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.
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.
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.
The Saalburg is a former Roman Cohort Fort located northwest of Bad Homburg in Hesse and belonging to the Limes Germanicus. This fort served for 150 years as a base for frontier troops. The Saalburg is the most completely reconstructed Roman fort in Germany and serves as a research institute and open-air museum. It is part of UNESCO‘s “Upper-German Raetian Limes“ World Heritage Site.
Towards the end of the 1st century AD, the Romans occupied the area of the Taunus and erected a simple wood-and-earth fort at the Saalburg Pass to house a numerus (units of barbarian allies) and control traffic on this important route. It had a rectangular ground plan, corner towers, intermediate towers and two gates and was surrounded by a ditch.
Around AD 135, the old timber fort was converted into a larger cohort fort measuring about 147 x 221 m and consisting of walls built from a solid combination of stone and timber beams. The cohort fort was occupied by the Cohors II Raetorum civium Romanorum equitata, an auxiliary unit made of about 480 foot soldiers and 120 cavalrymen. The troops were tasked with monitoring the Limes which can still be seen today north of the Saalburg. In the fort’s interior, wooden barracks were built to accommodate the troops, their animals and supplies. A civilian settlement (vicus) developped along the road leading to Nida (present-day Frankfurt-Heddernheim).
In the middle of the 2rd century, the cohort fort was extended and rebuilt in stone. An earthen ramp reinforced the inner side of the defensive walls and the four gates took their final shape. Inside the fort, the original half-timbered buildings were partly replaced by massive stone structures. Around AD 200, the village reached its greatest extent. As many as 2000 people may once have lived in the fort and the vicus.
In the early 3rd century, the situation along the limes became increasingly unsettled. The fort and the vicus fell into disrepair after an attack by Germanic tribes. Campaigns in the East of the Empire and the Germanic threat to the Roman frontier after AD 260 forced Rome to abandon the limes and with it the Saalburg. After the abandonment of the Upper Germanic Limes, the fort was used as a quarry.
The first archaeological excavations at the Saalburg began in the middle of the 19th century. In 1897, Kaiser Wilhelm II initiated the reconstruction of the ancient Roman fort. Between 1897 and 1907, the fort was rebuilt on its stone foundations; the stone defense wall with the earth embankment behind it and the four gates, the principia, the horrea, parts of the conjectured praetorium, two troop barracks were erected. However, with the insights gained by the field of archaeology over the past 120 years, a different conception of some aspects of Roman military architecture has developed. The buildings erected since 2004 (the praetorium, the fabrica) reflect the modern understanding of the fort.
The Saalburg also houses the Saalburg Museum, one of the two most important institutions dedicated to the study of the German Limes (the other being the Limesmuseum of Aalen). Today, the remains of the 550 kilometre-long frontier complex stretching from the Rhine down to the Danube comprise the largest ancient monument in Europe.
Source: Carsten Amrhein, Elke Löhnig und Rüdiger Schwarz, “Saalburg Roman Fort – Tour of the Archaeological Park“, Nünnerich-Asmus Verlag & Media (2014).