Dead Romans all over the Place, Part II – APX

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When I posted the first part of my field trip pictures I promised you more, from the Archaeological Park Xanten to be precise.
The weird thing about Xanten – or, by its Roman name, Colonia Ulpia Traiana (or CUT for short) – is that it was far more important (and probably even larger) back in Roman times than it is today, when its major source of income is the tourism caused by the APX and the fact that Siegfried from the Nibelung saga was supposedly born here.

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the harbour temple is one of the major landmarks of APX

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This is a scale model of the park territory, with the colourful houses marking the excavated areas. I like the concept that the park’s staff can just switch out the houses as soon as they know what’s actually there, and until then, the model doesn’t look so plain. I think it’s rather helpful for people to understand and visualise that there was something indeed.

We spent two days at the park, realising that one was by far not enough to take in everything here, and I’m thankful we had this chance to explore the open-air museum and the actual Roman museum in detail and by ourselves on the second day after we’d been shown around during the first day.

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bronze statue of a youth, replica (I think)

The artifact frequency at CUT is amazing. Or as the director of the park put it: “Pick up a pebble, throw it over your shoulder, dig where it lands and you’ll find something”.
Wow.

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I loved the architectural design of the museum, it looked like a 3D computer model that by chance ended up in reality. The park is really ample, with small buildings here and there, reconstructions and exhibition pavilions. Oh, and a large sheep’s pasture.
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What looks like a bit run-down mediterranean houses is actually one of the most interesting projects in the whole park: A (not yet completed) reconstruction of Roman artisan houses, with living rooms, workshops and backyards. They are built using old techniques, down to detail, and I can’t wait to visit again when they’re finally done. The architect in charge was so nice to tell us all the details, which sounds a bit exhausting, but was just incredibly interesting.

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As for the museum itself, I’ve never seen such a great educational concept before. It’s light and ample, lots of glass, a long latin quote winding up the way though the three levels of the museum, little boxes to explore with all senses. And even an explanatory station for children why it’s not allowed to touch the artifacts. The tech-level is pretty advanced, too: One of my favourite pieces was a showcase with gems, cut stones and cameos with a magnifier attached – that projected the picture of the artifact it was pointed at to a screen. With additional info. Isn’t it great living in the future?

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Shoe styles for men and women respectively. I’d so wear both of them.

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The excavation of one of the thermae of CUT takes a big part of the museum building. I think the plain, archaeological evidence together with the red steel beams and the glass are far more impressive than a reconstruction could ever be (albeit the colours of the mural remains looked quite pretty).

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remains of a palisade

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Roman oil lamps tend to have weird shapes – that of a foot, for example -, or rather interesting motives – erotica and monstrous faces. These are more on the conventional side, but no less beautiful.

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They even have a reconstructed amphitheatre. It’s pretty exposed to wind (as you can see we had not the best weather up there), but the acoustics (and the size, of course!) are impressive.

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Aside from the excavated bath at the museum they also have a reconstructed, smaller one in the same complex as the tavern and inn. The reconstruction is at least 20 years old, so it’s not according to the latest insights, but the mural paintings are very pretty.

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A bust of emperor Nero in a hall full of replicas of Roman statures. They were mounted on boxes with audio guides telling the visitor about the presumed life of people of their class.
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The reconstructed inn – complete with furniture that we only know from relieves, wasn’t open to walk through, but they had big windows with steps in front. The kitchen and the living room above appealed to me the most.

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Roman needles, one thing ALL LARPers and reenactors in our group just had to take pictures of.

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In a stable tent next to the museum the APX staff is working on a reconstruction of a river vessel like this, the Nehalennia, at the moment. The barge’s named after a river deity referred to in an inscription found nearby.

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bone dice. I bought a replica in the souvenir shop later, a must for a RPG fan.

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Oooh, that wool looked so soft. On the highest floor they had a couple of vitrines sorted into trades and crafts. Not in this picture: spindle whorls and weaving weights.
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This is my favourite picture, the pieces are so well-presented. I’d also love a hand mirror like that. The cabinet with this braid was close to the exhibition part about the last bit of Roman culture in this area, when the Romans retreated and the dark ages already dawned on the horizon.
Fittingly, this is the last picture from my field trip, as after that Suki’s batteries died and I had forgotten to take the charger with me. Sadly, because now I have to spare you pictures from our last stop at Krefeld (which has a super interesting burial ground).
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed me nerding around about my field of study for once.
God, I love provincial Roman culture.

Oh, yes. If you ever want to visit APX and the museum, which I recommend, and Xanten, which is pretty too, here’s the website.

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