After 15 years of preparation, 1994 the first Dutch archaeological theme park opened in Alphen aan den Rijn, not far from The Hague, Utrecht and Amsterdam, an area which houses 6 million inhabitants. Archeon covers 10,000 years of human development in the Netherlands. From hunter-gatherers in the Stone Age and farmers in the Bronze and Iron Ages, through the Roman period and right up to everyday life in 1340 AD, “Archaeo-interpreters” show what life was like in “their time” in the 43 reconstructed buildings
There were two organisations, one for the preservation and reconstruction of a roman ship found in Woerden and an organisation that wanted to reconstruct a prehistoric building. Together with ABN Amro (a bank) the park was financed and built. Reopened in 1996 on a surface of 6 hectares, the full Dutch archaeological past is presented from Mesolithic (8000 BC) until 1350 AD. The park holds many house reconstructions which are often presented by archaeotolks (archaeo-interpreters) – there are not many signs and no showcases. There are 10 prehistoric areas, 14 Roman and 22 medieval ones. Roman and Medieval meals are presented. More often than at other places, the atmosphere at Archeon is like at a living history event, with many actors and activities to experience. At some times, these events have a purely archaeological or technical approach (“textiles”) most of the times however, they are culturally determined (“Celts”, “Vikings”)
The over 300,000 visitors per year are not only tourists and school groups: many themed parties are organised for groups between 20 and 800 participants. Archeon is more successful than any other traditional Dutch museum in informing about and promoting Dutch archaeology. The low threshold and the spectacle of course play a role in the success. The connection with science is an important point of attention for Archeon.