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The Discovery

Entdeckung 1973
The discovery 1973

In search of a hamlet dating from the Middle Ages, Gerd Schollian, mayor of Stein, discovered the first stone walls in the Tuffelbach woods in 1973. After doing several test diggings it was clear that the remains of a Roman Villa Rustica had been discovered. Excavations lasting several months were carried out by the Tuebingen Landesdenkmalamt (Bureau for the Preservation of State Monuments) between 1978 and 1981 which included the main building and the bath house.

The excavations have continued since 1992; by 1995 a temple area belonging to the estate had been examined. Afterwards the digging concentrated on a mill which was fully excavated by 1999. Subsequently, a barn or warehouse was unearthed. Since the summer of 2000 the excavations have continued to the north. The course of the surrounding stone fence has been largely established through test diggings.

Elevation map
Elevation map

The wall surrounding the estate enclosed a rectangular area of about 16 acres. In the center was the main building with bath house (A+B).

Farther south a probe has shown the existance of another bath. The question of whether this bath was built at the same time as the other and, if yes, by whom it was used, still remains unanswered. The commercial buildings are found on the periphery, along the surrounding wall. In addition to the already excavated mill(C) and barn(E) probes have given evidence of at least ten more buildings. Future plans include excavating these as far as possible.

Detailed plan
Detailed plan

The Villa Rustica was first built at the end of the 1st century AD and was expanded in the course of the next 100 years, in several steps, to a large-scale complex. A singular architectural effect was achieved through a collonade connecting the main building with the bath house to the east. This made the side view of the house appear twice as large and must have been an impressive site from the valley below.

Likewise, at the end of the 2nd century, a temple area (D) was built to the southwest, outside the walls, and this area then integrated into the estate. After increasing attacks by the Alemanni in the middle of the 3rd century AD, the property was deserted by its inhabitants and fell into decay.

Overview in 2007

The main building is in the style known as "Porticusvilla with Siderisalits". Characteristic are the two corner wings jutting forward and connected by an open-air colonnade, the porticus. In the back of the house there is a large courtyard surrounded by various rooms. By means of excavated ovens, kitchens could be identified and other rooms with underground heating systems.

Since farm estates rarely had temple areas and the main building is unusually richly furnished, there is cause to doubt that this was purely a farming estate, particularly in view of the fact that the farmland in this area is not very good.

Neighbouring settlement
during the Roman period
(click for enlargement)

Because of the existence of a Roman road through the valley connecting the fortress town of Burladingen with Rottenburg it would be feasible to envision a farm affiliated with a way station or hostel. To clarify the question of the real function of the Villa Rustica in Hechingen-Stein it is necessary to excavate the area as thoroughly as possible.

Continued on page 2:
The reconstruction and the museum