Willemstad Archeological Research (The Netherlands)

February 26 2015
Willemstad is my home town and it is a pre medieval town, built like a fortress and on the waterfront. Lots of historical findings have been done on land but underwater the surroundings have hardly been researched. During the building of the famous Water Works in the 1960's there was a finding of: "Het Mannetje van Willemstad" in 1966, a small statue made of oakwood and estimated about 5300 BC, found on a depth of about 8 meters. Exploring the surroundings underwater might generate a lot of historical artifacts. So I made it my goal to start the underwater research using the OpenROV. I still need to purchase one but it soon will be done. Expected start of the project will be around March 2015. Read background

February 26 2015


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Name: John Geel
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Mission Underway

Muddy Waters

Running through all these exotic expeditions on OpenExplorer, all done in beautifull blue waters, I sometimes wonder what I will see under the muddy waters of The Netherlands.
But don't dispair all you followers (haha), I still expect to make lovely video recordings, one way or the other and ofcourse they will be published here.
Besides that I need a visibility of only about 50 -100 cm, just enough to see the bottom.

Just ordered an assembeled OpenROV (can't loose time on the building process) and dying to start off the expidition.

Lots of muddy waters overhere that have never been researched and just lying there for centuries. Exciting!

Still working on expanding the OpenROV with mini-metal detector and mini grabber.
I will keep you all posted on these two issius too.

By The Way!!! : mission in preparation and NOT in debriefing stage....

Here is a map of the period before the Volkerak Locks were established.
A very windy and watery area directy connected to the sea but leaving the water away in your head (in the ice age period completly dry) you can imagine that a settlement in some sort of valley (the statue was found on 8 meters depth between the roots of an oak tree) where a settlement might have been.

The fact that 8 meters below surface stood an oak tree confirms that forests were there and water must has been not present al least at most lower levels.


Is the statue you refer to up in a museum? Are there photos?

Yes, it is in the National Historical Museum of Leiden (http://bit.ly/1FQluT0).
You can find more pictures if you google "Mannetje van Willemstad".

The finding place of the Guy From Willemstad (Het Mannetje Van Willemstad) was nearby the Volkerak Locks (Volkerak Sluizen), showed on the map.
Dating back to 5500year BC is shows that The Netherlands in the recent ice age were not underwater. Even the North Sea was dry and appeared to be a valley stretching out all the way to the British continent, enriched with great forests.
Coastlines varied ofcourse during the many years. But the finding place ot Het Mannetje van Willemstad shows us 1 thing: there must have been a settlement around there.
We might conclude that from the fact that Het Mannetje van Willemstad appears to have some sort of Sjamanistic function according to the Dutch National History Museum.
Because the sjamans were village magicians that did not travel a lot because they had to stay near the village, you might conclude that a settlement overthere is obvious.
Investigation of the area, that is quit accessable, is ofcourse scheduled.


The picture shows Ruighenhil (the early name of the village) in 1570, just before it became named after it's beneficiary Willem Of Orange (Willem Van Oranje), who gave the town it's star-shaped fortress walls in 1584.

I noticed my expedition show "debriefing stage" but it is in preparation stage. It appear impossible to correct this (help somebody?).


Where are you getting these amazing documents?

To answer your questions, moving forward in staging is permanent, I'll see what I can do from the other side.

Well the internet is so rich and luckily we have very active historical musea in our country. Also in my small town (3500 inhibitants) lives a man that did a lot of historical research on Willemstad and published a great book about it. So above ground (not below the water surface) almost everything is known. It is my hope that I can add new information to that valuable work of him.

Just to show how Willemstad looked like in the per medieval period here is a drawing of Willemstad from that period.

My Objective is to start working with the OpenROV in the local waters surrounding the town. Beware this may seem not so exciting but if you look at early drawings of Willemstad around 1600 you can see that these waters date back from these times.
The starshape surrounding waters were creating by Prince Willem Of Orange (Willem Van Oranje) in the years 1583/1584. Who knows what ended up in these waters the past 450 years.
This also gives me some opportunity to getting used to operating the OpenROV with the potential of finding some artifacts. And I know that these waters have never been searched before. For that they are obiously to close and non-interesting for locals.


You have broached one of my favorite topics; the idea that the backyard environment isn't interesting to locals, but captures the imagination of someone thousands of miles away who is sitting here in california dying to know what's underwater out there. The history is fascinating, I look forward to following along!

Hi Erika,
Although I live in a very interesting area I believe in almost every backyard interesting stuff can be found because during the hundreds of thousand years people have roamed almost every spot of the earth.
But I have to admitt I was always fascinated by the surroundings of my local area. And I have to admit too: it's saves me traveling. :-))

Expedition Background

Willemstad (former Ruighenhil) in The Netherlands dates back from the 1300rds and is a small town build like a fortress.
And before that a lot of pre historic people lived in this neighbourhood.

It is well known that water levels were much lower in the years BC. In that time people could walk from mainland Europe to the Britisch continent. Which ofcourse wasn't an island in that time but part of the mainland.
The Netherlands, being slightly higher, were looking over huge forests between the mainland and the British continent. Lots of locals grouped together and established villages because of the rich hunting grounds in that time.

Pre-historical settlements have been flooded by the rising of the water and the North Sea formed a barrier between British continent and the European mainland.
So what once were the hills of the Netherlands, overlooking a lopwer forest all the way to the British continent (the white cliffs of Dover), became the lower lands of The Netherlands (lying below sea level).

Those settlements were all flooded by the rising water level and a coastline formed. That coastline of pre-historical time ran right through my home town.

This is still nowadays confirmed by the fact that fishermen of the Northsea fish up pre-historical objects such as mamoth bones and artifacts.

In 2013 a conference was held about the underwater archeological treasures, after that it became quiet.

Archeological potential was confirmed by the finding of artifacts during the building of dams and locks in the 1960s. Then "The Guy From willemstad" was found in 1966, dated around 5300 BC.

On the grounds around Willemstad lots of historical artifact were found but underwater there hasn't much research been done.

As a member of the archeological amateur group of Willemstad I decided to start doing underwater archeological research for the coming 3 years.

For that I need an OpenROV and I am in the process of obtaining one, so I can start the project as soon as spring and summer starts.