Archaeologists work on the Belgian coast of the future

Archaeologists work on the Belgian coast of the future

Lessons from history can often be learned for the future. Researchers are now applying this adagio to the sea: By revealing how the coastal landscape around Ostend has evolved over the past 5,000 years, they hope to put in place the best protection measures.

Barbara Debuscher

Archaeologists formulate advice for the future: it makes more sense than it seems. This is illustrated by the plans of VUB researchers Soetkin Vervus, Pieterjan Deckers and Zoë Vanbiervliet. Through archaeological methods such as physical analyzes, excavation, and soil-dating sampling, they want to reveal how “stripping” has evolved over the past centuries.

Testerep was a peninsula that once stretched from Westend to Ostend. About a thousand years ago it was separated from the mainland by a wide tidal channel. Now it has no trace, except for the names of some schools and hotels in Ostend. They are sometimes called “Ter Strepe,” which is a spoilage in Testerep. For example, present-day Ostend sometimes refers to the older Ostend, which was founded in 1266 on the eastern end of Tstrip.

But for archaeologists, there are still tangible traces to be discovered of the peninsula, the coastline and how it developed. Together with colleagues from the Flanders Maritime Institute (VLIZ), they are now investigating what remains of Testerep underground, both onshore and at sea.

game designers

Based on these discoveries, hydraulic engineers from KU Leuven will use mathematical models to investigate the factors that led to the creation and disappearance of Testerep. Then game designers from Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen (Howest) translated these models into an interactive 3D simulation of a landscape evolution.

Vervest: “We want to find out, among other things, how far a testrip once extended into the sea, how the location of the shoreline and the great tidal channels evolved, and what effect the closure of these channels by man has on the erosion and sedimentation processes on the coast.”

The team chose the past 5,000 years period because in that time period the rate at which sea level rose has remained fairly constant over the past century, but at the same time our coastline has changed from a landscape to an area with significant human influence.

The results should allow the formulation of future protection measures for the coast. Vervest: “For example, if we know where and why the erosion was strongest in that period, we know that special attention must be paid to that area or that the causes of this erosion must be addressed.” (Bahraini dinar)

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