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The Surprising Fortunes of a Metro Expansion

What urban archaeologists found underneath Amsterdam as workers dug out the new Noord/Zuidlijn line.
The finds are expansive in their diversity but also mundane: ancient hooks and nails from 1300 C.E., coins and ceramic and leather from the 15th century, travel cards and other wallet debris, Pokemon cards, a toy car, a samurai sword and dozens of keys.
The finds are expansive in their diversity but also mundane: ancient hooks and nails from 1300 C.E., coins and ceramic and leather from the 15th century, travel cards and other wallet debris, Pokemon cards, a toy car, a samurai sword and dozens of keys. Below The Surface

Buried treasure is usually the stuff of adventure novels, not municipal infrastructure projects. But in Amsterdam, construction work has given archaeologists the chance to exhume 700,000 artifacts from the city’s rivers and canals and put them on display for the world to see.

In the process of constructing the Noord/Zuidlijn, a new metro line that runs north to south and tunnels beneath the riverbed of the Amstel through the historical center of Amsterdam, a team of archaeologists from Amsterdam’s Department of Monuments and Archaeology dug 65 feet below the surface of the river, unearthing artifacts that span the city’s entire history and prehistory, from 119,000 BCE to 2005. The resulting trove has been shaped into an ambitious and innovative four-pronged urban archaeology project, “Below the Surface,” which catalogues its finds via a website, a book called Stuff, a documentary film, and an exhibition in the Rokin metro station.