Lorem ipsum

read more

Nijmegen, Het Valkhof

In 777 Charlemagne celebrated Easter on his newly built palatine on the Valkhof hill in the old Roman town of Nijmegen. Its successor, the Valkhof castle, was demolished in 1796 by its owner, the Province of Gelderland. By buying the two chapels the City Council saved them from demolishing. The hill was transformed into a city park and has been classified as a listed monument since 1973.

  • Before AD 850

Before AD 850

Landscape

During the second last ice age, between 180.000 and 130.000 years ago, glaciers from Scandinavia shifted all the way to the area now known as the Netherlands. Masses of ice more than 200 meters thick pushed up the ground and created lateral moraines; large ridges in the landscape which could be more than a 100 meters high. Fig. 1 One of these ice-pushed ridges is situated in and near Nijmegen, with the historical site ’Het Valkhof’. The majority of the city Nijmegen is not located on the actual ridge but on a fan-shaped deposit of sand and gravel, the result of ice water flowing down the ridge.1 Fig. 2

Fig. 1: Situation of the landscape around 130.000 years ago. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 1: Situation of the landscape around 130.000 years ago. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 2: This image shows clearly the ice-pushed ridge near Nijmegen and the large differences in height it created. Picture by Derk Anthony van de Wart, Gelders panorama drawn from life from the Belvedere in Nijmegen to the south-east, AD 1806. Credit: Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen

Fig. 2: This image shows clearly the ice-pushed ridge near Nijmegen and the large differences in height it created. Picture by Derk Anthony van de Wart, Gelders panorama drawn from life from the Belvedere in Nijmegen to the south-east, AD 1806. Credit: Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen

On the north side of the ridge flows the river Waal. This river, the broadest branch of the Rhine delta, originated during the final phase of the last ice age. Ice water from the German region pushed its way towards the North Sea and a broad, flat plain between Arnhem and Nijmegen with numerous waterways was the result. This river system changed over time to a system with the meandering rivers Rijn and Waal with calmer currents. The Waal river has a bend in front of the Valkhof site, from where one has a grand view over a large part of the river.2

The elevated position of the site made it the perfect place for political and military settlements, while the river Waal provided the infrastructure necessary for trade and governance.

Settlement

Prehistoric populations settled both on the north and on the south side of the river Waal. The first farmers appeared around 3700 BC.3 Fig. 3 On the Valkhof site, a burial site that dates back to the late Bronze Age was found. Two graves and an urn have been found in front of the St Nicolas chapel. 4 A few hundred meters from the Valkhof, a burial site from the Iron Age has been uncovered. Around 400 BC a local warlord was buried here with his chariot.5 Fig. 4

Fig. 3: Nijmegen in pre-historic times. 1 – Neolithic burials (5300-2000 BC), 2 – Middle Bronze Age Stone circles (1800-1100 BC) and Late Bronze Age cult site (1100-800 BC), 3 – Cemetery from the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (1100-500 BC), 4 – Middle Iron Age burials (200-250 BC), 5 – Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age settlement (1100-500 BC), 6 – Late Iron Age settlement(250-19 BC), 7 – Iron Age cult site. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 3: Nijmegen in pre-historic times. 1 – Neolithic burials (5300-2000 BC), 2 – Middle Bronze Age Stone circles (1800-1100 BC) and Late Bronze Age cult site (1100-800 BC), 3 – Cemetery from the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (1100-500 BC), 4 – Middle Iron Age burials (200-250 BC), 5 – Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age settlement (1100-500 BC), 6 – Late Iron Age settlement(250-19 BC), 7 – Iron Age cult site. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 4: Reconstruction of the chariot found buried with a local warlord below the current Traianusplein, near the Valkhof. This chariot is on display in Museum Het Valkhof. Credit: Museum het Valkhof, Nijmegen

Fig. 4: Reconstruction of the chariot found buried with a local warlord below the current Traianusplein, near the Valkhof. This chariot is on display in Museum Het Valkhof. Credit: Museum het Valkhof, Nijmegen

Around 19 BC Roman soldiers arrived and remained in our region for four centuries. Army camps and fortifications were constructed all over Nijmegen, the largest being the camp on the Hunnerberg.6 Fig. 5, point 1 The Romans also built the settlement Oppidum Batavorum. This ‘town of the Batavi’ was situated on and around the Valkhof site. Fig. 5, point 9 The people living in the town were immigrants, officials, merchants and artisans. They quickly adjusted themselves to Roman habits. Fig. 7 In AD 69 and 70 the Batavi revolted against the Romans and set fire to Oppidum Batavorum. The town was not rebuilt. A new town was founded a mile west of the old location. Fig. 6, point 5 Around the turn of the 1st century AD the Emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus granted this new town privileges and it was named after him: Ulpia Noviomagus.

