Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 2-2 (November 2010)Lucas Meurkens: The late medieval/Early Modern reuse of prehistoric barrows as execution sites in the southern part of the Netherlands


Archaeologists have long known that there is a relation between prehistoric barrows and medieval execution sites. It is a widespread phenomenon in northwestern Europe, but one which so far has received very little attention from researchers. The recent excavation of a prehistoric barrow cemetery at Berghem (province of Noord-Brabant) by Archol BV and Leiden University yielded yet another example of this practice with the discovery of four late medieval burials of executed individuals. This prompted an investigation of this phenomenon in the southern provinces of the Netherlands. This article discusses the Berghem cemetery and a further three sites in this part of the country where prehistoric burial sites were reused as execution sites in the Middle Ages/Early Modern period. The results of this study supplement those in recent publications giving a survey of this phenomenon in the northern part of the Netherlands. This article describes the archaeological remains relating to the sites’ use as execution sites and attempts to reconstruct the locations of these sites in the medieval landscape. The question whether burial mounds were deliberately reused for this purpose is also addressed. The results will shed light on the significance of these sites in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period.