All boundary stones and traffic signs owned by the Open Air Museum are set up along the edge of the Rhine-Main Ensemble. They come from different regions of Hesse.
Mapping historic boundary stones allows historians to understand borders of the past and to place historic events. Even today, they are legal evidence for existing boundaries and are listed as cultural landmarks. Ever since the growth of towns and cities in the 14th century, setting up stones has been the accepted method of marking out boundaries. Moving them unlawfully was a punishable offense even then. Placing boundary stones replaced the ephemeral natural boundaries marked by rivers, mountain ridges, fields and large trees and documented the course of boundaries. In doing so, one of their important functions was to serve as the basis for calculating taxes. Furthermore, they were intended to prevent boundary disputes.
Historical boundary stones usually feature an expertly dressed and carved part and an undressed part. The carved head bears information on the owner or parish, date and the cardinal directions. Whenever land changed hands, the insignia of the old owner of the territory were struck off and replaced with the new owner’s. Putting up a boundary stone was a festive occasion which was preceded by an agreement or an official decision on the new boundary.
There are different boundary stones and traffic signs with various functions. So-called sovereign stones or state boundary stones served to signal the boundaries of sovereign lords, church territories and cities.
So-called parish boundary stones showed the boundaries of a village, including the fields, pastures and woods which served to provide sustenance for the local population. They were only free to consume those foods and products obtained within these boundaries and following meticulously prescribed land use rules.