Belgian Independence Day and the Walhain Dig, 2014


Americans scraping dirt off rocks - and uncovering a potentially undisturbed medieval layer!

Americans scraping dirt off rocks – and uncovering a potentially undisturbed medieval layer!

This year, with Belgian Independence Day falling on a Monday which was also the beginning of the last dig week it, seemed a good idea to invite the general public to an “open site” day:  relaxed on the third day of their weekend, they could thus enjoy a beer from the tent set up by Monsieur Brauwens and the local Amis du Château while watching the Americans scrape dirt off the rocks and push wheelbarrows.  Sound like a good idea?

Alums who have experienced “open site” days in past years will remember that it is almost an infallible tradition that rain will fall on Independence day.  Some will remember rushing from trench to tent to avoid getting thoroughly drenched, and indeed the weather forecast conveyed to me by Dana Sunday evening was not promising: 90% chance of rain!  Well, ours not to reason why, Laurent says do it and we do it, and maybe there won’t be much rain.  Well, folks, it was overcast and on the cool side (a relief after fiercely hot days at the end of the previous week) but not a drop of rain fell all day!  Laurent must have had a private word with his patron saint.  He spoke many a public word, in any case, as visitors came streaming in from 11 till closing time: mostly families, lots of small children and dogs.  DSC01129

Laurent would start them off on the Palas side, where the Belgian team is working, then bring them over to our side, along the north circuit wall, the one built by the last lord of the original lineage, Arnold V, in the late 1200’s.  Then he would grin at me his friendly grin:  how happy they will be for you, the American professor, to explain…Right, Laurent, OK, so they get to put up with my approximate French.  The good part, I suppose, was that when I had worked up a thirst from all this talking there was the beer tent a few short steps from the trench.  All the American students were given a ticket for a free beer — only Dana and I made sure they didn’t use it until they had cleaned up their tools at the end of the day.

Laurent explaining the earliest part of the castle, the 12th-century donjon.

In fact the day was a lot of fun –200 or more attended, really good numbers, and several local people made a point of telling us how pleased they are that we are here, helping preserve this wonderful site.  Among the visitors was Professor Brulet, enjoying retirement since 2011 by keeping busy with his research.  He is on his way to Spain to give a paper as I write these lines.  Then there was the town councillor in charge of cultural affairs, Nicole, and when she said to me, you know we really must invite your Americans over to the town hall for a little drink before they go, I thought, oh well, the things one is called upon to do for one’s country..

Bailey Young, Director


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