The Wierden landscape
Mounds (wierden) are clearly visible in the Waddenland’s man-made landscape. The traditionally raised wierden villages are profiled against the 'huge skies' of Groningen.
Living high and dry
Wierden are inhabited manmade mounds. They existed as means of protection against the tides before the dikes were constructed. From around 500 BC onwards, the people living on the salt marshes along the coast of Friesland and Groningen gradually moved on to the manmade mounds. The settlements spread and began to concentrate into 'house wierden' before becoming 'village wierden'. Some beautiful examples of wierden villages include Ezinge, Garnwerd, Eenrum, Mensingeweer, Groot Maarslag and Vierhuizen.
Wierden are usually sited at the edge of a bay or tidal channel, possibly to facilitate easy access to fishing. The inhabitants also raised cattle and hunted. The wierden’s fields remained beyond the reach of the salt water and were used for farming or horticulture. The lower parts were kept as meadows and hayfields. If the water surrounding the wierde became too salty due to flooding, the cattle were watered from a 'dobbe'; a natural or constructed pond on the mound.
With the introduction of the dikes from about 1200 onwards, living on the mounds was no longer necessary.
Professor van Giffen and the excavation of the Ezinge mound
Farms were relocated to the lower parts, close to the meadows and hayfields. Between around 1850 and 1950, many wierden were dug up and the soil was sold off as fertiliser. These excavations unearthed numerous treasures, including pots and other earthenware objects, bone utensils, bronze statues and rune sticks.
The mounds acquired an international reputation through these digs. The archaeological excavation of the Ezinge mound was led by Professor van Giffen. In the nineteen twenties and thirties, van Giffen was the first to expose the complete structure of a village down through the centuries. The Wierdenland Museum has plenty of information on these digs and how they were organised, as well as on the fascinating horse graveyard which van Giffen exposed.