Ath is known as the “City of Giants” because of its traditional annual procession featuring giant Biblical figures, but did you know that it is home to two other giants, both about 12 metres tall? The giants in question are two oak boats which are preserved in the Espace Gallo-Romain. These two sleeping giants reside in air-conditioned display cases. Although damaged by the ravages of time, they have now been patiently restored. They are true treasures that bear witness to our past and the skills of our ancestors.
In the summer of 1975, a Gallo-Roman site of international importance was unearthed 2.5 metres below ground at Pommerœul, near Bernissart. The remains revealed a site which was occupied from the Neolithic period to Roman times. The major occupation at the site was a Gallo-Roman settlement situated at the point where a road (Bavay-Blicquy) crossed a river (the Haine). This situation probably led to the settlement playing a major role in trade and crafts in the regions to the north of the ancient town of Bavay. Pommerœul had a port, areas for living and working, wells, necropolises etc.
A visit to the Espace Gallo-Romain is an opportunity to discover two great Roman boats, the dugout canoe and the barge, which is recognised as a Treasure by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. You can also see archaeological objects made from wood and leather – materials that rarely survive the ravages of time.
Visit with your family, in a group or on your own – immerse yourself in the history and daily life of the Gallo-Romans and learn about their navigation techniques and ancient know-how.
The Gallo-Roman Museum lets the objects speak for themselves, with no dumbing down, and makes a clear distinction between authentic pieces and reconstructions. The objects are explained, brought to life and more using techniques including interactivity, images, drawings, models and text.
Visitors, with or without a guide, zoom in from an aerial view of the site to evocations of daily life in ancient times. The further you go back in time, the more the place comes alive; with each floor, you gain a closer insight into the life of the objects in the collection – like a time traveller whisked back to the second century.
Visitors are accompanied by Rufus, a virtual boatman who tells them his story: he brings the landing stage, the fishermen and their routines back to life, and imbues the old objects with a strong emotional dimension.
The shop stocks a wide range of books on archaeology, as well as attractive reconstructions of ancient artefacts.