Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 4-2 (April 2013)Martijn van Haasteren; Maaike Groot: The biography of wells: a functional and ritual life history
2. The lifecycle of a well: the functional side

2.2 Period of use

After the construction of a well was completed, the period of use begins. Not only was water drawn from the well, but the well may have been cleaned regularly, and where necessary, repairs were made to the construction.

Material entering the well during this stage will mainly be related to these activities. Several types of containers could be used to draw water from the well. Objects have been found in wells that can perhaps be related to this function, such as (parts of) a bucket, metal cauldrons and other vessels, ceramic bowls, pots and jugs, and wooden bowls (Hoegen 2004, 253-255; Bink & Franzen 2009, 107-108; Vos 2002, 59; Hiddink 2005, 288-291). Of course, some vessels are more suitable for drawing water than others. For maintenance, it was necessary to go down into the well. Ladders have been found in wells at several sites (fig. 5; Kooistra & Van Haaster 2001, 327-332; Verwers 1992, 174; Hiddink 2008, 185-189). Hiddink believes that these ladders were used during cleaning of the well (Hiddink 2008, 102). The previously mentioned spades may also have been used during cleaning. Although they were less suitable for digging in hard soil, they may have been used to remove soft debris from the bottom of the well. In that case, the short handle would have been an advantage in the cramped space.


5 Ladder found in a well in Kesteren-De Woerd. The ladder was placed in the well upside down (After Siemons 2001, fig. 4.12 and Kooistra & Van Haaster 2001 , fig. 10.4; adapted by B. Brouwenstijn).

Furthermore, during the time of use, all sorts of material could have been accidentally lost in the well. We should mainly think of objects that can be lost when bending over a well to draw water, or during cleaning or making repairs, such as brooches or other personal items carried on the body. Besides loss it is also possible that some objects were deliberately placed in a well. Animal bones, for example, are sometimes placed in a well to contaminate the water in times of feuds or war (Van den Broeke, personal comment).