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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.

  • Modern Era – Today

Modern Era – Today

Archaeological Research

The oldest important source mentioning archaeological discoveries in Velzeke is due to Marcus van Vaernewyck (1518-1569). He mentions the substantial presence of Roman stone structures and finds of coins, pottery and statuettes. Remarkable is his attention for the existence of an early medieval site near the church, referred to as ‘die Stadt van Lothrijck’. An Early Iron Age urn came into the possession of canon Martin De Bast who donated in 1823 his archaeological collection to Ghent University.26 In 1953 the first scientific excavation was carried out by the same university under the direction of prof. Sigfried De Laet. One of his students, Marc Rogge, continued the archaeological work in the sixties and seventies of last century and became eventually curator of the Archaeological Museum.27 Fig. 39

Fig. 39: Excavations around 1970 of a Gallo-Roman dwelling in the center of the vicus (Archaeological Park) under the direction of Marc Rogge. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 39: Excavations around 1970 of a Gallo-Roman dwelling in the center of the vicus (Archaeological Park) under the direction of Marc Rogge. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

In the same period valuable research was done by amateurs as schoolmaster Jozef Janssens, Wilfried Jamée and dr. Luc Van Durme, who also excavated the Merovingian cemetery of Buzegem in 1969. The formal National Service for Excavations investigated a temple under the direction of F. Meex and prof. Jozef Mertens in 1975.28 Conscious of the importance of the site the town of Zottegem and the Province of East-Flanders took the responsibility of the archaeological work and the museum. Further systematic, still ongoing (rescue) excavations came gradually into the hands of a new generation of archaeologists as Kurt Braeckman, Johan De Schieter, Guy De Mulder, Peter Van der Plaetsen and Tineke De Wandel.29 This staff is now based in the Provincial Archaeological Museum on the site. Prof. Marc Van Meirevenne of Ghent University actually carries out geophysical prospection. Fig. 40 Fig. 41 The archaeological research is mainly concentrated on the Gallo-Roman vicus, and sites in the neighbourhood, but since 1995 excavations in and around the Saint Martin’s church gradually reveal Velzeke’s Carolingian and Ottonian past.30

Fig. 40: Recent excavations in the center of the Gallo-Roman settlement. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 40: Recent excavations in the center of the Gallo-Roman settlement. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 41: Geophysical prospection by a team of Ghent University (Universiteit Gent) in the center of the vicus. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 41: Geophysical prospection by a team of Ghent University (Universiteit Gent) in the center of the vicus. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Site today

Thanks to the efforts of the Province of East-Flanders and the town of Zottegem the site and the Archaeological Museum stand as a reference in the Belgian and European cultural landscape. Its management combines heritage protection, conservation, museum responsibilities, scientific research, education and tourism. Only a part of the archaeological site, mainly represented by the Gallo-Roman vicus, belongs to the museum complex. The museum buildings are connected to the reconstruction of a Roman garden and an archaeological park where the stone foundations of a Roman dwelling are kept in situ and a wood-fired Roman glass furnace is reconstructed, whereas the adjacent ground hides the unexcavated remnants of a small Roman fortress.31 Fig. 42 Fig. 43 It is in the intention to proceed to the reconstruction of other ancient buildings in the park after the new extension of the museum is finished. Fig. 44

Fig. 42: Aerial view of the Museum and the Archaeological Park with the foundations of a Gallo-Roman dwelling and on-going re-enactment. Credit: J. Semey, Ghent University, Department of Archaeology

Fig. 42: Aerial view of the Museum and the Archaeological Park with the foundations of a Gallo-Roman dwelling and on-going re-enactment. Credit: J. Semey, Ghent University, Department of Archaeology

Fig. 43: Glass-blowers at work in the reconstructed Roman glass furnace in the Archaeological Park. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 43: Glass-blowers at work in the reconstructed Roman glass furnace in the Archaeological Park. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 44: Project of the extension of the new museum wing (left) associated to the existing buildings (right). Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 44: Project of the extension of the new museum wing (left) associated to the existing buildings (right). Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

The excavation team is stand-by for rescue excavations on the non-protected parts of vicus, and for the region as well. The Saint Martin’s church is free for visitors and shows at the exterior substantial Ottonian parts, especially in its impressive choir. Guided tours are organized along the on-going excavations, the museum complex and archaeological park, and the church. A special room in the museum is planned for the 3D-reconstruction of the church, a monumental evocation of its wall-paintings and the presentation of the associated archaeological finds. The reconstruction of a Carolingian scriptorium is taken into consideration.

References

26 van Durme, Luc, ‘De zestiende-eeuwse archeologische en onomastische belangstelling voor Velzeke’, Handelingen van Zottegems Genootschap voor Geschiedenis, 1,1983, pp. 1-38
de Mulder, Guy and Rogge, Marc, Twee urnengrafvelden te Zottegem-Velzeke, Zottegem, Gewone reeks 1, 1995

27 de Laet, Siegfried and Nenquin, Jacques, ‘Een Gallo-Romeinse vicus te Velzeke-Ruddershove’, Cultureel Jaarboek voor de Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen 1953, Tweede band, 1958, pp. 3-57
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, nieuwe reeks, 4, 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, nieuwe reeks, 6, 1978, pp. 65-128
Rogge, Marc, ‘Een legerplaats uit de vroeg-Romeinse tijd te Velzeke’, Hermeneus, 52, 1980, pp. 135-139

28 Jamée, W., ‘Nieuwe Romeinse vondsten te Velzeke-Ruddershove’, Handelingen van de Geschiedkundige en Oudheidkundige Kring van Oudenaarde, 11, 2e aflevering, 1958, pp. 241-259
van Durme, Luc, ‘Een Merovingische begraafplaats te Zottegem-Velzeke’, Jaarboek van de Zottegemse Culturele Kring, 18, 1969-1971, pp. 67-85
Meex, F. and Mertens Joseph, ‘Een Gallo-Romeinse tempel te Velzeke (Zottegem)’, Archaeologica Belgica 142, 1973

29 de Mulder, Guy and Rogge, Marc (eds), De Gallo-Romeinse vicus te Velzeke I. Sporen van Flavische en 2de eeuwse bewoning, Zottegem, Gewone reeks 2, 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 and de Mulder, Guy, ‘Een Gallo-Romeinse pottenbakkersoven te Velzeke’, VOBOV-info, 48, 1998, pp. 15-19
The excavation reports are systematically published in the Archeologische Kroniek van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen (annex of the review Zottegems Genootschap voor Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde).

30 Rogge, Marc and Deschieter Johan, ‘Bouwhistorisch en archeologisch onderzoek in en rond de Sint-Martinuskerk te Velzeke’, Archeologische Kroniek van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen, 4, 1995, pp. 69-82

31 Rogge, Marc and van Durme, Luc (eds), Archeologisch Museum van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen. Algemene Brochure, Zottegem, 1987
Rogge, Marc, Braeckman, Kurt, De Mulder, Guy, Het Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen. Site Velzeke, Zottegem, 1996
Van der Plaetsen, Peter, Romeinse tuinsier. De museumtuin van Velzeke, Zottegem, 1997
Openbaar Kunstbezit in Vlaanderen, 3, 2004

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