New Metro Line the Route to Archaeological Discoveries

Things to Do, What's New — By Jane Graham on January 20, 2011 at 2:22 pm

When Copenhagen’s city museum changed its name from Københavns Bymuseum to the catchier Københavns Museum (Museum of Copenhagen) last February, it was part of a larger change in the museum’s profile: From that of a small town museum to a research centre in an international metropolis. With the new name, the museum was telling its visitors, we have a new visual identity and a profile that goes beyond the museum walls.

One of the largest projects the museum has been involved with in the past year is working with archaeologists and engineers to oversee the excavations of the city in connection with the building of the new Metro route. Work on the new ‘City Ring’ line began last year and will continue for the next few years. As the name suggests, the line will run through much of the inner city, and some of the biggest downtown hubs have been affected by the excavations, including Rådhuspladsen, Kongens Nytorv and Gammel Strand. And while the city’s top layer has been ripped off, under the surface some very interesting finds have shown up; all of which have been stored at Københavns Museum.

The latest find is the remains of an old city port at Kongens Nytorv, believed to be the original Østerport that moved eastwards as the city expanded. This showed up around Christmas time and has been on view in the square throughout January. At the end of this week, after being thoroughly photographed and registered, the pieces will be sent to the museum and digging on the new Metro line will resume, meaning that anyone who hasn’t yet gone and viewed the port in its original placing has a matter of days to see it. According to the archaeologists on site, interest in the old port has been great, with around 50 people a day taking the experts up on the offer of a short tour of the excavations.

The ‘original Østerport’ was removed in 1647 on the orders of King Christian IV to allow the city to develop eastwards. What makes it particularly fascinating is that although historians always suspected that the city ports once stood much closer to one another than they do now, the actual placing of this Østerport is not quite where they had believed it would be—outside a shoe shop on Kongens Nytorv rather than at the point where walking street Strøget joins the square.

There are 20 archaeologists digging every day and new finds are being made all the time. The team plan to leave the Kongens Nytorv site in mid-February, when they will start digging around the Rådhuspladsen site.

The image shows København Museum’s multimedia installation ‘Væggen’ (the Wall) displayed on Kongens Nytorv last year and is courtesy of Københavns Museum.

Tags: Copenhagen history, Copenhagen Metro, Copenhagen museums, Kongens Nytorv