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Fieldwork projects

Archaeologists affiliated with ACASA carry out fieldwork in the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Iraq. This comprises excavations as well as surface surveys, oriented at both the rural and urban landscape. Fieldwork is an integrated part of the research of staff members, but also offers students opportunities for an active contribution in different stages of the field research.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Prof. dr. Jerzy Gawronski is appointed as Professor of Maritime and Urban Archaeology of the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, in particular of the city of Amsterdam, but is also head of the Archaeology department of the municipal Office of Monuments and Archaeology (Bureau Monumenten en Archeologie , BMA). In his function as municipal archaeologist of Amsterdam, he is responsible for the archaeological policy of the city, the implementation of archaeology in spatial planning, and the excavations in various parts of the city of Amsterdam. One of the most challenging urban archaeological projects of the last decades is the large scale archaeological research in relation to the construction of the new metro line leading from Amsterdam Central Station to the south (Noord-Zuidlijn). This has yielded hundreds of thousands of finds from the river Amstel representing all relevant periods in Amsterdam’s history and even from the pre-urban prehistoric period.
Students specializing in medieval and post-medieval archaeology have the opportunity to use the research projects and the archaeological finds from Amsterdam for their BA and MA thesis and material workshops.

Barcın Höyük, Turkey

Excavations at Barcın Höyük investigate the beginnings of sedentism and agriculture in seventh-millennium northwest Turkey. The neolithization of this region is part of the major story of the expansion of agriculture from the Near East to Europe. Innovations that can be charted at Barcın Höyük include the development of a new cooking technique, based on heating food in ceramic containers over a fire. And for the first time, dairy becomes a mainstay of diet and eating practices. VU research institute CLUE participates in the excavation project, directed by the Netherlands Institute in Turkey.

Project directors: dr. Fokke Gerritsen (NIT-Istanbul / VU-CLUE) and dr. Rana Özbal (Koç University, Istanbul).

Geraki, Greece

Geraki lies some 30 km southeast of Sparta, strategically located in the foothills of the central Parnon mountains. The Geraki Project, initiated in 1995, combines intensive survey, geo-archaeological research and architectural study of the standing remains with trial and extended excavation. The aim of the project is to document in detail the history of occupation on its acropolis and to assess its changing position in the broader socio-political configuration of Laconia. The project has both a prehistoric and a historical component.

Prehistoric Geraki is the earliest fortified site yet known in Laconia, with the initial fortification dating to the Final Neolithic period. The acropolis was refortified in the Early Bronze Age when habitation became dense. The evidence from this period for multiple storage facilities and sealing practices places the site at the apex of settlement and social hierarchies within the region.

In the historical period, the place is associated with Geronthrai, one of the perioikic communities under the control of Sparta. This is the only perioikic settlement in Laconia that has been systematically excavated. In Classical-Hellenistic times the acropolis was once again fortified and densely occupied. Our investigations add a much needed archaeological component to a field of study that has been focused primarily on Sparta itself and been driven largely by the ancient literary sources. 

Project directors: prof. dr. Joost Crouwel (UvA) and dr. Mieke Prent (VU).

Halos, Greece

The town of Halos, located close to the Pagasitic Gulf near modern Almyros in southern Thessaly, has a history going back at least to the Early Iron Age (10th century BC). The impressive present-day archaeological site, where the University of Groningen and the Greek Archaeological service have excavated since 1977, was probably founded ca. 302 BC, but already mostly deserted around 265 BC, presumably after an earthquake. In addition to the excavations in the Hellenistic city, which comprise houses, the city’s fortifications and a small sanctuary, Greek and Dutch fieldwork also includes excavations in the extensive necropoleis around the city (Late Bronze Age-Hellenistic) and a survey of the surrounding Almyros and Sourpi plains. The University of Amsterdam has organized the 2011 and 2012 survey campaigns and is planning a test excavation (in cooperation with the Greek Archaeological service) in the pre-302 BC town for summer 2013. A series of major publications of all field work, by a team of Greek and Dutch scholars, is in preparation, and three UvA PhD candidates are writing a thesis incorporating materials and field work results from Halos and its surroundings. 

Project directors: prof.dr. Vladimir Stissi (UvA) and Dr. Vaso Rondiri (13th Ephorate).

Heiloo, The Netherlands

In the last decade UvA has been excavating in Heiloo (near Alkmaar) on a regular basis.  In 2012 and 2014 the second-year students had their Field School in Heiloo-Zuiderloo, which is part of a large-scale housing development. In this area settlement traces of the Bronze Age and the Roman Period can be found, but most of all from the Early Medieval Period. It turned out that a complete cultural landscape of this period can be reconstructed for a larger part of the former beach-barrier landscape were Heiloo is situated in. This greatly enhances our understanding of the medieval settlement system along the coastal region of the Western Netherlands.

