An archaeological journey through the landscape of Nijmegen

27 November 2023

Regularly, while curating datasets, we come across gems that deserve to be highlighted. This certainly applies to the dataset containing a geomorphogenetic map of Nijmegen-North, the Netherlands, which is available in the Data Station Archaeology. This map reveals the palaeogeographic and soil data of the area and offers a wealth of information.

Over the past two decades, with the realisation of the VINEX site Waalsprong and the ‘Ruimte voor de Rivier’’ programme, the landscape of Nijmegen-North has undergone an impressive transformation. During this metamorphosis, intensive archaeological research has also taken place, gathering a lot of new landscape information.

Puzzle pieces in the right place

From the 1990s, systematic archaeological research was carried out. The area was known for its complex river landscape, the exact origins of which could only be sparsely identified. It took time and detailed research to put the puzzle pieces in place and reveal the secrets of this area. An important milestone in this research was the creation of a survey map in 2007-2008, on which all the fragmented field knowledge was brought together, although at the time, it still lacked sufficient dating and detailed profile observations.

However, the following decade revolutionised the understanding of the area. New archaeological trial trench surveys and excavations yielded vital information, including detailed dating and profile observations. This allowed a much more nuanced picture of the genesis of the landscape to be drawn.

Collection of knowledge

After the completion of large-scale archaeological fieldwork in 2020, the municipality of Nijmegen started the ‘synthesis AMZ research Waalsprong’. This involved creating a new geomorphogenetic map of Nijmegen-North, which served as a practical starting point for the compilation and presentation of all the knowledge acquired about the landscape developments.

This map, a palaeogeographic model, provides a detailed insight into the formation history of the landscape, with information on the spatial distribution of geomorphogenetic units. Moreover, the map highlights the enormous temporal depth of the landscape, revealing generations of river courses and meandering runs.

For the municipality of Nijmegen, this map offers not only a historical perspective, but also practical applications. The map serves as a reference when drawing up archaeological expectations and advice within the framework of permit granting. It also forms a starting point for future archaeological and landscape research in the area. After more than 25 years of research, the complexity of this river landscape has largely unravelled, but it remains a source of inspiration for further discoveries and research.

View the complete dataset, including the geomorphogenetic map in the DANS Data Station Archaeology.

Source image: E.Heunks, 2023, “The new geomorphogenetic map of Nijmegen-North and nearby”,, DANS Data Station Archaeology, V1; Geomorfogenetische kaart Nijmegen-Noord.pdf 

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Hella Hollander M.A.

Data Station Manager Archaeology