Observing, Interpreting, and Excavating Roman Barrows: Landscape and Proto-archaeology in the Spanish Netherlands and the Prince-Bishopric of Liège (c. 1500–1700)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Even today, the landscape of some Belgian regions is deeply marked by the presence of dozens of Roman barrows. These mounds have survived the passage of time and have shaped the landscape, from antiquity up to the present-day. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a period characterized by the rediscovery of classical antiquity and the emergence of antiquarianism, travellers and scholars took a fresh look at these remains. The development of a proto-archaeological approach to the landscape gradually transformed the relationship between man and his surrounds, and contributed to a better understanding of certain landscape features. The first part of this article is devoted to historical observation of these barrows and their impact on the local landscape: Roman tumuli had unusual features (height, strength, presence of trees, etc.) and were used as landmarks and vantage points, especially in the Hesbaye region, which was sparsely wooded and relatively flat. The second part deals with interpretations of these mounds during the early modern period (attribution to the Romans, association with magic, etc.). The third part focuses on the first 'archaeological' excavations of tumuli (1507, 1621, 1641, and 1654). These early modern digs gradually transformed perceptions of these remains: observations of a proto-archaeological nature became increasingly common and heralded the emergence of a new approach, which co-existed with medieval or popular traditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-176
Number of pages22
JournalErudition and the Republic of Letters
Volume3
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

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Keywords

  • antiquarianism
  • History of Archaeology
  • Landscape History
  • Roman barrows
  • Scholarship
  • Spanish Netherlands

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