In future we plan to return to this interesting site for more second-year Field School excavations.

Karystos–Plakari, Euboia, Greece

Plakari is the name of a coastal hill on the southern tip of the island of Euboia (Greece). It is probably the site of the ancient polis of Karystos. The Plakari Archaeological Project is a collaboration between VU University Amsterdam and the Greek Archaeological service (11 th Ephorate). It is a multidisciplinary project that combines systematic excavations with geo-archaeological, zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical research. The overall aim of the project is to understand the nature of the human occupation of the Plakari hill top and its direct environs. Within this larger framework, the research focuses on three aspects: the development of the sanctuary and its cult; its functioning within local, regional and inter-regional contexts; and the development of the wider cultic landscape, seen in the light of the developing polis. Until now, excavations have brought to light almost 40.000 fragments of pottery and hundreds of small finds that are associated with a cult place datable to the 11 th to 6 th century BC, a building for cultic feasting of the 5 th and 4 th centuries, and domestic architecture of the same period. 

Research is carried by staff and students of VU University (Depts. of Archaeology and Geo-archaeology), ACVUhbs, SPINlab (VU), the 11 th Ephorate, the Fitch Laboratory of the British School at Athens, and the National Archaeological Museum at Athens.

 Project directors: dr. Jan Paul Crielaard (VU) and Maria Kosma (11 th Ephorate).

L’Amastuola, Italy

L’Amastuola is a hill-top site situated 15 km north-west of Taranto (ancient Taras). Excavations and surface surveys between 2003 and 2010 by VU University Amsterdam show that the area was inhabited already during the Late Bronze Age. Iron Age occupation started in the later 8th century –probably as a result of a process of indigenous, internal colonization– with the appearance of a fortified hut village, with a double agger-type rampart. The early 7th century saw the arrival of Greeks at the site. As is shown by domestic, cultic and funerary evidence, elements of native and Greek cultural traditions became increasingly integrated. This suggests a situation of peaceful cohabitation rather than a hostile take-over by Greek colonists. During the 7th and 6th centuries L’Amastuola housed a small, basically self-supporting community that was mainly dependent on agriculture but also had its own potter’s and blacksmith’s workshops. During the 5th century, which was probably a period of regional conflicts, the Archaic settlement site became deserted. New buildings were erected on a grander scale on the other site of the hill top; small hamlets and isolated farmsteads began to dot the landscape. This change in settlement pattern and land use can be linked to the territorial expansion of the Greek colony of Taras by which L’Amastuola became part of the Tarentine chora.

 Excavations of the site and cemetery and surveys of the surrounding landscape came to an end in 2010, but since then research continued in the form of studies of the material culture, interpretation of the survey material (PhD project, UvA), burial analyses (postdoc, VU) and scientific pottery provenance studies (in collaboration with Bonn and Tübingen universities).

 Project directors: prof.dr. Gert-Jan Burgers (VU) and dr. Jan Paul Crielaard (VU).


Leiderdorp, The Netherlands

In 2013 the UvA excavated part of an early medieval settlement in the municipality of Leiderdorp, situated near Leiden in het former estuary of the Rhine. The most telling feature in the settlement was a former creek with wooden revetments, of which about 100 m was excavated. A stunning amount of 200.000 finds were found in this creek, mostly dating from the 8th-9th century. These finds give a new perspective on the material culture of the Carolingian Period, not only for the Netherlands, but also at an international level.

The excavation was used for the Field School of second-year students. Several of them wrote papers about specific find categories, like pottery, bone combs and the remains of leather. The excavation report is due to be published at the end of 2015.

Parnon topographical surveys, Greece

The Early Bronze Age fortress of Kastraki Keratitsas is located 9 km southeast of Geraki in Laconia and is a prominent prehistoric fortified site. Kastraki occupies a ridge in an isolated upland plain in the central Parnon mountains. A collaborative Greek-Dutch topographical study began in 2010. This is aimed at mapping and studying the elaborate system of megalithic fortification walls. These surround the summit and lower slopes of Kastraki, while a wall more than 140 m long runs southwards along a high cliff, providing a defensive corridor overlooking access to the site. Kastraki offers a unique look at a complete fortification system of the 3rd millennium BC. Its study further draws attention to the Early Bronze Age world beyond the coastal areas and fertile lowlands and beyond the better known core regions of the Argolid, Attica, Boiotia and Euboia in Central Greece. 

Early 20th century explorers correctly identified ancient Selinous with the Roman ruins and dense artefact scatter in the fields around the ruined church of Ayios Athanassios, 4 km northwest of Geraki. Not documented, however, was the fortified acropolis directly above, on a shoulder of Mt. Parnon. Topographical work here started in 2010. The fortification wall, provided with three gates, probably dates to the 4th or 3rd century BC, when the might of Sparta was challenged. House walls, roof tiles, rock-cut steps and other archaeological features suggest permanent occupation within the enceinte. As at Geraki, work here illuminates the life of a community on which ancient written sources remain silent, in a period of changing power relations within Laconia. 

