Citizen scientists discover more than 1,000 new burial mounds

Volunteers taking soil samples in the woods of Speulderbos. Photo: Eva Kaptijn

Over the past few years, citizen scientists from the Heritage Quest project have scoured the entire Veluwe and Utrechtse Heuvelrug regions in search of unknown archaeological heritage. One of the results of this research is that the number of known burial mounds in this area has doubled.

Heritage Quest, a successful collaboration between Leiden University and Gelderland Heritage is the first large-scale citizen science project in Dutch archaeology. People could search for archaeological remains in the Veluwe and Utrechtse Heuvelrug areas from the comfort of their homes.

In total, more than 6,500 people worked on the project and identified thousands of potential archaeological objects, such as burial mounds (c. 2800-500 BC), Celtic fields (complexes of fields dating from 1100 to 200 BC (wood was burned to make charcoal) and cart tracks.

“This research would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts of volunteers. And without their help, the help of citizen scientists, it might have taken us archaeologists ten years to arrive at the same results,” explains Eva Kaptijn, archaeologist. from Gelderland Heritage.

After the online detective work was completed, volunteers, archaeologists and archeology students from Leiden University took to the field to check a sample of the remains found.

Citizen scientists discover more than 1,000 new burial mounds

Archeology students in the field check the remains found online. Credit: University of Leiden

They took soil samples from more than 300 mounds scattered around the Veluwe and Utrechtse Heuvelrug and found that 80 of them were real, yet unknown burial mounds. They then used the data from this sample to estimate the number of remains in areas that had not yet been field-verified. Chances are that more than 1,250 of these sites are actually prehistoric burial mounds.

This citizen science project has therefore doubled the number of known burial mounds in the Veluwe and Utrechtse Heuvelrug. In addition, 36 km2 of prehistoric fields, around 900 charcoal kilns and countless examples of ancient cart tracks have been found. The results will be presented in Apeldoorn on January 26 at a celebration organized by Gelderland Heritage.

“The participation of so many volunteers produced an unprecedented amount of new data and radically changed our view of prehistory. The Veluwe and Utrechtse Heuvelrug turn out to have been much more intensely inhabited than we thought,” says Quentin Bourgeois, assistant professor at the University of Leiden. .

The remains discovered not only produced new academic knowledge but also facilitated the protection of this unique heritage. Municipalities and park managers can use the data in their policies and management plans. In addition, the involvement of the general public in this research has increased awareness of the presence and value of their archaeological heritage.

Project impact research has shown that the more you know about your story, the more you appreciate your surroundings and your sense of belonging and belonging. You don’t have to go to Egypt or Stonehenge for World Heritage because it all starts in your own backyard. All over the Veluwe and Utrechtse Heuvelrug are structures made by our predecessors.

“This project made me aware of my environment. I see it differently. This heritage has been around for so long, we need to protect it,” says Janny Bas, an enthusiastic participant in the Heritage Quest project.

Provided by Leiden University

Quote: Citizen Scientists Discover Over 1,000 New Burial Mounds (January 25, 2023) Retrieved January 25, 2023 from

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