Evidence found that Vlieland’s village was burned down in the Eighty Years’ War

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The village of Vlieland was reduced to ashes in 1575, archaeological finds prove
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There had been strong suspicions for a long time, but now there is also archaeological evidence for this: at the beginning of the Eighty Years’ War, the village of Oost-Vlieland on Vlieland was completely burned down on the orders of a Spanish governor. Archaeological finds confirm stories that have been circulating on the island for centuries.

The construction of a new supermarket in the village made archaeological research possible. Where until now there were only vague indications that a great fire had raged in the year 1575, the excavations confirm these stories.

That it happened exactly as described in the tradition cannot be said with complete certainty. “But this excavation has in any case been able to link the date of 1575 to traces in the soil,” says Folkert Janssens, Vlielander and involved in the excavations, on NPO Radio 1.

According to Janssens, it doesn’t often happen that a major soil investigation can be done in the village. “Due to the construction of the supermarket, two buildings next to each other had to be demolished. As a result, a large piece of land became available for research.”

Village in the ashes

During the fire, almost 450 years ago, the entire village with about four hundred houses was reduced to ashes. Mainly responsible: the Spanish governor Caspar di Robles. He was stadholder of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe at the start of the Eighty Years’ War, which started in 1568.

The water beggars, Dutch Protestants who fought the Spanish army on water and plundered coastal villages, were a thorn in the side of the governor. To teach them a lesson, the governor and his men would have gone to unarmed Oost-Vlieland to plunder the village and then burn it to the ground.

Archaeological research bureau De Sample was responsible for the excavations. “Those men dug the ground layer by layer. I examined the sand that came out for traces of metal,” says Janssens.

Coins and a lead seal

It was already a hit on day one: the researchers found a silver treasure. “It concerned a number of silver coins that had melted together due to the fire. It concerned 16th-century material.”

According to Janssens, the most unusual find was a lead seal from a document or charter. “It used to be very common for important documents to be provided with a seal of the reigning monarch or of local nobility. You don’t often find those things intact, especially because lead is very sensitive to rot.”

The finds are first cleaned and marked and then they go to the provincial collection. What will happen to it then is still unclear. “Municipalities could request them on loan for exhibitions so that they can also be seen by the public.”

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