Rijksmuseum van Oudheden – Meet Nehalennia!

nehalennia rijksmuseum van oudheden

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden is the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in the city of Leiden. I always thought that our country, the Netherlands, only had antiquities from foreign countries like Greece or Egypt, and that Dutch findings were rather recent. So I visited many archaeological museums especially in the Middle East (see below). How could I be so ignorant? Rijksmuseum van Oudheden has spectacular, really ancient findings from Dutch soil. Also I learned about local gods that I never heard about before. So nice!

The altars shown above are dedicated to the goddess Nehalennia. Many merchants who crossed the sea from the Netherlands to London from 150 – 250 AD erected an altar to thank her for a safe journey. People completely forgot about her until a temple and many altars were discovered in the dunes of Domburg in 1647 AD. Nehalennia is a goddess of fertility, often pictured with fruits and/or a dog, but also with (elements of) a ship. Her origin should be Germanic or Celtic. If you also never heard about her, that in itself makes it worth a visit to Rijksmuseum van Oudheden!

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden has a large collection with antiquities from many countries. It’s easy to spend many hours there! In this blog, I concentrate on the Dutch ones. Things I particularly liked:

bandkeramiek uit Elsloo - rijksmuseum van oudheden

Pottery from a settlement at the river Meuse in the south, dating from 5000BC.

ommerschans zwaard en jutphaas zwaard

The Ommerschans Sword and the Jutphaas Sword, unique pieces of bronze casting from 1500BC. The museum calls them ‘exceptional artefacts’. They were used as gifts in sacrifices. Center and northeast of the Netherlands (that didn’t exist as a country in that time yet).

bronzen nekringen - rijksmuseum van oudheden

Both men and women wore bronze neck rings. These date from the early iron age, 800-500BC. Found in the center of the country but most probably imported. Also used as offers. I particularly liked the twisted one.

This woodcarved figure was probably a ritual object. It was found in a well in Oss in the south and dates from 400BC. It is rare to find wooden antiquities. This one is in oak.

rijksmuseum van oudheden - speer

Spearhead, put in wooden shaft and then thrown to the enemy, apparently a real killer. Dating from
1-300BC, found in Alblasserdam, middle-west of the country. A masterpiece!

gouden helm de peel

The golden helmet found by turf-cutters in the Peel (southeast), dating from 320AD. More precious objects were found but there is no info about context (owner, offering?). An absolute wow-piece!

viking schat - rijksmuseum van oudheden

The Viking Hoard of Wieringen, north-west of the country, 850AD. 1,6 kilo of silver, most probably from a Danish owner. It was buried in spring. So maybe the owner was hiding it when he left and he never came back…

Interested in archaeological museums? You may also like:
Archaeological museum Sanliurfa
Archaeological museum Haarlem
Huis van Hilde – Hilde’s House
Archaeological museum Gaziantep
Archaeological museum Amman
Musée d’Art et d’Archaeologie d’Orléans
Muséum of Art and Archaeology Périgord
Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum