In March and April 2015, the city’s archaeological service conducted a preliminary survey of the Scheldt quays.
The soil archive of the Scheldt quays is very valuable, spanning over 2,000 years of history. In the centre of the quays was “De Werf”, the city’s oldest mooring, and the fortress. The city grew around this medieval core while the harbour of Antwerp also expanded. An imposing façade of city walls, towers, canals, water gates and bastions developed over time.
When the quays were re-aligned in the late nineteenth century, a lot of the existing structures were demolished as a result, including the wharf, the fortress and several dwellings. A new quay plateau and hangars were built, to facilitate the efficient loading and unloading of ships.
The archaeological survey was organised as a consequence of the Master Plan for the Scheldt quays. The City of Antwerp and the Waterwegen en Zeekanaal government agency want to transform the quays into a safe and attractive public space. A high flood defence will be built and the quay wall stabilised. The city wishes to renovate the quays, creating a qualitative public space and improving mobility. The renovation will give rise to earthworks, meaning part of the soil archive will be irretrievably lost. The designers of the Scheldt quays therefore wish to obtain as much information as possible about the exact location and state of the canals, the medieval wall and Napoleon’s quay.
The preliminary survey was conducted with trial trenches, which allowed the archaeologists to see into the soil.
The survey yielded new and interesting information about rich past of the city’s soil. The archaeologists hope that this valuable heritage will be given a prominent place in the new quay design.