10 February 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout, posted in Uncategorized

Sometimes you find strange things in a profile pit, but this certainly is one of the strangest pits in my carreer…it is located beneath the 1000-year old
cemetary of the St. Rombouts Cathedral, which is archaeologically excavated to make room for a parking lot.

We are studing the old sandy soils that reside below the most ancient remains of Mechelen, buried deeply below the present-day city. Much to our suprise, we still find almost intact Podzols there, right beneath layers and layers of ancient basements or – in this case – graves stacked on top of each other.


The archaeological team is carefully excavating all remains and they will be given a new place to rest. 

8 Responses to “Bones”

  1. Laura Wheeler Reply | Permalink

    “Excavated to make room for a parking lot.” What a shame, but at least you got a chance to study it! An unusual find indeed!

  2. Karen Vancampenhout Reply | Permalink

    Although I am in no position whatsoever to question the city’s need for space or parking lots, it also struck me as a loss. It does feel kind of sad, doesn’t it?

  3. Laura Wheeler Reply | Permalink

    Yes it does indeed! Especially to just concrete over a historical area that is important for scientific investigation!

  4. Mike Fowler Reply | Permalink

    Does the company (or state/government) building the car park contribute anything directly to the cost of the archaeological dig? Or the curation of any important finds?

  5. Laura Wheeler Reply | Permalink

    Great Q Mike..!

  6. Karen Vancampenhout Reply | Permalink

    Great question indeed, and one that has been causing a lot of controversy for digs in Belgium in general. I am not fully up to date on the issue, but I’ll get back to it after I’ve had a chance to talk to our collegues from the archaeology department.

  7. Lee Turnpenny Reply | Permalink

    Was this pit a happenstance find? Or is it predictable that this kind of thing will be located beneath (middle age) cemetaries?

  8. Karen Vancampenhout Reply | Permalink

    To answer Mike’s question:
    According to a collegue from the archaeology department: it’s complicated. It really depends on the case. In Flanders, in theory the developer has to pay for the costs of the dig, but sometimes the local government can step in as well. Another issue is the storage and study of the material that was found. The dig in Mechelen is a very big one, it lasted over a year. The city seems dedicated to adequately document and study the artefacts.

    To answer Lee’s question:
    The bones were expected of course :). Also, it is common that the current surface level of cities lies higher than the original, natural landscape did. But we really did not think that almost intact soil profiles would be present beneath cities. We were expecting to find heavily disturbed material. Apparently, the first city dwellers did not move a lot of soil around for construction or burial.

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