'Monumental' 16th century city walls unearthed by Antwerp tram works

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ANTWERP, Belgium (Reuters) - Archaeologists in Antwerp have spent the last two weeks excavating parts of a six-metre-high (20-foot) fortified wall that was built around the Belgian city 500 years ago.

The ruins were exposed during preparations for a massive infrastructure project on a major boulevard, including tunnels and a new tram line.

“When we compare to other cities, it was really a monumental and impressive masterpiece already at that time, and still,” archaeologist Femke Martens told Reuters, while standing between two unearthed pillars of what was a bridge to the Red Gate.

That medieval gate was not only a way in and out of the city in its day, but also channeled freshwater to breweries inside the city where beer makers had complained of sour water damaging their product.

Parts of the bridge and city wall will be integrated into the design of the tram way, visible to passengers and pedestrians as part of a new plaza, the Operaplein. But much of the site will be buried in a way designed to keep it intact before a new road is built above.

“In the next decades, we will not see this again,” said Martens. “This is also the reason why we find it so important to document it so well.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Miles; Editing by Robin Pomeroy