The First Dutch Expedition to the East-Indies took place from 1595 to 1597. In april a fleet of four ships departed from Amsterdam for their first trading mission to explore the trading opportunities in the East. It was instrumental in the opening up of the Indonesian spice trade to the merchants that eventually formed the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and marked the end of the Portuguese Empire's dominance in the region. This was the start of the Golden Age in the Netherlands.
A first survey and scientific research on the remote island Nosy Manitsa, a small island on the southwest coast of Madagascar, may have revealed a sofar unknown graveyard of 20 to 30 Dutch sailors, buried in 1595. According to Dutch historical sources this is known as 'Het Hollandse Kerkhof'. These men were part of a fleet of four Dutch ships, which for the first time set sail to explore the East-Indies at the end of the 16th century. This cemetery is probably the oldest Dutch graveyard of Dutch sailors abroad!


Maritime Research & Consultancy (MR&C) organized a first survey in 2013 to the island of Nosy Manitsa in Madagascar. During this survey, local fisherman pointed out partly exposed human bones, a skull and a human jaw to the expedition team. After a first examination by l’Institut de Civilisations (ICMAA) of the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar, the jaw was shipped to the Netherlands for further scientific research by two prominent Dutch Universities. The results are sensational: the male jaw is dated late 16th century and of Dutch provenance. The human jaw has been returned to the University of Madagascar in 2015.

This scientific collaboration between l’Institut de Civilisations (ICMAA) and two prominent Dutch Universities has led to the conclusion that the oldest Dutch graveyard abroad known to date, might have been discovered.

Shared cultural heritage between Madagascar and the Netherlands
For the Malagasy and Dutch (maritime) history the First Fleet by the Dutch of 1595 and the Dutch graveyard are of tremendous importance. To date the only tangible evidence of this voyage are the survivor accounts, the shipping journals and their publications. Now both countries have a great opportunity to work together on academic level on this shared heritage discovery.

Further research / next steps: a new expedition to locate the Dutch graveyard
This joint academic collaboration between l’Institut de Civilisations (ICMAA) of Madagascar, the Dutch University of Leiden and Maritime Research & Consultancy has several important objectives and goals:
• Scientific research on the important mutual Cultural Heritage
• Capacity building for the Malagasy University
• Training and education
• Collaboration between our two nations
• Joint scientific publications

The current planning of the Malagasy-Dutch scientific team to return to Nosy Manitsa is set to May 2016.

See more on the Dutch project website: 

Download the latest report on the found human remains: MRC report HK 2015