberalisation of the market led to the emergence of a rather large archaeological industry. Archaeological studies in the 21st-century Netherlands are mainly carried out by archaeological companies. These companies must adhere to a national quality standard for archaeological research. The delivery of the finds to archaeological depots is also subject to this standard. All finds from an excavation that are worthy of preservation must be surrendered to these depots in a preserved state within two years of these studies. The Maastricht Archaeology collection continues to grow every year as a result. In addition to museum pieces, this collection also contains many fragmentary materials from finds, such as shards.


Preservation for the future

A large bag of shards is not very suitable to use in an exhibition. A shard does not capture the imagination as much as a complete pot does, and its monetary value is virtually zero. In spite of this, we preserve many shards and other incomplete finds because the past’s story is far from complete. There is still so much that we don’t know. In order to give people the chance to continue completing the puzzle in the future, we are saving as many pieces as we can, now. Construction work and other soil-disturbing activities are causing archaeological remains in the soil to rapidly disappear. Old excavations will eventually be the only source of information we have to help answer unsolved questions about our past. Fortunately, we are discovering more and more methods and techniques we can use to extract new information from old excavation data. Maastricht is one of the richest municipalities in the Netherlands when it comes to archaeological ‘soil archives’. This means that the Maastricht Archaeology collection has a very high scientific value.