Project directors: Elena Zavvou, Nassos Themos (Epigraphical Museum, Athens), Stuart MacVeagh Thorne, dr. Mieke Prent (VU).


Rome-Testaccio, Italy

In 2011 ACASA started a new and ambitious project in the centre of Rome under the title ‘Challenging Testaccio. Urban landscape archaeology in a Roman rione’. The project is carried out in close collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR) and the Rome Archaeological Service, the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma (SSBAR). It focuses on the neighbourhood of Testaccio, known for a series of world heritage monuments, such as the Cestian Pyramid, the Monte Testaccio and the Porticus Aemilia. Excavations are carried out at the Porticus Aemilia, which is one of the largest utilitarian buildings of antiquity and probably functioned as a public granary. The objectives of this project are twofold. On the one hand, it aims at gaining knowledge about the function and dating of the Porticus Aemilia, and its relation to the diachronic history of Testaccio. On the other hand, it wishes to contribute actively to unlocking the archaeological heritage of the modern Testaccio district, both through educational programs and through the integration of this heritage in urban regeneration schemes. 

Project directors: prof.dr. Gert-Jan Burgers (VU) and dr. Renato Sebastiani (SSBAR).


Satricum, Italy

Satricum (nowadays Le Ferriere) is the ancient name of a Latin settlement that was situated ca. 60 km south of Rome in the present-day Italian province Lazio. The settlement, on the banks of the river Astura, developed from a modest hamlet of huts in the 9th century BC, perched on top of an ‘acropolis’ hill, into a prosperous urban centre in the 6th century BC covering an area of nearly 40 ha. After Italian archaeologists excavated large parts of the town (1896-1898 and 1907-1910), research at Satricum was taken up again in 1977 by Dutch archaeologists who are still active on the site, at first by the Dutch Institute in Rome and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, from 1991 onwards by the University of Amsterdam.


Satricum’s favorable location at the crossroads between the northern Etruscan and southern Greek worlds is reflected in the remarkable diversity of the archaeological material. At the same time, it is one of the best preserved sites in central Italy revealing archaeological remains which cover a period of  continuous occupation during nearly ten centuries (9th century BC- 1st century AD) comprising huts, houses, burial grounds, a road network, a small sanctuary, and a Roman villa. The site, however, is best known for the archaic sanctuary of Mater Matuta, goddess of dawn, which has revealed three successive temple buildings (625-500/480 BC) preceded by a hut which is generally considered the earliest place of cult. Three enormous votive deposits testify to offering practices over a long period of time. 

Project director: prof. dr. Marijke Gnade (UvA).


Veldhoven, The Netherlands 

Over the past few years, a substantial part of a Roman rural settlement at Oerle (municipality of Veldhoven) has been investigated, and the preliminary results published. Of this settlement which was surrounded by a ditch, twelve farms, a number of smaller buildings and two wells have been excavated. Together they cover  the late Iron Age to the late Roman period. In the same area also two houses from the early Medieval period were found, as well as a Neolithic farmhouse, which is a feature that is rarely visible on the sandy soils of the southern Netherlands.

 The excavation is part of a large-scale development project of Veldhoven, in which almost 100 ha are being archaeologically investigated, offering a splendid view on the long-term habitation history of a micro-region. The academic management of this large-scale archaeological research project is in the hands of VU University Amsterdam. The work at the Zandoerleseweg has been conducted by first-year students of Archaeology, under the supervision of a team of archaeologists and master students of VU University. It is expected that this project will continue for a number of years, in which the northern part of the Roman settlement will be further investigated. 

Project director: dr. Joris Aarts (VU).

Zakynthos, Greece

The island of Zakynthos (Greece) has a rich and varied history, but is notoriously lacking in archaeological remains. This “scarcity of archaeology” is primarily due to the extensive destruction of the ancient landscapes by earthquakes and intensive agriculture and building. Starting point for this project is our conviction that we need to be better informed about archaeologically marginal areas such as Zakynthos in order to understand the ancient world. 

The Zakynthos Archaeology Project is an interdisciplinary research project with the aim to relate the distribution of archaeological finds to the dynamic landscape of the island. To achieve this, scholars and students from various Dutch and Greek universities carry out a range of researches: intensive archaeological survey, remote sensing, geological prospection, limited archaeological excavations (test trenches), study of materials and reconnaissance surveys. The project is a cooperation between the Netherlands Institute in Athens and the Greek Archaeological service (35th Ephorate). 

Project directors: Dr Gert Jan van Wijngaarden (UvA) and Andreas Sotiriou (35th Ephorate).