Skip to comments.'King's Grave' Rebuilt
Posted on 08/12/2003 4:36:14 PM PDT by blam
'King's grave' rebuilt
by Thijs Westerbeek of our Science Unit, 11 August 2003
For many centuries the King's Grave, an ancient burial hill near the southern Dutch city of Oss, has been an eery kind of place. The local population had all kinds of ghost stories about it and preferred not to go there at night. But now it looks brand new, in fact it is brand new. A low sandy hill, shaped a bit like a thick pancake, lies directly beside a highway. Roaring traffic thunders by and all thought of anything sacred or spooky quickly disapears. The ceremonial burial hill is now cut in half because the (now non-existent) other half would otherwise cover the highway.
This report was featured in Research File. Listen to the programme in full. (29:31)
In the past, burial mounds like these were not uncommon in this part of the Netherlands. They dated from the Iron Age, approximately 700 BC and some were even a couple of hundred years older, the Bronze Age. As a rule they were left as they were, most of them were not very large, 25 meters in diameter at the most, and since their height was usually no more than 75 centimeters they were really not in the way at all. Cattle, for instance, could easily walk over them and simply grazed on the top. The King's grave, however, was much bigger - 52 meters in diameter, and twice as high as the rest. In 1933, when the local authorities needed a site for gypsies to settle down, The burial hill was flattened so completely that even it's exact location was lost.
This complete removal did however uncover some stunning artefacts which gave the traditional name King's Grave all the more resonance. A beautiful bronze bucket, and a cermonial iron sword with an intricately carved golden handle made clear that the man whose ashes were in the bucket must have been very important, albeit probably not a real king. We do know however, from recent DNA-research of the ashes, that he was a man in his forties (for that time very old). Also, the urn or bucket his remains were found in is known as a situla, a bronze wine-mixing vessel which comes from the southern Alps, so the king and his people must have had some international contacts at the time. His sword was not only priceless but also a sign of dignity. It was shaped into a ring. Archaeologists theorise that this must have been a symbolic way to close the door between the land of the living and the land of the dead.
In 1997 the gypsies were long gone from the area around Oss. Now the plan was to turn the site into an industrial area. As is always the case in the Netherlands, archaeologists were given the chance to investigate before construction began. Dr Richard Jansen and his team from the University of Leiden set out to find the exact location of the disappeared burial hill. After painstaking digging of shallow trenches they found the tell-tale dark coloration in the soil. The shape and size of the king's grave were already known from old photographs but now it's exact location could be pinpointed as well.
Blessing in disguise
Dr Jansen and a group of local amateur archaeologists decided to rebuild the old burial hill. Funding took some time, and the necessary paperwork and bureaucracy even more, but now, six years on, the grave is standing in all its glory. Just like the original one it's built of blocks of peat and then covered in sand, and just like the original one it has no burial chamber - the urn and artefacts are simply buried in the sandy body of the hill itself. The biggest difference is the fact that the new grave is cut in half because of the modern highway beside it. That however turns out to be a blessing in disguise for now it's possible to actually see copies of the original artefacts, embedded in the hill itself.
When asked about the scientific value of the project, Dr Jansen is very firm: "There is none, nothing more will be found here, science is done with this place. But archaeology can give people a sense of history, a sense of pride about the place they're living in and up till now the people of Oss didn't have a clue about the very special history of their city. The King's Grave brings archaeology to the people and that makes questions about science irrelevant."
I thought they were talking about Graceland .... you know, the KING .... Elvis.
I read that to mean his sword was bent into a 'ring' at his death as some sign of 'completeness of life.' (?)
He said with a tip of his hat to his neighbor, Adolf.