Artificial mounds and dikes

Lauwers Sea

Up until 1969 the Lauwersmeer area looked exactly like today's Wadden Sea. The tides determined the landscape. The Lauwers Sea was an inlet of the Wadden Sea, with channels, sand banks exposed at ebb tide and mud flats along the edges. But this beautiful stretch of shallows was a threat to the surrounding land. In 1717, for example, there was a flood that killed hundreds of people and animals. Following the disastrous flooding in the south-west of the Netherlands in 1953 people in the North opted for safety. The decision was taken to build a dam closing off the mouth of the Lauwers Sea.

(c) foto: Simon Bijlsma

The landscape: from 'terp' to 'polder'

Some time around 500 BC the first human beings settled in the area, on the higher points in the landscape. This gave rise to artificial mounds, known as terpen in the Frisian language and wierden in the Groningen dialect. The mounds were safe havens for the inhabitants when the land flooded. But in the course of time population growth meant that the mounds no longer offered sufficient protection, and so around 1000 AD the people began to put dikes into place to protect their dwellings and crops. They also created polders, which provided excellent agricultural land.