Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roman Open-Air Museum, Villa Rustica, Hechingen-Stein, Germany

In 1971, the mayor of Stein, Germany, Gerd Schollian discovered the remains of a stone wall on a walk in the forest.
Never did he dream finding this stone wall would lead to the discovery of  a Roman farming estate buried under the ground for 1,700 years.
In Maine, where I am from, you can find lots of stone walls but, it's normal to find old garbage heaps at the end of those.  I did once find an old blue bottle at one of these rubbish sites exploring with Mrs. Duff.  She was showing the Morrill 4-H club the exciting things we could find hidden under the ground.
I often think I might have been become an archeologist if we'd discovered something like a villa, but sadly, America is too young a country to find Roman ruins and I didn't become an archeologist.

This Roman villa is a large open-aired home built in the style known as "Portciusvilla with Siderisalits"
Basically, this means a villa facing South with an East and West wing attached to it.
What is different about this villa than other ruins we have visited, is the restoration of part of  it.

Reconstruction of a Porticusvilla with Siderisalits.

The actual remains and part reconstruction of the villa today.

Reconstruction of the Roman dining room.  Remember in the Bible, Jesus was reclining at the table with the disciples.  Back then, you would lie down to eat with your head facing the table and your feet to the wall.  You can clearly see the ample room to lie down.  I wanted Mac to demonstrate but,

he clearly found a more comfortable spot.

A Roman bed and sleeping area. They have discovered that this villa was not the standard of the time.
It was superior in that it had walls which, were covered in plaster and decoratively painted.  It also boasted glass windows.  They have found the remains of large vases called amphora here. An Amphora is a type of ceramic vase with two handles and a long neck narrower than the body of the vase. These finds show that the residents of this villa were probably quite rich as they could afford wine from France and olive oil from Spain.

Mac was fascinated by the Roman locks.

Mac showing you the Roman key.

I find Roman baths quite fascinating. Aside from the fact they were co-ed,  did you know that Roman baths weren't just for hygiene purposes?
It's documented that the baths were a center to exchange news and gossip.  It's also known that  many business deals closed in the baths.
This picture shows the underfloor heating for the baths.
This bath was housed in a different building from the actual villa. Just because they lived on a farming villa didn't mean you gave up your luxuries!

A Roman bath consists of  4 rooms
1. Bathroom/toilets
2. Tepidarium, where one could change, rest ,exercise or get a massage
3. Caldarium, used as a steam bath
4. Frigidarium which, was the cold water to finish.
They have also discovered the technology of that day included faucets made from bronze, where cold and hot water could be mixed.

Here Mac and Jonny demonstrate that going to the bathroom together in a Roman toilet was normal.  Women went in with the men and Mac is showing you the sponge on a stick that was used for up after one's self.
Yes, that is how they did it folks!

This reconstruction gives you an idea of the workmanship. The walls of the villa were built and then plastered and painted.  On the top is how the roof was constructed.

They were training new volunteers while we were there.

This is a fab place to take the kids... as you can see.

They have a playground, but they also have Roman games for the children to play.

Another game.

We throughly enjoyed this museum and highly recommend it.
On August 13th and 14th of this year (2010) they will be holding a Roman Festival with demonstrations, food, drink and proper Roman fighting techniques.

72379 Hechingen-Stein
Telephone: 07471/6400

This webpage has a good history of the villa in English.  Since all the signs are in German, I recommend reading the history on-line or printing it out before you go.
Mac decided to forego the normal thumbs up.  Jonny and Mac are pointing you in the right direction to come see this fun open-air museum.


  1. Mimi -- This was terrific! I love the spirit of fun and enthusiasm that jumps out from your writing. I think, though, that I'd rather be an average 21st century American than a rich ancient Roman.

    (We have a back yard dump full of old broken china and pill bottles - not exactly ancient, but old!)

  2. Fantastic roman villa and the reconstruction look great, but as already said I don't think I like to have lived in that time.