Archaeologists begin new excavation of Roman-era dyke in Flanders

Archaeologists from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel started excavations of an ancient dyke in Raversijde, a coastal village in Flanders, on Wednesday. The excavations are part of the Testerep project, which investigates how the coastal landscape from Westende to Ostend evolved over the last five thousand years. Earlier, a cross-section was made of another ancient dyke in Westende.

VUB's research is currently focusing on the ancient dykes of Testerep. "Parts of those structures have been preserved," says VUB archaeologist Soetkin Vervust, who is leading the excavations together with her VUB colleague Pieterjan Deckers. "Over the past few days, we made a cross-section through an old, six-hundred-metre-long dyke in Westende, one of the few old dyke structures in our polders that is still well preserved." The dyke is mentioned in 15th-century historical sources as Boonlanddijk. Researchers are still looking for the exact meaning of that toponym. Presumably, the dike served to protect fields from blowing in sand.

On Wednesday, excavations began on a dyke believed to date back to Roman times. "In the past, there have been excavations near there, but back then they did not have the necessary modern dating techniques that we have now," he said. In any case, shards of Roman pottery indicate that the dyke was definitely there at that time, about 2,000 years ago. That is unique," says Vervust.

"We can see from the soil that there was a battle with the sea here at that time. We should probably see the ancient dykes in the context of serious sea breaches," says the archaeologist. Using a device based on exposure, the archaeologists are investigating how the soil layers relate chronologically. Moreover, the data being collected now will also be useful for the future. "The historical data that give insight into the evolution of our coast should enable us to work out meaningful and sustainable coastal protection measures for the future," says Vervust.

The Testerep project is a multidisciplinary project involving researchers from the VUB, the Flemish Institute for the Sea (VLIZ), KU Leuven and Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen (Howest). The archaeological component is being carried out by the VUB.



The archaeological site of the Testerep project in Raversijde, Flanders. - © BELGA PHOTO MAAIKE TIJSSENS

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