Lorem ipsum

read more

Velzeke

Between the Carolingian and Ottonian periods, Velzeke was an important regional power centre and shared its history with the neighbouring Ename. The contemporary visitors can appreciate Velzeke Museum with new interactive ways for presenting the archaeological finds as well as Ottonian parts of the St. Martin Church.

  • Before AD 850

Before AD 850

Landscape

Velzeke is situated in East-Flanders (Oost-Vlaanderen), a northern province of Belgium, some 20km south of Gent, the provincial capital. It now forms part of the town of ­Zottegem. The undulating and fertile area of Velzeke belongs to the region of sand-loamy Flanders and is veined by many brooks which end in the nearby rivers Scheldt and Dender. Sand-limestone from tertiary strata was exploited as building material at nearby Oombergen and Balegem. From a pedological point of view the area is characterized by dry loamy soils with an argillic B-horizon. Regularly the edges of the depressions consist of ill-drained colluvial soils, whereas the brook valleys contain hydromorph alluvial soils. This is well reflected by the situation of the Gallo-Roman site of Velzeke, and two cemeteries, respectively of the Early Iron Age and of the Merovingian period, all positioned on the same strategic plateau at a height of 50-60 m above the sea-level fringed at the north and the south by two brooks (Passemarebeek and Molenbeek).1 Fig. 1

Fig. 1: Situation map of Velzeke. A – Gallo-Roman settlement, B – Gallo-Roman villas; 1 – Augustan Roman fortress, 2 – Gallo-Roman cemeteries; Merovingian cemetery of Buzegem at the north-west fringe of the fortress zone; Saint Martin’s church at the south of the settlement on the contour-line of 50 m. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 1: Situation map of Velzeke. A – Gallo-Roman settlement, B – Gallo-Roman villas; 1 – Augustan Roman fortress, 2 – Gallo-Roman cemeteries; Merovingian cemetery of Buzegem at the north-west fringe of the fortress zone; Saint Martin’s church at the south of the settlement on the contour-line of 50 m. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

The Gallo-Roman settlement stood at a junction of two important main roads: one forming the connection of the North sea with the eastern Rhine limes (Germany), this is from Boulogne to Cologne; the other forming the connection between the military installations in the northern Rhine limes (Holland) and the department capital Bavay in the south (France).2 Fig. 2

Fig. 2: Velzeke in the Roman road system of Gallia Belgica. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 2: Velzeke in the Roman road system of Gallia Belgica. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

This important position, enhanced by the close connection with the rivers Scheldt and Dender, explains the fortune of Velzeke as a thriving marketplace and an administrative and religious center of the Romanised Nervii. The countryside around Velzeke must have grown wheat, a well-known ‘Nervian’ product, and the discovery of several rural sites proves the landscape was exploited by a villa economy system. There can be little doubt that after the decline of the vicus, the new Germanic settlers were attracted by its situation with the deserted fertile lands and the road network remaining likely intact. The Carolingian and Ottonion area shifted to the south of the Gallo-Roman settlement, slightly lower on the contour line of 50 m, its core being the Saint Martin’s church. The actual village gradually grew around and in front of the church. The late medieval bell tower still rises as a powerful landmark remembering a glorious but vanished site of early medieval times. Fig. 3 Fig. 4

Fig. 3: Aerial view from the south-west of the Gallo-Roman and medieval settlement of Velzeke. Approximately in the center the Museum and the Archaeological Park, to the right Saint Martin’s church, in front the Grey Sisters monastery. Credit: J. Semey, Ghent University, Department of Archaeology

Fig. 3: Aerial view from the south-west of the Gallo-Roman and medieval settlement of Velzeke. Approximately in the center the Museum and the Archaeological Park, to the right Saint Martin’s church, in front the Grey Sisters monastery. Credit: J. Semey, Ghent University, Department of Archaeology

Fig. 4: The medieval Saint Martin’s church dominates the village of Velzeke and stands as a landmark. At right the chapel of the Grey Sisters monastery; in front the south entrance to the Archaeological Museum. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 4: The medieval Saint Martin’s church dominates the village of Velzeke and stands as a landmark. At right the chapel of the Grey Sisters monastery; in front the south entrance to the Archaeological Museum. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Settlement

Two cemeteries witness for a presumed protohistoric settlement at Velzeke (Bronze and early Iron Age). The late Iron Age is only represented by two gold coins (staters) of the Nervii. The Gallo-Roman site grew out from an Augustan military outpost around 10-5 BC, in the aftermath of Caesar’s conquest of Gaul.3 Fig. 5

Fig. 5: Italian terra sigillata (red glazed table ware) of the earliest settlement of Velzeke in relation to the Augustan fortress. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 5: Italian terra sigillata (red glazed table ware) of the earliest settlement of Velzeke in relation to the Augustan fortress. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