Fig. 5: Nijmegen ca. 15 BC – AD 70. 1 – Large army camp Hunnerberg, could house over 15,000 soldiers, enclosed by an earthen wall, 2 – Army camp Kops Plateau, 3-8 – Encampements for auxiliary troops, 9 – Oppidum Batavorum, the ‘Town of the Batavi’, 10 – Batavodurum, 11 – Elongated habitation along the Berg en Dalseweg, 12-16 – Cemeteries. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 5: Nijmegen ca. 15 BC – AD 70. 1 – Large army camp Hunnerberg, could house over 15,000 soldiers, enclosed by an earthen wall, 2 – Army camp Kops Plateau, 3-8 – Encampements for auxiliary troops, 9 – Oppidum Batavorum, the ‘Town of the Batavi’, 10 – Batavodurum, 11 – Elongated habitation along the Berg en Dalseweg, 12-16 – Cemeteries. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 6: Nijmegen ca. AD 70-260. 1 – Army camp of the 10th legion on the Hunerberg, 2 – Military town around the army camp the Hunerberg, 3 – Settlement on the Waalkade, 4 – Settlement ‘Vlaamse Gas’, 5 – Ulpia Noviomagus, 6 – Burial site Ulpia Noviomagus, 7 – Burial site 10th legion. A – Market hall, B – Headquarters army camp Hunerberg, C – Amphitheatre, D – Mansio, E – Temples for Mercury and Fortuna, F – Bathhouse, G – Temple, H – Bridge over the Waal river. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 6: Nijmegen ca. AD 70-260. 1 – Army camp of the 10th legion on the Hunerberg, 2 – Military town around the army camp the Hunerberg, 3 – Settlement on the Waalkade, 4 – Settlement ‘Vlaamse Gas’, 5 – Ulpia Noviomagus, 6 – Burial site Ulpia Noviomagus, 7 – Burial site 10th legion. A – Market hall, B – Headquarters army camp Hunerberg, C – Amphitheatre, D – Mansio, E – Temples for Mercury and Fortuna, F – Bathhouse, G – Temple, H – Bridge over the Waal river. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 7: The ‘lead lady’. A 4th century lead coffin of a rich lady was found under the current Burchtstraat. She was buried with all kinds of riches, like glass bottles with perfume. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 7: The ‘lead lady’. A 4th century lead coffin of a rich lady was found under the current Burchtstraat. She was buried with all kinds of riches, like glass bottles with perfume. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Around 270 BC the inhabitants abandoned the city following Germanic incursions and moved back to the Valkhof hill. A fortification was built here, where citizens could find refuge in times of danger.7 Fig. 8, point 1

Fig. 8: Nijmegen 4th and 5th century. 1 – Fortification on the Valkhof and surroundings, 2 – Frankish settlement, 3 – Settlement on the Waalkade, 4 – Frankish settlement, 5-6 – Burial sites. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 8: Nijmegen 4th and 5th century. 1 – Fortification on the Valkhof and surroundings, 2 – Frankish settlement, 3 – Settlement on the Waalkade, 4 – Frankish settlement, 5-6 – Burial sites. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Halfway into the 5th century, power was taken over by the Merovingians who saw themselves as the rightful successors to the Roman emperors. Thus, they took over the fortification on the Valkhof and the settlement on the banks of the river Waal. Fig. 9 The vast royal lands around Nijmegen will have been ruled from there.8 9 The elevated position of the Valkhof was the perfect power centre for the Frankish rulers. Thus, Charlemagne built a palace on the site of the Roman fortification.

Fig. 9: Early medieval occupation on and near the Valkhof site is apparent from these burial gifts, found on the Mariënburg, 350 meters south of the Valkhof site. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

Fig. 9: Early medieval occupation on and near the Valkhof site is apparent from these burial gifts, found on the Mariënburg, 350 meters south of the Valkhof site. Credit: Bureau Archaeology and Monuments, City of Nijmegen

References

1 Verhoeven, T. H. G. (ed.), A concise history of Nijmegen, Nijmegen 2011, chapter 1 ‘Ice and water‘ http://www.huisvandenijmeegsegeschiedenis.nl/info/Concise_history_of_Nijmegen

2 Willems, Willem J. H. and van Enckevort, Harry, ‘Ulpia Noviomagus, Roman Nijmegen, The Batavian capital at the imperial frontier‘, Journal of Roman archaeology, supplementary series number seventy-three, Portsmouth Rhode Island, 2009, pp. 13-16

3 Verhoeven, T. H. G. (ed.), A concise history of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, 2011, chapter 2 ‘The earliest occupants‘
http://www.huisvandenijmeegsegeschiedenis.nl/info/Concise_history_of_Nijmegen

4 Van Enckevort, Harry and Thijssen, Jan, Graven met beleid, Gemeentelijk archeologisch onderzoek in Nijmegen 1989-1995, Abcoude/Nijmegen, 1996, pp. 41-42

5 Verhoeven, T. H. G. (ed.), A concise history of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, 2011, chapter 3 ‘A local warlord‘
http://www.huisvandenijmeegsegeschiedenis.nl/info/Concise_history_of_Nijmegen

6 Verhoeven, T.H.G. (ed.), A concise history of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, 2011, chapter 4 ‘Roman soldiers‘ http://www.huisvandenijmeegsegeschiedenis.nl/info/Concise_history_of_Nijmegen

7 Verhoeven, T. H. G. (ed.), A concise history of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, 2011, chapter 5 ‘Roman towns‘
http://www.huisvandenijmeegsegeschiedenis.nl/info/Concise_history_of_Nijmegen

8 Willems, Willem J. H. and van Enckevort, Harry, ‘Ulpia Noviomagus, Roman Nijmegen, The Batavian capital at the imperial frontier‘, Journal of Roman archaeology, supplementary series number seventy-three, Portsmouth Rhode Island, 2009, pp. 102-104

9 Verhoeven, T. H. G. (ed.), A concise history of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, 2011, chapter 6 ‘A Meriovingian elite‘
http://www.huisvandenijmeegsegeschiedenis.nl/info/Concise_history_of_Nijmegen

Continue to: AD 850 – 1050

Landscape Settlement

share print

top ↑