Mysterious Characters From The Forest

At Haringpakkerssteeg, a small side street of Damrak, work is in progress. A gambling hall gives way to an eatery. On the property itself things are not cultivated, except for the old beams which come back in sight. On those beams is something special, wild scratches and streaks that look like runes.

One of the four beams with three characters
One of the four beams with three characters

It almost never happens that round logs sit in an Amsterdam building. Felled trees were usually stripped in the forest of their bark, sometimes straight cut or edited with the ax and then loaded onto a ship or transported in a raft. In order to see to which party the wood belonged and who was the owner, marks were made. Before the tree was used at the place of destination, it was further chopped up or sawn to size. The brands that were previously made, would thereby be missing.

It has only happened once before in Amsterdam, when the Department of Monuments and Archaeology found a major series of brands from a saw timber trade. It was in 2007, during the restoration of the Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum). The marks in the wood, which came from eastern Germany and Poland, could be partially deciphered.

Sketch of one of the beams with on the left the characters shown in detail
Sketch of one of the beams with on the left the characters shown in detail

The beams were cut straight and are probably a repair done in the nineteenth century. The markings look like runes, the oldest known script from the second and third century to the sixteenth or seventeenth century were used by Germanic tribes of northern Europe, Great Britain, Scandinavia and Iceland. They differ from the characters in the Maritime Museum. From previous research, we know that with the markings as things origin, traders, buyer, length of the beam and the numbering of a lot of wood have been reported. Currently the construction historians are still trying to investigate where the wood came from.