The civil settlement prospered in the 1st and 2nd centuries. It was a small urbanized center, a vicus, in the former Roman province of Gallia Belgica (capital Reims or Durocortorum, now in France), it belonged to the department of the civitas Nerviorum (capital Bavay or Bagacum, in France near the Belgian frontier), which used to be the territory of the Belgic tribe of the Nervii. The name Velzeke is almost certainly of Celtic-Latin origin and was reconstructed as Fel(i)ciacum.4 Its spatial organisation was determined by roads and parcel ditches, with timber and stone-based buildings, two sanctuaries and a road station (mansio). Fig. 6 Fig. 7

Fig. 6: Situation of the Gallo-Roman settlement of Velzeke. A – the fortress, B – the oldest core of the vicus (before ca. AD 40-50), C – possible maximal later extension of the settlement, red zones – excavated areas, the road station is to the left (V KWAK-zone). Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 6: Situation of the Gallo-Roman settlement of Velzeke. A – the fortress, B – the oldest core of the vicus (before ca. AD 40-50), C – possible maximal later extension of the settlement, red zones – excavated areas, the road station is to the left (V KWAK-zone). Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 7: Reconstruction of the Roman road station at Velzeke, state ca. AD 170. Credit: E. Van de Geguchte

Fig. 7: Reconstruction of the Roman road station at Velzeke, state ca. AD 170. Credit: E. Van de Geguchte

Beside products of local craftsmen, ceramic and glass finds witness for intensive regional and long distance trade.5 Especially the presence of Mediterranean amphorae for wine, olive-oil and fish sauce is remarkable.6 Fig. 8

Fig. 8: Mediterranean amphorae for wine, olive-oil, fish-sauce and alum from Greece, Italy and Spain. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 8: Mediterranean amphorae for wine, olive-oil, fish-sauce and alum from Greece, Italy and Spain. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

The wheat production went mainly to the army stationed at the limes. The 3rd century was an age of crisis with brigands and infiltrating Germanic war bands that struck also the region of Velzeke as shown by coin and silver hoards. The presence of a burgus (small fortress), votive gifts and weapons pointing to a military detachment prove that Velzeke had a role in the defense.Fig. 9 Fig. 10 Nevertheless, the vicus came to an end in AD 265/268 during the reign of Postumus.7 There is a gab for the 4th and 5th centuries, but scant evidence from other sites in East-Flanders demonstrates a depopulated rural landscape that was opened to new settlers of Germanic origin (Frisians, Saxons and Franks), possibly at the invitation of the Romans themselves. In the late 5th and 6th century, with the collapse of the Empire, there was a new Landnahme, mainly by Franks. The Merovingian necropolis of Buzegem at the fringes of the former vicus of Velzeke reflects small family groups forming a village community led by a chieftain. Around AD 600 the social structure changed dramatically as it became clear from the organization and the grave goods in the cemeteries of Strijpen and Beerlegem.8 They belonged to new large villa domains preceding feudal estates where an elite dominated a host of free peasants, serfs and slaves. Christianisation came only up in the 7th and 8th centuries as a slow process stimulated by the abbeys of Gent, Dikkelvenne and Moorsel. Archaeological evidence and the presence of the later Ottonian installation indicate that Velzeke must have been already an important, new administrative center (fiscus) created by the Carolingian authorities.9

Fig. 9: Silver hoard of Everbeek (south of Velzeke), mid-third century AD. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 9: Silver hoard of Everbeek (south of Velzeke), mid-third century AD. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 10: Bronze military brooch dedicated to Jupiter, mid-third century AD. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 10: Bronze military brooch dedicated to Jupiter, mid-third century AD. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

References

1 De Mulder, Guy and Rogge, Marc, Twee urnengrafvelden te Zottegem-Velzeke, Zottegem, 1995
De Mulder, Guy and Rogge, Marc (eds), De Gallo-Romeinse vicus te Velzeke I. Sporen van Flavische en 2de eeuwse bewoning, Zottegem, 1999
Rogge, Marc and van Durme, Luc (eds), Archeologisch Museum van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen. Algemene Brochure, Zottegem, 1987

2 Rogge, Marc, ‘Een bijdrage tot de studie van het Gallo-Romeins wegennet in de streek tussen Schelder en Dender’, Helinium, 12, 1971, pp. 124-153
van Durme, Luc, Toponymie van Velzeke-Ruddershove en Bochoute, Gent, 1986
van Durme, Luc and Rogge, Marc, ‘Het Romeinse wegennet en de romanisering respectievelijk germanisering van noordelijk Henegouwen en zuidelijk Oost-Vlaanderen’, in Lodewijckx, Marc (ed.), Archaeological and Historical Aspects of West-European Societies. Album Amicorum André Van Doorselaer, Acta Archaeologica Lovaniensia Monographiae 8, Leuven, 1996, pp. 145-152

3 De Mulder, Guy and Rogge, Marc, Twee urnengrafvelden te Zottegem-Velzeke, Zottegem, 1995
Rogge, Marc and Beeckmans, Luc (eds), 1987, Geld uit de grond. Tweeduizend jaar muntgeschiedenis in Oost-Vlaanderen, Zottegem, 1987
Rogge, Marc, ‘Een legerplaats uit de vroeg-Romeinse tijd te Velzeke’, Hermeneus 52, 1980, 135-139

