First Ever Intact Roman Graves in Netherlands Found in Unknown Necropolis near Zevenaar, Possibly at Northernmost Villa in All of Roman Empire

An unknown Ancient Roman necropolis has been found during highway construction in the Netherlands. Photo: RWS / Dutch News

The first ever intact Ancient Roman graves to be found in the Netherlands have been discovered in a previously unknown Roman Era necropolis during highway construction at Bemmel near Zevenaar, Gelderland Province.

The large Roman cemetery has been found as a result of secret excavations at the site of a new section of the Netherlands’ A15 highway, Dutch News reports.

At the same time, however, the discovery of the necropolis has raised the question of where the Romans buried in the necropolis lived as the respective settlement has not been found yet, says the Dutch government roads department RWS.

The Roman cemetery found in a field at Bemmel near Zevenaar dates from the 2nd – 3rd century AD.

It consists of a total of 48 graves, some with their stone funerary urns still present. Four of the graves were found to be more or less intact, which is a first in the Netherlands, the report points out.

The Roman graves were discovered at a depth of only 50 centimetres (less than 2 feet) below the surface. Among the human remains was the skeleton of a baby.

The Dutch archaeologists, who carried out the dig in secret for fear of treasure hunters, say the remains belonged to wealthy Romans.

That, however, is perplexing for the time being since there are no known Roman settlements close to the site, and it is unclear where those people lived.

The Roman necropolis funeral inventory contains luxury items such as imported painted earthenware jars, plates and cups, and tableware consisting of glass bottles and decorated bronze jugs, cups and dishes.

The Dutch archaeologists have found clothing pins, mirrors, a pair of scissors and even a complete perfume bottle with its contents intact.

Among the more unusual items were fragments of four parchment roll holders and a stone grave monument with a depiction of a woman.

Such gifts are more typical of Roman cities like Nijmegen, or high-ranking Roman officials in Belgium, Germany or France, RWS says.

The best explanation therefore is that these were the inhabitants of a Roman villa near Bemmel, which would make it perhaps the most northerly position of a Roman villa in all of the Roman empire.

On April 27, 28 and 29, 2018, the finds from the first Ancient Roman necropolis in the Netherlands to contain intact graves will be presented to the public in Bemmel. After that, they will be put on display at the Valkhofmuseum in Nijmegen.

Artifacts found during the digs of the necropolis which were carried out in secret in order to fend off treasure hunters. Photo: RWS

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