Belgian Dear Reader Bruno is one of the astronomy buffs behind Blog Wega (in Dutch). A piece about Bruno's nearest archaeological site wouldn't fit that blog, but I'm happy to have it as a guest entry. Rich 1st Millennium graves, what more can you ask for? This is the sixth entry I receive for the Your Nearest Site carnival. Gimme three more NOW, people, and I'll put it on-line!
Merovingian Motorway at Grez-Doiceau
By Bruno Van de Casteele
Yes, this is my favourite archaeological site, in Grez-Doiceau. I pass here every day. But sadly not to look at the archaeological remains, because they are all gone. I pass here every day on this new stretch of road when I go to work.
Five years ago, when it was decided to start work on this new road, sufficient time was foreseen for archaeological investigation (as it is obligated by law). They found an entire Merovingian cemetery! Not that there were a lot of remains (most bones had disappeared, leaving only vague traces), but nevertheless it was an interesting find that kept the archaeological department of our region well occupied during several years. What was very striking is that the farmer owning that land could have seen it himself, if he were trained in archeology. The decayed coffins had left a "clear" mark (for a professional eye) that could easily be seen every time the field was ploughed.
It was a sort of rescue excavation, but since there was sufficient time, the work had not really to be rushed. However, some other possible interesting sites on the stretch of road were not investigated because of this find. They can, however, be excavated later, because at those spots the ground itself was not touched.
Above is an artist's reconstruction of the inhabitant of the richest grave (that had not been robbed), featuring jewellery, pottery and fine glassware (see below) for a female person. All in all, the more than 350 graves (including those of animals, even a horse) yielded coins, pottery, weapons and some other interesting objects. The sheer size of it and the longevity of its use (over two hundred years) and the relative rarity of finds from these ages (5-7th century AD) makes it a very valuable site. Well, I should be using the past tense, but as the objects are shown in temporary exhibitions it really remains one of "our" sites and an actual part of our culture.
Numerous questions remain, for instance where the people lived that were buried here (no clue whatsoever) and what their daily habits were. Also, the results are not even published yet, and cataloguing and reconstruction is still under way. But every day, as I pass here, I try to forget about the road, just for an instant, and think about those people that lived here, and what their world would have looked like.