In the Netherlands – uniquely – a lot of ship archaeology actually happens on dry land. Over 420 shipwrecks have been found in Flevoland province, the ‘biggest dry ship cemetery in the world’. As such, the polder created in the former Zuyder Zee is home to an impressive portion of the Netherlands’ maritime heritage.
In November 2006 Flevoland provincial authority decided to organise an International Field School for Maritime Archaeology Flevoland (IFMAF), in collaboration with Lelystad council, the University of Groningen, the Cultural Heritage Agency and Nieuw Land. The field school, now held annually, investigates Flevoland’s shipwrecks (some of which are under threat).
IFMAF started in 2007 with a pilot project to investigate a small cargo vessel on plot B 36 in the Northeast Polder, and then proceeded to excavate shipwrecks NM 107 (cog: 2008), NR 4 (cargo vessel: 2009), NT 25 (cog: 2010), OE 34 (‘wijdschip’: 2011-2012) and OL 79 (cargo vessel: 2013).
It is important for aspiring ship archaeologists to experience in practice how a shipwreck is excavated, how the vessel was built and what wreck formation processes ‘do’. I gained a lot of experience by taking part in the IFMAF fieldwork campaigns and helping to process the data from the excavations. The entire effort is based around collaboration between experts, volunteers (AWN Flevoland) and students. I would therefore highly recommend participating in IFMAF to anyone who wants to proceed further in maritime and ship archaeology.
Yftinus van Popta