European Archaeological Park of Bliesbruck-Reinheim

The European Archaeological Park of Bliesbruck-Reinheim (French: Parc archéologique européen de Bliesbruck-Reinheim) is an archaeological park stretching on both sides of the German-French border between the towns of Reinheim (Saarland) and Bliesbruck (Moselle). This cross-border project was created in 1989 and combines excavations and reconstructions of Celtic and Roman finds over an area of more than 70 ha. with exhibition and educational facilities. The grave of the famous Reinheim Celtic Princess was found here and visitors can see an impressive walk-in reconstruction of the burial. On the German side are the foundations of what was once an ornate Roman villa and partially reconstructed outhouses. On the French side are the remains of the small Gallo-Roman town and the partially reconstructed public baths.

The first excavations on the site took place between 1806 and 1809, then in 1879 in the area of ​​the Roman Villa of Reinheim. In 1954 the tomb of the Celtic Princess of Reinheim was discovered in a sand pit and was excavated. Further investigations in 1956 and 1957 revealed that there had originally been three large burial mounds (tumuli) dating from the 4th century BC, of which the princess’ tomb was just the smallest with a diameter of 20 metres. The other two mounds had diameters of 22 metres and 36.5 metres respectively. All three mounds were surrounded by circular ditches of 0.6 metres and 1.2 metres.

The grave of the Princess of Reinheim is dated to the early La Tène Iron Age period, at the beginning of the 4th century BC. The tomb was filled with exceptionally rich funerary objects: a bronze mirror in figurine form, a complete dinner service consisting of two simple bronze plates, a fine bronze jug and two openwork gold cuffs. The princess wore a gold torque around her neck and a gold bangle on her right wrist, two gold rings on her fingers and three rings of gold and glass around her left forearm. The reconstruction of the Princess of Reiheim’s tomb is approximately 100 metres west of the original burial site. Inside the mound are copies of the artifacts exhibited (the originals are in the Museum of Prehistory and Protohistory in Saarbrücken).

In the Summer of 1987, systematic excavations work provided evidence of a Roman villa complex consisting of a large palatial residence (pars urbana) and an economic area (pars rustica). This complex was constructed in the 2nd half of the 1st century AD and reached its greatest size during the 1st half of the 3rd century AD. The main building of the pars urbana measured 80 metres from east to west and 62 metres from north to south. It had a rectangular middle section with a wing on either side. One portion of the building in the north end of the west wing was the villa’s private thermal baths with an under-floor heating (hypocaust). The pars urbana was a large courtyard enclosing an area 300 metres long and 135 metres wide and surrounded by a wall. Rectangular buildings which served as workshops stood on either side of the courtyard.

A computer reconstruction of the Gallo-Roman villa of Reinheim by Erik Follain. With a total area of 7 hectares, the villa clearly stood out among the common Roman villae rusticae (countryside villas), farmhouse estates in the surrounding areas.

In 2000 an equestrian iron mask with bronze plating was found at the rear of one of the courtyard’s buildings. Used in ceremonial or sporting events, this hinged-visor was attached to a cavalryman’s helmet.

Within 250 metres of the Gallo-Roman villa are the remains of a small settlement or ‘vicus‘ of approximately 20 hectares dating from the middle of the 1st century AD. The excavations revealed that the vicus consisted of a craftsmen’s quarter of 14 terraced-buildings stretching along both sides of a secondary road and used for manufacturing and trade. Here people cooked, baked and produced iron and bronze. The dominant feature of this small city was the monumental public bathhouse complex which has been partially reconstructed and is sheltered by a roof. An eastern artisanal quarter and forum area have yet to be fully excavated. At its peak, the city had more than 100 houses and more than 1,000 inhabitants.

Rendering of the of the Gallo-Roman city by Jean-Claude Golvin.

Coordinates: 49° 31′ 44.56″ N 6° 23′ 5.03″ E

PORTFOLIO

The reconstructed Celtic burial mounds. The museum building displays a recreation of the wooden funeral chamber of the ‘Princess of Reinheim’.
A recreation of the wooden funeral chamber of the ‘Princess of Reinheim’. The body was positioned on in a north to south direction in an oak chamber 3.5 m long and at least 3 m wide. Within the wooden funerary chamber were found many bronze and gold objects, including bracelets, rings, neck torques, and a variety of other accessories such as flagons and masks. The grave and its contents indicate that Celtic women were able to attain positions of wealth and honour.
Replica of the gilt-bronze spouted flagon found at inside the funeral chamber of the ‘Princess of Reinheim’. The original is in the Museum of Prehistory and Protohistory in Saarbrücken
The reconstructed Celtic burial mounds (tumuli). So far, ten Iron Age burial mounds have been discovered in the area of today’s park.
The central hall (or yard) of the large palatial residence (pars urbana) which, due its privileged position and size (33 m x 18 m), must have had a reception, ceremony or banquet function.
The East wing of the pars urbana consisting of 7 small rooms symmetrically arranged around a larger central room.
View of the East wing of the pars urbana.
A computer reconstruction of the pars urbana by Erik Follain.
The ornamental basin (40 m x 3 m) made of light coloured limestone slabs. In the 2nd century AD it adorned the north facade of the main building of the pars urbana.
View of the West wing of the pars urbana. It consisted of three buildings: a bathing area to the north and residential spaces to the south accessible by colonnaded porticoes as well as functional areas in the center.
The northern part of the West wing of the pars urbana constituted the bathing area. It consisted of cold baths (frigidarium) and warm baths (caldarium), a lukewarm resting room and a latrine.
The rectangular-shaped cellar in the West wing of the pars urbana which was accessed by wooden steps.
The West wing of the pars urbana.
The colonnaded portico bordering the garden of the pars urbana located in front of the south facade of the main building.
The recreated garden of the pars urbana.
Sandstone statue of Fortuna found in the Villa of Reinheim, 2nd – 3rd century AD. On display in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer.
The pars urbana of the villa extended over a rectangular space of 300 metres long by 135 metres wide.
Attached to the long sides of the wall of the pars rustica were five rectangular building, each of different size. They were used as workshops and the function of many of these rooms changed overtime.
This reconstructed building had a gateway on each side with ramps. Inside an oven and a small fireplace made of roof tiles were uncovered.
The exhibition area in one of the reconstructed rectangular buildings of the pars rustica.
Replica of the equestrian iron mask with bronze plating found at the rear of one of the courtyard’s buildings. The original is in the Museum of Prehistory and Protohistory in Saarbrücken.
The reconstructed Gatehouse of the pars rustica which served as a prestigious entrance portal. It was reconstructed in 2006 according to the way it would have appeared in the 2nd and early 3rd centuries AD.
The western craftsmen’s quarter of the provincial Gallo-Roman settlement (vicus).
The northern section of the western craftsmen’s quarter of the vicus consisted of 7 terraced houses used by the artisans. This area was developped in 30/40 AD. Each building had a big central room, a shop at the front opening onto a portico, sometimes with a cellar. Behind were smaller rooms with underfloor heating. Living accommodation was probably on a second floor.
A milling and bakery building with a cave at the front and two circular baking ovens, one of which has been restored.
Rendering of the bakery-milling by Jean-Claude Golvin.
The underfloor heating system in one of the artisan’s buildings.
The southern section of the western craftsmen’s quarter of vicus.
The shops along the portico facing the street. They were supported by masonry pillars.
Rendering of the activity taking place under the portico by Jean-Claude Golvin.
The bath-complex is covered under an elegant modern structure. Stairs and walkways take you through the restored baths.
A row of porticoed shops were located on each side of the bath-complex. Here bathers could by something to eat while along the covered arcade after their ablutions.
The caldarium with heated floor. Its walls were plastered and painted in red.
The furnace of the caldarium made of big stone blocks and brick flooring.
The foundations of building from the monumental public centre.
The eastern craftsmen’s quarter of the provincial Gallo-Roman settlement (vicus).
The exhibition centre.
Inside the exhibition centre where finds from the vicus are exhibited.

The Saarland and Moselle Valley’s ancient Roman heritage has a lot to offer to tourists and scholars alike. More than 120 antique sights along the Moselle and the Saar rivers, the Saarland and Luxembourg are testament to the Gallo-Roman era north of the Alps (further information here).

Visiting the Archaeological Park of Bliesbruck-Reinheim: The park is open daily from 15th March to 31st October from 10am to 6pm.

Website: https://www.europaeischer-kulturpark.de/

Porte Mars (Reims)

The Porte Mars is an ancient Roman triumphal arch in Reims in the Champagne-Ardenne region, in the north of France. It probably dates from the early third century AD and is the largest arch of the Roman world and one of the most impressive Roman monuments north of the Alps. Its name derives from a nearby temple dedicated to the god of war Mars. At the time of its construction, the Porte Mars would have been one of four monumental arches erected as entrances to the Gallo-Roman settlement of Durocortorum.

Coordinates: 49° 15′ 38.2″ N, 4° 1′ 47.8″ E

The Arch, relatively well preserved, stands 32 metres long and 13 metres high but its height must once have been equally impressive with both its attic and the statue group on top. It consists of three arches with eight Corinthian columns surmounted on undecorated plinths, between which are pedimental niches. Above the niches are shield-like medallions –clipei– with high relief heads supported by cupids. The central and largest arch is about 37 feet high.

The arch has many highly detailed carvings on its exterior and on the ceilings of its three passageways. The ceilings of the side arcades are adorned with friezes portraying ancient legends and myths such as Remus and Romulus and Leda and the Swan. The ceiling of the central arch is of most interest. It is decorated with reliefs depicting a harvest calendar and showing scenes of laborers, harvesters, reapers and millers. The seasons and the months of the year are illustrated by agricultural activities. One of the reliefs offers a rare and interesting illustration of a Gallic harvesting machine called a vallus, a reaping machine described by the historian Pliny the Elder in 77 AD (HN 18.72): “on the vast estates in the provinces of Gaul very large frames fitted with teeth at the edge and carried on two wheels are driven through the corn by a donkey pushing from behind; the ears torn off fall into the frame”.

Before the Roman conquest of northern Gaul, Reims, founded circa 80 BC as Durocortōrum  (“round fortress”), served as the capital of the tribe of the Remi, the first Belgic people north of the Matrona river (Marne). In the course of Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul (58–51 BC), the Remi allied themselves with Rome and the city later became one of the leading cities in the province and the residence of the governor of Belgica. At its height the Gallo-roman city,with its 30 000 inhabitants, was the most populated in the North of the Alps.

Model of Durocortorum in the Musée Saint-Rémi, Reims.
Model of Durocortorum in the Musée Saint-Rémi, Reims.

Reims is most famous for its cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims, formerly the place of coronation of the kings of France. The Frankish king Clovis was baptised by Remi, bishop of Reims on Chritsmas Day 498 AD in a baptistery which is today situated where the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims stands. It is thanks to Clovis’ baptism that Reims became the seat of the coronation of the kings of France.

The Porte Mars was included in the fortification wall of the late Roman Empire and in 1228 in the wall of the castle of the Archbishops and served as a city gate until 1544. In 1854 the buildings around the arch were removed, bringing the arch into full view. Most of the finds from Durocortorum are in the Musée Saint-Rémi.

Dégagement de la porte de Mars, vers 1845-1850. Gravure d'Adrien Dauzats, éditée par Lemercier (Paris). L'arc est encore pris dans le rempart médiéval (BM Reims 22-060).
Dégagement de la porte de Mars, vers 1845-1850.
Gravure d’Adrien Dauzats, éditée par Lemercier (Paris).
L’arc est encore pris dans le rempart médiéval (BM Reims 22-060).

The Porte Mars is currently under restoration. It is completely covered and will remain out of sight until 2017.

PORTFOLIO

The North side of the Porte Mars.
The western end pier of the north side of the arch.
The western end pier of the north side of the arch.
The South side of the Porte Mars.
The South side of the Porte Mars.
The eastern end pier of the north side of the arch. It is decorated with a pedimental niche. clipeus (shield-like disk) with high-relief head supported by cupids.
The eastern end pier of the north side of the arch.
It is decorated with a pedimental niche, a clipeus (shield-like disk) with high-relief head supported by cupids. Above are two crossed caducei (the staffs carried by Mercury) and two further cupids drawing back curtains.
Ceiling of the middle arch of the Porte Mars depicting Remus and Romulus in the presence of the shepherd Faustulus and his wife Acca Laurenti.
Ceiling of the east arcade depicting Remus and Romulus in the presence of the shepherd Faustulus and his wife Acca Laurenti who raised the children.
Ceiling of the west arcade depicting Leda and the Swan.
Ceiling of the west arcade depicting Leda and the Swan.
Ceiling of the central arch decorated with reliefs depicting a harvest calendar and showing scenes of laborers, harvesters, reapers and millers. The seasons and the months of the year are illustrated with agricultural activities.
Drawing (circa 1850): restitution of the motifs of the central vault. At the center perhaps Bacchus; Around: calendar of months and seasons (BM Reims).
Drawing (circa 1850): restitution of the motifs of the central vault. At the center perhaps Bacchus; Around: calendar of months and seasons (BM Reims).
The North side of the Porte Mars.
The North side of the Porte Mars.

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