Exhibition | Permanent

The Earliest Coast Dwellers

This exhibition is based on information from archaeological excavations at Ypenburg, a new town development in the south-eastern part of the Hague municipal area. The area was inhabited for a number of centuries during the megalithic period, some 5,500 years ago. It was then a tidal landscape with dunes one to two metres high. The Stone Age people who inhabited it lived at the interface of fresh and salt water, where dry land met the sea.

The archaeological research was prompted by the discovery of a cemetery with no fewer than 31 graves. They contained the remains of 42 individuals – men, women and children.
The emphasis in this new permanent presentation is on work by various archaeological specialists, undertaken hand in hand with specialists in other disciplines, such as the micromorphology of landscapes and architectural history.

Skeletal research and reconstruction

Bone specialists start by checking the completeness of a human skeleton is and then deciding whether it is male or female. Because men’s muscles tend to be more developed than women’s, male bones are usually larger. Where the muscles were attached to the bones, there will be ridges or even knob-like protrusions. The larger the knob or ridge, the more likely the skeleton is to be male. The difference is most obvious on the skull and pelvis. The specialist then examines the bones for indications of age, height and disease. Bones displaying signs of disease, such as deformed joints, can be seen in one of the laboratories in the new gallery. The presentation includes a recording of a bone specialist talking about his work.

Reconstructions have been made on the basis of three of the skeletons excavated at Ypenburg: a man, a woman and a child. These are on display in the new exhibition. Facial reconstruction is a particularly specialized procedure. First of all, a mould is made of the skull. Features of the skull determine facial appearance. There are set scientific rules for the thickness of muscles and skin; they vary widely for woman, men and children.


Traces of houses were also found at Ypenburg. They look like marks in the ground but careful study makes it possible to deduce floor plans. To do this, archaeologists look primarily at the placing, shape, colour and composition of the traces in the soil. The cross-section and depth of postholes are important factors in determining the weight-bearing function of each post. Specialists then try to work out how the posts related to each other in the three-dimensional structure of the building. In this case, an architectural historian has used all this information to produce a reconstruction of one of the houses.

And lots more...

The presentation also looks at other areas of research. Special microscopic research reveals what individual stone or flint tools were used for. Research on pottery shows how pots were made and examination of the food crusts (traces of food) on them and of any seeds or pollen tells us what the earliest inhabitants of Ypenburg ate. Remains of animal bones show what else was on the menu of Stone Age man. Come and see it all for yourself!

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