The excavation of the Paardenmarkt Alkmaar
In June-August 2010 large scale excavations were executed on the cemetery belonging to the monastery, an area now termed the Paardenmarkt, by Hollandia Archeologen in cooperation with Leiden University. During the course of nine weeks, the students from the former minor Human Osteoarchaeology excavated and cleaned over 180 single coffin burials and 20 secondary inhumations. Interestingly, also two mass graves dating to the Siege of Alkmaar with 9 and 22 individuals were encountered. All the remains are housed in the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University and are currently undergoing the osteological analysis.
The Paardenmarkt was once the site of the Franciscan monastery. The monastery was founded in 1448 on a place known as Het Heilighe Velt (the holy field) which was located in the Northern part of the city of Alkmaar. In 1481, the chapel was replaced by new cruciform church which was build with stones loaned from the architects building the St. Laurenschurch, which was built during the same period. The new Franciscan church was consecrated in 1486. Within the building and on the cemetery the inhabitants of Alkmaar were buried. Not only the wealthy inhabitants of Alkmaar were interred on this place, also the poorer citizens were buried here. When the iconoclasm raged through the Netherlands in 1566, large parts of the church and its statues and ornaments were destroyed. The decision of the city of Alkmaar to join the Dutch Revolt doomed the monastery and its inhabitants. In 1572, when the Geuzen arrived in the city of Alkmaar, most of the monastery was destroyed and the five remaining monks from the monastery were arrested and killed in Enkhuizen. The monastery church survived this period and was only destroyed in 1574 after the siege. After the destruction of the monastery buildings, the site was used as a animal market, hence the modern name.
The osteological analysis of the human remains is currently performed in the Laboratory for Human Osteoarchaeology. Preliminary results indicate that males, females and children with various ages are buried in the cemetery. The results from the osteological analysis of the individuals in the mass graves has provided some interesting results. The individuals in the larger mass grave (22 individuals) were all young males, while the smaller mass grave contained older individuals, a child and a female. Based on these results it is hypothesised that the individuals in the larger mass grave are semi-professional soldiers and the ones in the smaller grave are civilian victims. For more information on the mass graves, please refer to the article by Schats et al. in Westerheem which will be published in the beginning of next year.