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The Gammel Strand excavation

  • Arkæologer i gang på Gammel Strand 2014
The last of the big Cityring metro excavations took place at Gammel Strand in 2014

Today, it is difficult to imagine that once all that was to be found at Gammel Strand, in the core of the pulsating metropolis, was a small humble beach overlooking Øresund. The Cityring Metro excavations will provide the Museum of Copenhagen with a chance to take a closer look at the origins of Copenhagen's urban history.

Between the years 2010-2013, several smaller archaeological excavations have been undertaken at Gammel Strand (the Old Beach) as part of the Metro Cityring Project. These excavations have shown that the area - as expected - has been used as a harbour at least from the 16th century onwards. Numerous bulwarks consisting of large, complex timber structures have been registered. Between these bulwarks many artefacts were found in garbage deposits used as land fill when the harbour was extended and new land was created. 
Apart from the wharf structures, remains of buildings dating from the 16th-18th Centuries were documented. It has been possible to identify these using old maps as well as other written source material. Foundations of an early 16th Century Weight house and its late 16th Century replacement were seen in one of the narrow excavation trenches and likewise foundations for the Bargeman Guildhouse were identified. From this building a culvert leading into the canal was found to contain shells imported from West Africa, used there as currency, and later used to decorate horse harnesses for the military cavalry.

Traces of the Iron-Age

In 2014, a substantially larger area than earlier is to be opened and excavated. In this area, it will be possible to create further coherence between the structures that were partly uncovered in the narrower trenches. We are also going to go deeper than it has formerly been possible, which means we will get an insight into what was at Gammel Strand before the bulwarks of timbers and renaissance buildings were erected. 
In this area, ships, boats and barges have probably been loaded and unloaded over a period of approximately 1000 years and thousands of people have lived their lives and worked here through time. Both daily commodities, as well as exotic, luxurious goods have been bought and sold here. If we are lucky some of these goods or the money they were purchased with was dropped by accident in the water where they may have been preserved to the present day. Likewise, some people may have used the waters as a convenient place for disposal of garbage, which for the archaeologists is a veritable treasure chest when it comes to getting insights into people's lives. It is going to be interesting to see if the activities at Gammel Strand can be followed as far back as to the Late Iron Age (around 700 A.D.), which a single Radiocarbon date from a former investigation seems to indicate.

Read some of excavation leader Stuart Whatley's initial expectations to the excavation

Read Field Leader Claes Hadevik's text about a small coin