CROSS THE THRESHOLD AND DISCOVER THE LIFE OF OUR ANCESTORS!
Following the rhythm of the seasons and the presence of volunteers, you can see ancient life taking its course in the open-air museum. The place will sometimes be calm and punctuated by fine crafts, sometimes teeming with workers for a construction campaign. During the visit, your guide will take you to every corner of the park. He will explain the whole project and introduce you to the existing structures.
On the way, you will visit the workshops and the inhabited houses, which will give you an overview of the daily life of the gallic people named Helviens. You will discover how these people dressed and how they made their fabrics, or learn more about their food, their way of waging war …
At the end of the visit, you can come back and see our craftsmen, chat with them on the subjects that interested you. You can also enjoy a local drink and cool off in the shade of the tavern, not far from the river. And if you want to get your hands dirty, we will be happy to welcome you on our collective work campaigns!
Wood was certainly the most used material in Gallic society. Unfortunately, it is only preserved on rare occasions, under very specific conditions. Thus almost the entire objects of their daily life have disappeared over time.
It was also the preferred material for construction. Wooden houses were generally built on load-bearing posts, and these posts were stuck in the ground: the locations are still detectable today by archaeologists. These holes provide good clues to the shape of these buildings.
The glassmaker’s workshop
Gallo-Roman building with load-bearing posts of round section, with reed thatched roof, open on the ground floor.
The tavern of Broken Torque
historically compatible look but modern structure because the wood species used did not exist in Gallic area (acacia), with round section load-bearing posts, reed thatched roof, semi-open on the ground floor.
First house on the Gallic oppidum
hypothesis of restitution according to a habitat V century BC of the oppidum of Marduel (Gard), oak posts round section, structure in wattle (fine flexible woven branches) and cane of reeds, walls and roof in daub.
hypothesis of restitution of a potter’s workshop with firing kiln. Foundations and flashings in dry stone, squared wood framework and shingle roof (wooden tiles).
The chief’s house
hypothesis of restitution of a common house from a 4th century BC habitat of the Plan de la Tour oppidum, in Gailhan (Gard). Foundations in stone and clay mortar, structure in posts of round section and squared wood.
work in progress, construction of a forge according to plans proposed by Yves Schmitz from Une Forge en Mitgard. Squared chestnut frame, mixture of buried posts and stone flashing. The roof is provided in tavaillons, as for pottery.
Ceramics appeared in homes during the Neolithic, a period when humans became sedentary. It is also the most found material in archaeological excavations, because it preserves perfectly. Pottery is a very common object, and the systematic study of all the finds establishes solid knowledge. It is the main window on the daily life of our ancestors.
In the open-air museum, we produce pottery related to the protohistoric period. The Gauls Helviens may have had beautiful pottery made by potter’s wheel and imported from big cities, but they used daily pottery from local production, mounted in the colombin technique. This production method gave a « raw » aspect to the local ceramic.
The advantage of this technique is its simplicity, which allows it to be executed at home without any specific craft installation. Firing can be done in a kiln dedicated to pottery. In earlier periods, simple fireplaces lightly dug into the ground were also used, and the raw pots were gradually covered with embers.
We have built a potter’s workshop, under which will be mounted a semi-buried firing kiln. We will also install a potter’s wheel there, in order to be able to demonstrate this technique, in parallel with the non-turned techniques.
The origins of textiles are quite uncertain. However, it is believed that our Paleolithic ancestors were the precursors, as they were able to make ropes and straps by twisting plant fibers. Then, twist to twist, the threads became intertwined. The technique was crossed with basketwork until obtaining pieces of fabric, some composed of animal fibers like wool, others of plants with a fibrous stem like flax, hemp, or nettle.
First extremely precious, the fabric gradually made its way into clothing, replacing tanned skins. Man, becoming sedentary, found the time and stability which is necessary to weaving.
The different weaving techniques developed during the Neolithic, while our ancestors settled down. The fact of always living in the same place made it possible to invent fixed looms. The vertical loom appeared during this period and was used until the year 1000.
The Gauls knew these techniques; numerous finds all over Europe attest to their knowledge. They were able to weave complex and very fine patterns, and sold their very good woolen fabrics to Rome. They also knew many dye plants, which from they made decoctions to obtain an exceptional panel of colors.
Glass was a prestigious element of Gallic adornment and Gallo-Roman tableware. The Gauls liked to show off their wealth by wearing pearl necklaces and bracelets in bright colors. They are the first to have developed the craft of glass first spun, then blown, in the territory that was not yet called France. The very first traces of this craft date back to a few rare discoveries from the Bronze Age, simple cobalt blue glass pearls.
Gallic glassmakers did not make their own glass. It was imported from the Middle and Near East, a place where manufacturing secrets had been known for a long time ago. The first glass work certified by archeology dates back to the 3rd millennium BC, in Mesopotamia. The glass was produced in factories, then sent to Europe by sea in the form of colorless blocks, or already tinted in the mass using metallic oxides. A dozen antique wrecks found in the Mediterranean Sea attest to this (wrecks of the Sanguinaires Islands I & II, wreck of Toulon, etc.).
Since the construction of the open-air museum, we have been working with Artisans d’Histoire, an association which has set up its glass workshop on site. The workspace and the kiln are rebuilt according to Gallo-Roman sources, and the glassmaker continues his work of archaeological experimentation there. The possibilities of the kiln are tested for about a year. When it reaches the end of its life, it is dismantled and a new model improved according to the observations of the year comes to replace it.
No gas bottles here! Everything is done with wood (1/2 cubic meter per day of heating), in a kiln specially designed to reach the very high temperatures necessary to melt the glass. It is one of the only operating in Europe. You will be able to observe the work of the glassmaker, he will create replicas of historical beads under your very eyes, in spun glass, dating from Antiquity to the year 1000.
The tavern is the central place of the site. This is where the guided tour ends, to allow you to relax, drink and eat. After their day’s work, our volunteers get together to enjoy the shade and fresh air of the nearby river, as well as a drink and a friendly meal. We have experimented with the construction of a bread oven, which allows us to test recipes inspired by ancient sources.
We have also installed a small shop there which offers creations made by partner craftsmen and volunteers; weaving kits, puppets, oil lamps, glass pearl necklaces, hisrtorical jewelry … All of the tavern’s recipes, as well as your donations, allow you to bring the open-air museum to life.
For ethical and ecological reasons, we source from local and mostly organic producers for our beers, fruit juices, syrups, dry sausages and goat cheeses. You will therefore find at the tavern a panel of beers brewed in the region, as well as local fruit juices, organic syrups and appetizer boards also made with local products.