Maritime archaeological investigations have been carried out in the Dutch province of Flevoland for the past sixty years. There are known to be 435 wrecks in the reclaimed polders which, together with the Markermeer and IJsselmeer lakes, used to form the Zuyder Zee. So far, 350 have been excavated. A similar number of ship’s inventories and even cargoes have been salvaged.
Thousands of shipwrecks are known to lie beneath the waters of Zeeland, the Waddenzee and the North Sea. Over the past twenty years dozens have been explored or investigated by Cultural Heritage Agency diving teams. Hundreds of wrecks have been recorded in the Cultural Heritage Agency’s database, in view of their historical significance.
Each ship can be seen as a find complex from a closed context. The vessel, its inventory, equipment, cargo and any personal possessions on board together represent a snapshot of the moment disaster struck. They allow the relationship between the ship, its cargo and the various groups of finds to be studied in a kind of ‘time capsule’.
Excavated finds are preserved, documented and incorporated into the National Maritime Archaeology Collection. Large sections of ship are preserved by the Cultural Heritage Agency or reburied in a repository in the field specially reserved for the purpose. The Cultural Heritage Agency manages the collection.
The National Maritime Archaeology Collection consists of more than 20,000 objects, 4,500 of which have been entered into the Memory of the Netherlands.