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Archaeological finds

During the construction work and restoration important archaeological finds were discovered at several locations.  The first appeared in 2002. Next to the police tower, at the spot where the new building would stand, the Archaeological Department of the city of Antwerp started an excavation and discovered an underground tomb. This tomb was located in the western section of the monastery and had around ten cement alcoves containing the coffins and remains 18th century Augustinians. This find was made even more important because slate plates were found on the outside of the graves with the name of the monk or lay brother in question. The date of taking the vow and the eventual date of death were also indicated. The dead were perfectly identifiable. Furthermore, some graves displayed well preserved remains of shoes and habits. Thanks to these details it’s possible to know exactly how the Antwerp Augustinians dressed. They wore a cotton loincloth, a white woollen tunic, a white scapular and a black cowl.

Under this tomb, even more remains were found in the soil, presumably from monks from the early period of the cloister. In contrast to the other graves, only bone material was found.

Actually, the biggest surprise was still to come. In between the post middle age graves the Archaeological Department found a Roman cremation grave with urn, a piece of a plate, an offering cup, and fragments of a glass bottle. The grave was built with two (originally four) upright roof tiles. The urn with lid, dating from the 2nd century, contained burned human remains and was probably part of a larger burial area. Upon investigation, the bone remains appeared to originate from an adult female between 30 and 35 years old, about 1 metre 55 tall. She was mother to at least one child. The cause of death could not be confirmed. The cremation took place shortly after death on a funeral pyre that reached temperatures of at least 800°C. On the basis of the type of grave, the grave offerings, and the food remains, it appears that the woman was from a wealthy background.
The newness of this find lay not in the proof that Antwerp was inhabited during Roman times, which was already a long known fact. However, it did lay in the fact that it was the first grave site from that period unearthed and therefore providing new information about the funerary customs in Gallo-Roman Antwerp.

In 2004 the church floor was broken out for interior archaeological research. At a minor depth and irregularly spread out, graves from the 17th and 18th century were unearthed. In three cases, tombs were found, indicating the presence of important individuals.  In one of the graves hair from a wig was found.
The archaeological research also brought elevated and levelling layers for the construction of the church to light. Here the researchers found pottery remains from a majolica potter. These discoveries add to the knowledge about the Antwerp majolica production, once the most important in Northern Europe.

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