How it all started

How it all started

In the period 1971-1974, remains of six Roman ships were excavated in the harbour of Nigrvm Pvllvm, a Roman limestone fort near present-day Zwammerdam. A discovery of great significance. In the following years, the ship remains were examined, preserved and led to a thesis (by archaeologist and excavation leader Maarten de Weerd). After many wanderings and countless plans, a number of parties succeeded in returning the remains of the ‘Zwammerdam’ ships in 2016 to the region of discovery, Alphen aan den Rijn. Museum Park Archeon to be precise. The ship remains now belong to the National Maritime Heritage Collection. With the return, they also started a major restoration project, “Operation Zwammerdam ships”.

Photo: arrival of all ships in Alphen aan den Rijn. Left: Tom Hazenberg. Right: Jack Veldman.

Archaeologist Tom Hazenberg, together with Museumpark Archeon initiators of the project, about the current state of affairs: “After three years of restoration, the ship ‘Zwammerdam 2’ will be completed in 2021. And it turned out magnificent! First, the restoration of the excavated timber and the reconstruction of the missing parts has resulted in a complete ship. In addition, the public was able to follow the entire process up close, and they received information from special guides. Under the inspiring leadership of archaeologist Yardeni Vorst, a team of professionals and volunteers has developed a restoration method. An example of wonderful collaboration between archaeologists, restorers, builders of historic ships and volunteers. Together they are now working on the restoration of the ship ‘Zwammerdam 6’ and canoes ‘Zwammerdam 3’ and ‘Zwammerdam 1’. But Zwammerdam 4 will also follow. The current Roman museum at Museum Park Archeon already houses the restored wood of the ‘Zwammerdam 5’ canoe.”

opgraaf zwam 2.JPGPhoto: Zwammerdamship 2 during the excavation in 1972, in the city of Zwammerdam.

Ambitious plans
Part of the ambitious plans is the construction of a National Roman Maritime Museum, in front of the current entrance of Museum Park Archeon. Until this is completed, the ship Zwammerdam 2 will be stored in the former restoration yard, which is now largely used as an exhibition space. Partly thanks to a subsidy from the Mondriaan Fund, a second restoration yard was built for the restoration of Zwammerdam 3 and 6. However, they are not the only supporters. The province of South Holland, the municipality of Alphen aan den Rijn, VSB Funds, Alphen aan den Rijn-Fund and EDBA are also making this project financially possible.

Batavialand, a partner in this project, has been designated by the minister as a National Ship Archaeological Depot. They are closely involved in the restoration and management of the future museum setting.

During the course of the project, we have succeeded in laying the foundations of an international network of Roman Ship Collections and Museum Parks along the Limes, including Great Britain, Germany, France, Belgium and Italy. This network will be further expanded with the intention of intensive cooperation in the future.

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