4 van Durme, Luc and Rogge, Marc, ‘Het Romeinse wegennet en de romanisering respectievelijk germanisering van noordelijk Henegouwen en zuidelijk Oost-Vlaanderen’, in Lodewijckx, Marc (ed.), Archaeological and Historical Aspects of West-European Societies. Album Amicorum André Van Doorselaer, Acta Archaeologica Lovaniensia Monographiae 8, Leuven, 1996, pp. 145-152

5 Rogge, Marc, Braeckman, Kurt, de Mulder, Guy, Het Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen. Site Velzeke, Zottegem, 1996
Rogge, Marc and Van Durme, Luc (eds), Archeologisch Museum van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen. Algemene Brochure, Zottegem, 1987
De Mulder, Guy and Rogge, Marc (eds), De Gallo-Romeinse vicus te Velzeke I. Sporen van Flavische en 2de eeuwse bewoning, Zottegem, 1999
Braeckman, Kurt, De Mulder, Guy and Deschieter, Johan, ‘Noodopgravingen in de Romeinse vicus van Velzeke: het ‘Kwakkel-project’, een eerste evaluatie’, VOBOV-info, 46, 1997, pp. 11-14
Deschieter, Johan, De Mulder, Guy, ‘Een Gallo-Romeinse pottenbakkersoven te Velzeke’, VOBOV-info 48, 1998, pp. 15-19
Meex, F., Mertens Joseph, ‘Een Gallo-Romeinse tempel te Velzeke’, Archaeologica Belgica 142 , Brussel, 1973
Rogge, Marc, ‘Kataloog van de vondsten uit de Gallo-Romeinse nederzettingen van Zottegem-Velzeke. Oudheidkundige opgravingen en vondsten in Oost-Vlaanderen 7’, Kultureel Jaarboek Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen, Bijdragen, 1976, pp. 73-186
Rogge, Marc, ‘Kataloog van de vondsten uit de Gallo-Romeinse nederzettingen van Zottegem-Velzeke. Oudheidkundige opgravingen en vondsten in Oost-Vlaanderen 8’, Kultureel Jaarboek Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen, Bijdragen, 1978, pp. 65-128
The excavation reports are systematically published in the Archeologische Kroniek van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen (annex of the review Zottegems Genootschap voor Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde), synthetic overviews and contributions on specific topics (e.g. material studies) are also published in the proceedings of the annual national Belgian congress Romeinendag / Journée d’Archéologie romaine and in the proceedings of the annual international congress of the Société Française d’Etude de la Céramique Antique en Gaule (SFECAG).

6 Monsieur, Patrick, ‘Quelques timbres amphoriques de Lyon découverts en Gaule belgique et en Germanie inférieure’, Latomus, 69, 2010, pp. 374-399
Monsieur, Patrick, Braeckman, Kurt, Romeinse amforen in de vicus Velzeke, Archeologische Kroniek van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen, 4, 1995, pp. 289-316
Rogge, Marc, ‘Een legerplaats uit de vroeg-Romeinse tijd te Velzeke’, Hermeneus, 52, 1980, pp. 135-139

7 Braeckman, Kurt, de Mulder, Guy and Rogge, Marc, ‘Opgravingen in de Gallo-Romeinse vicus te Velzeke. Een interimverslag 1995-199’, Archeologische Kroniek van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen, 5, 1997, pp. 199-211
van Heesch, Johan and Deschieter, Johan, De Gallo-Romeinse vicus te Velzeke II. Een muntschat uit de tijd van Postumus, Zottegem, 2000
Deschieter, Johan, Monsieur, Patrick, van Heesch, Johan, Braeckman, Kurt and Baratte, François, Argentum rapitur! Een Romeinse zilverschat uit Everbeek (Brakel)/A Roman silver treasure from Everbeek (Brakel), Belgium, Zottegem, 2012
Lamarcq, Danny and Rogge, Marc (red.), De taalgrens. Van de oude tot de nieuwe Belgen, Leuven, 1996

8 van Durme, Luc, ‘Een Merovingische begraafplaats te Zottegem-Velzeke’, Jaarboek van de Zottegemse Culturele Kring, 18, 1969-1971, pp. 67-85
Roosens, Heli, Gyselinck, J., ‘Een Merovingisch grafveld te Beerlegem’, Archaeologica Belgica, 170, Brussel, 1975

9 Van Durme, Luc, ‘De vroegere scabinale organisatie te Velzeke in ruimer perspectief. Met de uitgave en ontleding van twee vroegmiddelnederlandse schepenbrieven’, Jaarboek van de Zottegemse Culturele Kring, 21, 1976-1977, pp. 21-68
Vvn Durme, Luc, Toponymie van Velzeke-Ruddershove en Bochoute, Gent, 1986

Continue to: AD 850 – 1050

Landscape Settlement

share print

top ↑