From a rescue excavation to a European Archaeological Park
Between Bliesbruck (Moselle) and Reinheim (Saarland), Blies flows into a large and beautiful valley dominated by a small hill, the Homerich, whose appeal has been appreciated for thousands of years. The development of the occupation as from the end of the Bronze Age (around 1200 BC) gave birth to a Celtic princely site (7th to 3rd century BC ), whose extraordinary tomb, that of the Princess of Reinheim, is the most valuable proof. In the Roman era, a small town known for its thermal public baths and artisanal districts, shares the valley with an imposing villa. Today this small territory, where the border cuts through, evidence of a turbulent history since the late 18th century, has become, following the creation of the archaeological park, a European centre for research and enhancement of heritage, open and accessible to all.
Even if accidental discoveries and excavations punctuated the 19th century, it was only with the discovery of the princess of Reinheim’s tomb that the site became an important archaeological site. The suspicion of the existence of a necropolis in Reinheim was confirmed in 1954 when the owner of a quarry reported to have discovered a bronze figurine, actually the anthropomorphic handle of the mirror. Then began the excavation of a tomb which remains an invaluable source of the history and art of the Celtic period. It profoundly marked the inhabitants of Reinheim and became their ambassador worldwide. But after this discovery, the tomb site sank back into "archaeological" oblivion until the early 1970s.
The real story of the excavations of Bliesbruck began in 1971. At that time, Jean Schaub discovered in Sarreguemines, Gallo-Roman objects in the topsoil from Bliesbruck. Going there, he found out that, in the Blies valley, at the edge of the village, between the two French and German border crossings, the operation of a gravel pit gradually destroyed the Gallo-Roman remains. He alerted the competent authorities and rescue excavations were conducted, but nothing was done to stop the destructions.
In 1977 Jean Schaub undertook, with his team of volunteers, to safeguard the site and in 1979, the excavation was integrated into the national programming. The destructions were gradually stopped and completely ended in 1982, when the Conseil Général de la Moselle (Moselle General Council) decided to safeguard the site by purchasing a first section of the site. In 1985, it voted a project to develop the site, prepared in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture (DRAC Lorraine) and created an archaeologist post.
A new phase began in the mid-1980s, marked by the development of Franco-German cooperation between the Moselle and the Saar and several exhibitions presenting the archaeological discoveries. Gradually, the Saarland and Moselle archaeologists conceived the idea of carrying out a joint project in Bliesbruck-Reinheim. Through his communicative dynamism, tenacity, and friendship network he was able to create around the site, Jean Schaub convinced the authorities on both sides of the borders of the scientific, cultural and political interest of such a project.
In 1989, at the initiative of the Moselle General Council with the support of the Ministry of Culture, a steering committee for the creation of an archaeological park was set up. It decided to launch a competition which resulted in 1991 with the adoption of a common development project. In 1992, works began on the museum pavilion of the thermal baths, first achievement of the archaeological park, while the year 1999 was marked by the museographical reconstruction of the princely tomb of Reinheim. A decisive step was then taken in the Saarland-Moselle collaboration with the signing between the President of the Moselle General Council and the Landrat of Saarpfalz-Kreis, of a cooperation agreement making the Bliesbruck-Reinheim site a truly cross-border location.
Other works followed gradually: the deviation of the departmental road which crosses the site, the enhancement of the artisanal districts and the large villa of Reinheim, the construction in Bliesbruck of an exhibition centre. In 2013, the Franco-German dimension of the park was reinforced with the establishment of a common signage throughout the site and permanent exhibition spaces that punctuate the visitor's trail.
Its progressive construction and development has received support from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Saarland and the European Union. Thanks to the two communities, the Department of Moselle and the Saarpfalz-Kreis which lends its support within the framework of a strong and friendly partnership, the park today is a remarkable scientific and cultural centre, as well as a meeting place at the border, open and accessible to all. The year 2015 will see the construction, at the border, in the middle of the park, of a pavilion whose museum will tell visitors the story of this park from the friendship of archaeologists, administrators and elected Saarland and Moselle officials committed around the same objective based on the European idea.