Origins of Amsterdam

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Daneel Bouden

Amsterdam originated where Amstel entered into the Zuiderzee (South Sea), now known as the IJsselmeer (Ijssel lake). This occurred around the year 1000 AD; Amsterdam was little more than a wetland then. It was called Aemestelle and was part of the bishopric of Utrecht.Amsterdam

We found coins, but where are the Romans?
Although some Roman coins were found in the Amsterdam soil, no roman lived here during their days, nor did anyone else for that matter. Most probably, they came from shipwrecks that met their final fate in these rather tumultuous waters. There were also some knives and scissors found from Roman periods but not many and usually in an area that used to be submerged by water.

It’s not exactly certain when people first settled at the mouth of the Amstel river. However, several legends exist, of which the most likely one is about two men and a dog who went searching for dry land after being shipwrecked.
On the other hand, according to city archaeologist Jan Baart Amsterdam was founded by dike builders from the bishopric of Utrecht. However, “I” think this to be a falsification of history as the building of dams is mentioned long before that of dikes.

Fishers in those days had to fetch for their own; they build dams by cutting off small rivers and streams; these, however, were often washed away by high tides from the North and Zuider sea. Subsequently, it became necessary for locals to start building dikes. The reason people wanted to settle here was because of the surplus of fish available. This was traded with the hinterland, and low and behold, a trading post was established.

De Dam (Dam square)
It would take the early settlers almost three centuries before a decent weir was built. The dam builds in the mouth of the river is known today as Dam square. There were several farms situated at both sites of the canal, accessible by pathways. On the one side of the current Damrak lay what is now called the Nieuwendijk (New Dijk), one of Amsterdams most trendy shopping streets. On the other shore lay the Warmoesstraat.

I favour the opinion that around 950 AD, the first inhabitants of Amsterdam settled on a small piece of dry land as they noticed the amount of fish in the area. It offered an opportunity for the lively hood, and they saw no reason to move on.