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
4. Ritual deposits in wells

4.1 Inventory

To make our inventory reports about excavations of Late Iron Age and Roman period sites in The Netherlands have been searched for information on finds from wells. Besides libraries and lists of publications on websites of archaeological companies, the e-depot for Dutch archaeology ( has been an important source for these reports.

Naturally, the deposits were not picked randomly from these reports. If the authors of a report marked a find as ‘special’ or ‘ritual’, it was automatically included in our selection. The selection was expanded by including what we understood to be ‘special’ finds. The criteria for selection are mainly comparable to the ways for identifying ritual deposits discussed above. In the first place deposits with remarkable or valuable objects have been selected. Secondly, deposits with wooden objects and complete ceramics have been added, as well as remarkable deposits of bone, and stone objects. Besides special objects, attention is paid to deposits in which various materials are found together. Finally, the location of the deposit has been an important focal point. As has been said before, to find objects in one part of a well can be more exceptional than in other parts. Furthermore, it is important to note that because of these criteria deposits of fragmented objects have rarely been selected. That does not imply, however, that they cannot be (part of) ritual deposits.

Something that also played a role in the selection of deposits is the way in which wells and deposits have been described in reports. Some archaeological services produce more elaborate reports than others. When features or finds are only briefly mentioned or listed in tables, then the possibility that they were included in our selection decreases. On the other hand, if finds were described in detail, and information on other finds and the find location within the well was included, they were far more likely to be included in our selection.

This inventory focused on identifying potentially ritual deposits from a range of sites in The Netherlands. In the future, a more extensive inventory of all published wells from a selection of sites may provide a useful indication of the extent of special finds in wells.