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GANDA (Ghent) Belgium.

A Gallo-Roman vicus of the city of the Menapii, at the confluence of the Lys and the Escaut. Nothing was known of it until excavations were started in 1960. The name, appearing only in mediaeval sources, is pre-Roman and means “meeting of rivers.” On the site of the vicus a settlement with necropolis was found, dating from the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age (from the end of Ha A to the end of Ha D), but so far no remains have been discovered of an Iron Age settlement that would have preceded the Gallo-Roman vicus. The beginnings of the vicus go back to the mid 1st c. A.D. The settlement spread out for 2 km on a narrow strip of land surrounded by marshes on the left bank of the Escaut: to the W, from the point where the two rivers meet; to the E, up to the modern village of Destelbergen. At the W end of the vicus, in the ruins of the mediaeval abbey of St. Bavon, great quantities of Roman pottery were found ca. 1930, but thorough excavations have taken place only at the E end of the settlement. Isolated finds were made in between these two spots. The excavations, which were carried out at the edge of present-day Ghent, revealed that the part of the vicus studied was half rural in character (with orchards, meadows, and paddocks for cattle, but no fields) and half industrial (with significant traces of iron-smelting works, limonite from nearby boglands being used for ore). No fewer than ten wells, with wooden linings, were found; most probably they were related to the iron-smelting operation. To the SE of the vicus a large necropolis was found with from 1000 to 2000 tombs, most of them from the 3d c. Among these tombs, which are of the incineration-pit type, is one that is unique in the archaeology of the NW provinces of the Roman Empire. This is a collective tomb (13.3 x 1.4 m) in which were found the charred bones of about twenty deceased—men, women, and children. The rich grave gifts, placed on the pyre along with the bodies, had been severely damaged. Among the objects were sherds of 700 to 800 pottery vases, 25 coins, about 50 fibulas (some 20 of them enameled), a perfume flask of bronze, rings, hairpins, glass and bone articles. The tomb is generally taken as evidence that an epidemic raged through the vicus, in the course of which a large number of its inhabitants perished.

Ganda was linked to Bavai by a road that passed through the vici of Velzeke and Blicquy. Other roads probably connected it to the settlements of Aardenburg to the XV and Hofstade and Asse to the E. The vicus was certainly still inhabited in the 4th c. There is some evidence, from topography and the study of local place names, that there was a castellum at Ganda in the 4th c.; its site has not yet been definitely located.

In the 7th c. a Merovingian settlement took the place of the Gallo-Roman vicus; its inhabitants were evangelized by St. Amand, who built an abbey there (later dedicated to St. Bavon). By the 8th and 9th c. the town had become a port of some economic importance, but was completely destroyed at the time of the Viking invasions in the 9th c. When the Vikings left, another port which developed farther W, between the Lys and the Escaut, kept the name of the old vicus. Ghent (Fr. Gand) became one of the leading cities of the Middle Ages, although the site of the original vicus had become by then completely rural.


S. J. De Laet, “Oudheidkundige vondsten en opgravingen in Oostvlaanderen,” Kultureel Jaarboek voor de Provincie Oostvlaanderen 12, 1958 (1961) 38-52; 17, 1963 (1964) 27-71; 19, 1965 (1967) 10-31, 129-70; id., “Les fouilles de Destelbergen et les origines gallo-romaines de la yule de Gand,” Archeologia 30 (1969) 57-69MPI; id. & A. Van Doorselaer, “Lokale ijzerwinning in westelijk Belgiï in de Romeinse tijd,” Mededelingen van de Kon. Vlaamse Academie v. Wetenschappen v. België, Klasse der Letteren 31.2 (1969) 73 pp.; id. et al., “La tombe collective de la nécropole gallo-romaine de Destelbergen-lez-Gand,” Helinium 10 (1970).


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