Welcome to the homepage of the Association of Friends of the Roman Bathhouse in Marktoberdorf.
The association was founded to protect and administer the valuable and interesting excavations of the Roman bathhouse
in Kohlhunden near Marktoberdorf and to make the site available for public visitors.
The site can be visited at any time as it is protected by a glass and concrete building which also contains a small museum
documenting the history of the site and details of Roman daily life.
The museum is so constructed that casual visitors can view most of the exhibits from outside the building but experts
from the association are available to allow visitors inside and provide more information on guided tours
which take place every Sunday from 10 until 12 o’clock.
(During the winter months, these tours are only offered if booked in advance by telephone – see below).
At any other times, guided tours for school classes, visiting groups etc. can be booked under the following
Tourist office of the town of Marktoberdorf +49 (0)8342 - 4008-15 or
the association’s direct number +49 (0)8342 - 41588
The Kohlhunden site
Compared with other areas in the Swabian region, the Allgäu countryside offers relatively few sites from prehistoric
and early historic times.
As a result, there was great excitement when a couple of observant villagers noticed the remains of ancient walls
and tiles as bulldozers were clearing away earth in order to build a new bypass around the village of Kohlhunden in 2002.
The Bavarian Office for Historic Sites and Buildings was immediately informed.
With the sympathetic assistance of the Highways Department in Kempten, work on the 25 to 35 meter wide site
of the new road was carefully continued and thoroughly investigated for a period of several months.
The actual site of the findings is on top of an old glacial moraine next to an ancient ice-formed hollow
which today serves as bathing lake with the name “Kuhstallweiher”.
After the surface earth had been removed, the remains of seven Roman buildings were found in the stony boulder clay
around the site and a geomagnetic investigation revealed three more.
They were concentrated along the site of the excavations for the road and stretched for 170 meters
in a north-south direction covering a total area of 7000 square meters. All the buildings faced south-west.
From the type and position of the buildings it was clear that this was the site of a large country farm (villa rustica),
which, according to information available at present, was not surrounded by a protective wall or fence.
This type of settlement was occupied by farming families.
A number of them are already known in the Allgäu region although they are not sited so densely as in the region
directly behind the Limes border north of the Danube.
The main house of the owner or tenant was situated on top of the moraine hill. Its size and form was normal
for the standard of living at the time.
40 meters to the west of the main building was the family bathhouse which represented the prevalent standard of hygiene
of the period and was an absolutely obligatory part of family life on every farm.
The bathhouse, whose foundations are now covered by a protective building, measures 9 x 13 meters and was built
over a longer period of time. It contained all the rooms and furnishings typical for those thermal baths which the Romans
were acquainted with in the provincial town centres. The individual rooms are easily recognizable, as is the heating system.
Even an antique gaming board was found which certainly helped to pass the time during breaks in the building activity.
Of the eight farm buildings near the main house, four were investigated more thoroughly during the building of the road.
Not far from the foot of the moraine hill, a stone well was found. An investigation of the sludge at the bottom
of the well revealed various wooden objects including the juniper wood handle of a wicker basket.
The farm is presumed to have been built about the middle of the 2nd century AD and then abandoned after
3 or 4 generations in the middle of the 3rd century without showing any traces of destruction.
From the last years of the settlement however, there dates the remarkable remains of a sacrificial meal
with a rich collection of terra sigillata pottery * (Samian ware) with dedications scratched into the surface
and originating from the Upper German manufacturing centre of Tabernae-Rheinzabern on the river Rhine.
The scratchings on the body of several wine cups name the participants in the sacrificial meal and their gods.
The use of abbreviations make them very difficult to interpret but one can clearly read “numen”,
the will of the god and “votum”, an oath which has been fulfilled.
In addition, one can read the oldest recorded name of the settlement “Cenabio”.
In this case, these were clearly ritual offerings to the gods, either as part of a request
for expected services, or they were part of a communal cult meal at which the “gods present”
were invited to share the hospitality of a meal with incense, wine, milk and honeyed drinks.
The ceremony also involved the sacrificing of a sheep or goat and a pig, as remains of
burnt spare ribs and roast lamb or goat were found in one of the larger bowls.
According to archaeologists, the findings here in Kohlhunden show it to be the largest Roman villa rustica site
in the entire Allgäu region.
From an historical point of view and together with the rich pottery finds, the site is one of major interest, not so much
because it is unusually well preserved but rather because it presents us with a picture of life at the beginning
of the 3rd century which is rarely found in such archaeological entirety.
* The original examples of this valuable terra sigillata pottery can be seen at a series of travelling exhibitions.
Visitors can see replicas of these originals when visiting the Kohlhunden site.
This project was supported by the European Union (EAGLF) and the Free State of Bavaria
within the framework of the LEADER+ community initiative.