8 interesting objects found while making the North-South metro line

8 interesting objects found while making the North-South metro line

The North-South metro line in Amsterdam has finally opened, after being under construction for over 15 years. Throughout the process of hollowing out what would become the tunnel for the metro line, 700.000 objects were unearthed! Some 9.500 of them are on display at Rokin metro station, between the two escalators at the north and south entrances.

From garbage to precious artefacts

Jerzy Gawronski, the city's chief archaeologist, mused that a river is "a reservoir of garbage". Excavating the artefacts proved to be fascinating, with pieces ranging from the unwanted to the precious. The find has been turned into a special project, which can be enjoyed and investigated on the website Below the Surface.

Here is a selection of eight interesting artefacts, which barely scratches the surface of the magnitude of what has been discovered at the bottom of the Amstel, and yet gives an idea of the scope and timeframe of the artefacts, and sheds some light on the activities and inhabitants of Amsterdam over the years!


Finding seashells in the heart of Amsterdam can only mean one thing: that the area where Rokin stands was once engulfed in salt water and ocean life. These seashells go back to a pre-urban environment and have been dated between 124.000 to 114.000 BC.


A dice

Dating from some time between 1200 and 1500 AD, this dice is made from a bone of a medium to large mammal. It was found at Damrak, 7,21 to 9,07 metres below sea level. It's fascinating to imagine what sort of games, gambling or superstitions this dice could have been used for.


A thimble

This thimble for sewing, dating from 1350 - 1400 AD and made of brass, was found at Damrak. It's one of countless thimbles found beneath the Amstel, being the type of object that would have easily fallen out of a person's pocket accidentally! 


A beer jug

This jug comes from 1583, which was not long before the Dutch golden age started! The lid is still intact and the main body of the jug depicts scenes from a peasant wedding. The material is Raeren stoneware, hailing from Raeren in Belgium where new pottery techniques took off. It was around this time that skilled workers started to migrate to Amsterdam in their droves, aiding the circumstances that led to the Dutch Golden Age.


White and blue tiles

It's no surprise to see white and blue glazed tiles in the collection of Amsterdam objects. What's remarkable is their age: these two tiles come from between 1625 and 1650, found in Rokin. These are from the tile style that is nowadays synonymous with Delft, one with a picture of a flower vase, and another depicting a milkmaid. The corner motif on the vase tile is of ox heads and on the milkmaid tile it's the fleur de lis motif: two commonly found motifs in tiles from this period. below-the-surface-tiles_0.jpg

A key for a pocket watch

The watch is nowhere to be found, but the key for winding it up is impressive and decorative, so we can only guess the luxurious life its owner led. Although this winding key is from 1700 - 1800, a time of decline in Amsterdam, it's reminiscent of the extreme wealth that made Amsterdam stand out on the world map. 

A button from the Dutch train service uniform below-the-surface-.jpg

Found in Damrak, this button bears a steam train and the words "Nederlansche Spoorwegen" (Dutch Railways, using the old Dutch spelling.) It's from a uniform of a member of staff of the Dutch railway company, more commonly known as NS. The button dates from 1938 to 1950, is two-and-a-half centimetres in diameter and is made from brass.


A child's collectible from the 21st century

This last object is a relic from a craze of the late 1990s and early 2000s, one of thousands found below the surface. So-called "Flippos", known in other countries as a "Pogs" or "Milk caps" were popular with children and collectors.



700.000 objects that can teach us more about the city of Amsterdam

The Amstel at Rokin and Damrak has proved to be saturated with stories untold from generations of dwellers, merchants and passers-by. Whether an object was thrown into the river as rubbish or dropped accidentally from a boat, the objects and their histories are now interwoven forever!

Image credit : Harold Strak

Rachel Deloughry


Rachel Deloughry

Rachel is a writer, editor and digital content creator, passionate about the arts, culture and lifestyle.

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