Archaeology in the Netherlands

Archaeological monuments tell us all kinds of things about the past. The most important monuments on land and under the water are therefore protected (Monuments and Historic Buildings Act 1988/Monumentenwet 1988). Our country is home to around 1,500 archaeological monuments.

The current number of monuments is not representative of all the valuable sites in the Netherlands. For that reason the government is working on expanding the inventory via a long-term designation programme.

edited February 9th 2018

What does protection involve?

Owners, users and municipalities with protected archaeological monuments must prevent the archaeological content of the soil from being damaged (so no excavating!). Municipalities must also post their sites on their planning maps to ensure that these monuments are protected and used properly.

Keeping historical information alive

If it is impossible to protect a monument, sound archaeological research will then be carried out. This will ensure that the historical information is 'saved'. The approach is based on the idea that the 'disruptor' pays.

edited February 9th 2018

Identifying archaeological monuments

The Cultural Heritage Agency evaluates archaeological sites and then selects monuments. This is done by carrying out (desk) studies and field research. The archaeological value of the monuments is protected by the government agency, together with the Society for the Preservation of Nature in the Netherlands [Natuurmonumenten], the National Forest Service in the Netherlands [Staatsbosbeheer] and the Ministry of Defence, the municipalities, the provincial governments and landscape organisations.

Archaeological Monuments Map Management

The provincial governments and the state are responsible for maintaining the Archaeological Monuments Map. This shows the protected monuments and other valuable archaeological sites. In total there are approximately 12,000. Municipalities regularly consult this map as a basis for their municipal policy map (municipalities have their own archaeological archaeology policies).

Excavation work? Get a permit!

If the soil of a protected archaeological site nevertheless has to be disturbed, or if the exterior appearance or the use of a monument changes, a permit will be required. The Cultural Heritage Agency processes permit applications on behalf of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. The Cultural Heritage Agency also indicates which requirements apply to the archaeological research that has to take place beforehand.

edited February 9th 2018