(Municipality of Maastricht, The Netherlands)

Keywords: Sieges, mass-grave, horses

Maastricht is a city in the south of the Netherlands that was often besieged by Spaniards, French or Dutch troops from the 15th till 18th century. Every now and then some relicts of those sieges are found during archaeological excavations. In 2010 a large excavation took place directly north of the city of Maastricht in Borgharen. The main focus was on Iron Age settlements, Early Medieval graves and a Roman villa landscape. But ditches from later periods were also found and in one of them 65 horses were buried, side by side and on top of each other. The ditch in zigzag-shape looks like a so called “circumvallation” or a ditch to protect besiegers from rescue troops from the besieged. The find was well excavated and gained a lot of interest from the media: over a thousand visitors in one day, primetime news on the TV, an article in the Washington Post and in international “equestrian” magazines. And even after the scientific rapport was published the horses generated a lot of commotion in the world of local historians and archaeologists. There were debates about the exact dating and what kind of horses these were. And there is a public demand to commemorate this extraordinary find and the public is putting a lot of pressure on local politicians.
So the questions that are to be answered are: can the horses be dated exactly? How did the horses die? Where they French chevaux, Spanish caballos, German Pferde, Scottish horses or Dutch knollen? Did they belong to the cavalry or did they pull canons or carriages? And how do you present such a large find in a proper way to the public nowadays?