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


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.


Saalburg Roman Fort

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.

Coordinates: 50° 16′ 17″ N, 8° 34′ 0″ E

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.

Reconstruction drawing of Saalburg Roman Fort according to the field of archaeology over the past 120 years.

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.


The defensive walls and the Porta Praetoria (main gate).
The walls were rebuilt on Roman foundations in the style of the fort’s final construction phase around 220 AD.
The walls stood about 4.8 m in height. In Roman times, the walls would have been coated with white plaster and then painted with red mortar.
The V-shaped ditches in front of the walls.
They served as an obstacle to attack and were filled with water. The inner ditch was about 8.5 m wide and 3 m deep. The outer ditch is broader, but shallower.
The reconstructed Porta Praetoria, the main gate of the Saalburg fort. The gate takes its name from the Via Praetoria, the camp’s road running in a north-south direction.
Between the two gates, a bronze statue of emperor Antoninus Pius greets today’s visitor.
The statue of Antoninus Pius was created by Berlin sculptor Johannes Götz in 1901. The statue rests on a pedestal with the following inscription:
To Emperor of the Romans, Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, [from] Wilhelm II, Emperor of the Germans [dedicates this monument].
The inscription over the gateway on the plaque proclaims the completion of the restored Saalburg. It reads: Wilhelm II, son of Friedrich III, grandson of Wilhelm the Great, in the 15th year of his reign, in memory and honor of his parents, rebuilt the Saalburg Fort on the Roman Limes.
The Porta Principalis Sinistra located on the east side of the fort. The gate takes its name from the Via Principalis, the camp’s road running east-west.
The defensive walls and the Porta Principalis Sinistra.
The Porta Principalis Dextra, located on the west side of the fort. The gate takes its name from the Via Principalis, the camp’s road running east-west.
The parapet walkway along the defensive wall which gave access to the gateways’ upper floors.
The Porta Decumana, located at the rear of the fort, facing the Limes. The gate takes its name from the Via Decumana, the camp’s road running in a north-south direction.
The Bath-House, located at the rear of the fort, near the north gate. It is the bath-house of the small timber fort, the predecessor of the Cohort Fort we see today. The rooms include the Caldarium (hot room), the Tepidarium (lukewarm room) and the Frigidarium (cold bath).
The Great Bath-House (Thermae), located in front of the Fort. The large bathing complex was built around 130 AD at the same time of the Cohort Fort and remained in operation up to about 260 AD.
The Great Bath-House outside of the Fort.
The reconstructed Praetorium, the Commander’s residence.
The commending officer lived in a private residence which contained 8 rooms arranged around an open courtyard. Today, the administrative offices of the Saalburg Roman Fort and the Research Institue are housed in the Praetorium.
The reconstructed Principia, the headquarters building of the Roman garrison and the camp’s most important building. It was located in the centre of the fort. The visitor enters the Principia through a great hall, the basilica.
The Basilica served primarily as a public market hall or place of assembly during the Roman era. It consisted of an extended rectangular hall with a roof and large windows.
Statue of Hadrian flanking the entrance to the courtyard of the Basilica.
The bronze statue is a replica dating to 1904.
The courtyard of the headquarters building. This section of the Principia was not reconstructed with complete authenticity. Originally, there was a second covered hall, not an open courtyard we see today.
The Porticus of the headquarters building with numerous pedestals and inscribed stones bearing dedications to the Emperor and diverse gods.
The Aedes, the shrine of the standards located on the rear wall of the Principia.
In and in front of the of the Aedes, the soldiers practiced the official cult of the emperor worship. Several steps lead up to the small room, whose interior decoration could be almost completely reconstructed.
The interior of the Aedes.
A raised ledge holds copies of military insignia and small votive offerings.
A richly decorated Triclinium (officer’s dining room), the most complete Roman wall-painting of all the limes. It was found in 1965 in the Limes fort at Echzell.
The painted fresco from Echzell was created in the mid-2nd century AD. Figures can be seen within framed spaces between the columns on the rear wall. In the central image, Fortuna, who carries a horn of plenty (cornucopia) and a wheel, greets Hercules. On the right, Daedalus uses wax to attach wings to the limbs of his son, Icarus. On the left, Theseus kills the Minotaur.
The courtyard of the Principia with one of the two reconstructed wells.
The two wings of the Principia were connected by a colonnade. The left-hand wing probably housed offices. The right-hand ring housed an arsenal, an Armamentaria.
Reconstructed artillery in the right wing of the Principia.
Reconstructions of ancient Roman and Greek mechanical artillery; Polybolos, Catapultae and Ballistae.
Two reconstructed wooden troop barracks (centuriae) that housed the soldiers. Recent research tells us that these buildings should have faced in a north-south direction and should have also been much larger. Each barrack block housed a Centuria led by a Centurion and was divided into ten rooms known as Contubernia, each occupied by 8 men.
The reconstructed Horreum, the fort’s double granary.
Typically, Horrea were very solidly built, with massive stone foundations. Their floors were elevated, raised on timber platforms. Today, the Granary serves as an exhibition room containing many original Roman finds that illustrate varied aspects of daily life.
The Saalburg Museum.
The Saalburg Museum.
The reconstructed Fabrica (workshop). The workshops along the Limes forts assured a constant supply of military equipment to the troops.
A reconstructed Thermopolium (cook shop) inside the Fabrica.
Portrait of a man imitating the appearance of Hadrian, 120-140 AD.
Inside the Fort.

Source: Carsten Amrhein, Elke Löhnig und Rüdiger Schwarz, “Saalburg Roman Fort – Tour of the Archaeological Park“, Nünnerich-Asmus Verlag & Media (2014).