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The name of the town is first recorded in 1066 as "Castellum Cassel", a placename combining the Latin word castellum ("castle") with a diminutive suffix. It is derived from an earlier Frankish *kassal, meaning "residence" or "fortified place". The addition of -berg (English: hill) to this gave rise to the French name Château-Cassel which was adopted into English as Cassel. The modern Dutch spelling is Kasteel-Kassel, although both spellings are used in French and Flemish. There have been settlements at Cassel since prehistory; it has always been an important crossroads for traffic between eastern and western Europe because it lies on one of the natural lines by which water flows outwards from France into Belgium via three large rivers – namely those flowing through Béthune, Saint-Omer and Ypres – that form part of what became known during Roman times as Gaul's Rhine frontier (limes).