Baby skeletons found during archaeological dig at cathedral in Ghent
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    Baby skeletons found during archaeological dig at cathedral in Ghent

    © Visit Flanders
    © Visit Flanders

    Archaeologists have turned up what is being described as a “treasure trove” of information about the beginnings of the city of Ghent, during works in the vicinity of the St-Bavo cathedral. The excavations have so far revealed artefacts dating back to the Iron Age, Bronze Age and Roman times. Rather more lugubrious was the discovery of an old burial place used in its day mainly for the burial of babies and children.

    The archaeological investigation is a routine excavation carried out where renovation works are intended, in this case for the creation of a new visitors’ centre to house the Holy Lamb altarpiece, itself recently restored. Any time works are taking place that impact the ground, archaeologists are brought in to investigate, and works may be held up while important research is carried out.

    The existence of the graveyard was already known, as it was included in many maps and drawings. It was used for centuries, from the 12 century, when the cathedral was first built, until 1784.

    The cathedral itself was built on the grounds of what had been a place of prayer, probably a building made of wood, which dates back to the very origins of the city. The graveyard seems to have been reserved for infants and children up to the age of about three.

    The researchers also uncovered two mass graves on the Limburgstraat side of the cathedral, one with the remains of 21 bodies and the other with 31. Further examination will be carried out to determine why these bodies – of adults in this case – were buried together, perhaps as the result of a major outbreak of disease, war or starvation.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times