Two grave circles found under the playing field of football club KVV Schelde in Schellebelle in East Flanders could be more than 2,000 years old.
The circles date back to the Bronze Age, when there were already human settlements in the area of Schellebelle and Wichelen. The circles, a form of ceremonial cemetery, contain burned human bones.
Archaeologists explain that it was the custom at that time to cremate the dead then bury the remains, with the ashes no longer an attraction for wild animals.
The circles can be dated to the Bronze Age because they conform in many ways to other sites whose age has been established. One of the two is the largest circle of its sort to be found in Flanders, with a diameter of some 55 metres.
“They may not look spectacular,” said Clara Thys of the archaeological team. “But they point to an ages-old civilisation. They also teach us a lot about burial rituals of the time. In those days, the dead were cremated. We have found urns, ashes and burned bones.”
The circles are as old as the Pyramids, the archaeologists said. Nonetheless, the players of KVV Schelde will soon be back playing football on top of them.
“Everything is being measured and kept clear. People will later be able to read about what used to stand here,” Thys said. In the meantime, the schools of nearby Wichelen have been invited to take a tour with the archaeologists, before the graves return once more beneath the turf.