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CAMARACUM (Cambrai) Pas de Calais, France.

The city that superseded Bavai as capital of the civitas of the Nervii. Situated on the left bank of the upper Escaut, it was at the intersection of important Roman roads: Amiens-Bavai, Cambrai-Saint Quentin, and especially Arras-Cambrai, part of the famous route from Boulogne to Bavai and on to Cologne. The fact that no Gallic remains have been found is generally taken as proof that the Romans simply created the city as part of their road and administrative system in Belgica. On the other hand, the area immediately surrounding Cambrai is well known for its important Gallic remains: Moeuvre (Iron Age I cemetery), Etrun (oppidum at the confluence of the Escaut and the Sensée). But next to nothing is known of the topography of the ancient city or its stages of development, nor are we much better informed about the Late Empire rampart. Local tradition has it that the fortified city stood on a hill on the Escaut, the Mont des Boeufs, but definitive proof is still lacking.

The only finds from which we can derive any useful information are the tombs. The first group lies at the NW exit of the city, at the foot of the Pierres Jumelles (the remains of two sunken menhirs), the other in the Rue du Grand Séminaire. These cremation tombs have yielded a large quantity of pottery, now either in the Cambrai museum or the diocesan museum. We have more detailed evidence on the environs (especially at the bends of the Arras-Cambrai and Bapaume-Cambrai roads), which were very thickly settled in the Roman period. Major villas and monumental complexes are found each year, either by excavation or by aerial photography. A hoard of coins has just been discovered at Graincourt-les-Havrincourt, famous for its remarkable finds of silver plate.


Wilbert et Durieux, “Cambrai gallo-romain et mérovingien,” Mémoires de la Société d'emulation de Cambrai XLVIII (1893); L. de Sailly, “Les pierres Jumelles de Cambrai,” Pro Nervia 2 (1924) 35-40; F. Vercauteren, Etude sur les civitates de la Belgique Seconde (1934) 203-33; L. Chauvin & A. Tuffreau, “Recherches archéologiques récentes dans le Cambrésis,” Revue du Nord 44, no. 202 (1969) 373-74.


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