Roman Baths: July 8-20, 2007
The Roman Baths have been excavated since 1995 thanks to generous grants from the family L. Lamberts Van Assche. The aims of this year's excavation are mainly to complete the exposure of the southern and eastern rooms of the upper floor of the bath complex. Last year's campaign (see 2006, Roman Baths, July 10-August 10) had completely focused on the heavily damaged southern part of the complex. Here two rooms of the original Hadrianic-Antonine layout had been partially exposed: a second caldarium (hot room) with two bath tubs in the southwest corner and a tepidarium, a room with a small sunken pool in its centre filled with tepid water, forming the transition to the huge frigidarium 1 (cold water bath), whose cross-shaped floor covering nearly 1150 sq. meters we partially exposed in 2005 (see 2005, Roman Baths, July 10-August 25). This "Frigidaire" apparently formed the eastern extremity of the complex, over most of its length.
This year, one team, led by Marie Lefere (K.U.Leuven, Belgium), Hasan Uzunoglu (MSGSU Istanbul) and Aude Goovaerts (K.U.Leuven) will be working in the southern part of the complex, specifically in the caldarium (it was called number 3 at the time of its discovery, but in reality was number 2, as it must have been contemporaneous with Hadrianic-Antonine caldarium 1 along the baths' west side, whereas the centrally placed "Kaisersaal" after having lost its role for the emperor's worship, eventually, most probably during the later fourth or early fifth century A.D. had been turned into a third caldarium).
In the first two weeks (8-12 and 15-20 July) the team started excavating in the southern area of this caldarium, continuing, where we ended last year's excavation. Part of this sector was still standing and a profile was taken away. During the first week two new sectors (2 and 3) located to the southeast of the one excavated last year were completed in order to get close to the south wall. These sectors did not provide much material, being mostly tiles coming from the roof and collapsed wall ashlars. Some of theses tiles are stamped by the factory that produced them. In both sectors, a black layer containing ash and silt emerged. These sectors inform us about the collapse of the building, as the position of most of the tiles suggests that in this part of the complex the building collapsed inwards. At the end of the third sector of a hypocaust vault was found, corresponding with the one already discovered last year. Because of this discovery, the excavation of this sector could not be continued.
The sector west of the hypocaust vault was excavated during the second week, leading to the discovery of nine hypocaust pillars which are still standing. We exposed another hypocaust pillar standing on an intact floor near the sector's south border. Now, the excavators are trying to expose a south profile in order to reveal more hypocaust pillars.
However, during this second week, both teams started focusing mainly on exposing the south wall, including its outer face, removing topsoil and vegetation in two new sectors. We had already partially excavated the westernmost one and found lots of ceramics in it, some dated by Jeroen Poblome to the sixth or seventh century A.D. In the course of the week, the interior face of the south wall's upper courses was exposed. The building technique consists of alternating mortared rubble sections and brick layers. This wall course could be followed up to the corner of the south wall.
The other team of the Roman Baths, led by Christine Beckers (K.U. Leuven, Belgium), Mustafa Kiremitçi (Dokuz Eylül Universitesi of Izmir, Turkey) and Willem Hantson (K.U. Leuven), will be working in the southeastern part of the building, especially in frigidarium I'. This frigidarium is a very spacious hall in the form of a cross. A central hall, much higher than the crosses' four arms, is delimited by four massive piers made of huge, marble clad ashlars, and possibly contained a pool (natatio) in its center. To the north and the south of the central hall, we identified two large spaces supported by six piers, three along both west and east wall. The western portion of the northern six-piered hall, as well as the western short arm of the cross was already excavated in 2005. Each of these spaces was still covered with a well-preserved mosaic composed of black-and-white geometric motifs. The total surface of what probably was the original frigidarium of the baths is 1150 m2. In the early sixth century, its wall veneer was replaced by simple white stucco, possibly following on the earthquake, ca. 500 A.D. This season the excavations will take place in the southern part of the southern six-piered hall.
During the first two weeks (8-11 and 15-20 July) the team started removing the topsoil of six sectors situated to the north of the southern outer wall of the building, which will make it possible to achieve an east-west profile between the second piers in the southern part of the southern six-piered hall. This profile will be important to understand the collapse of the complex. These sectors did not produce many finds, mostly tile, brick, ashlars, marble wall veneer, and stucco. A few pieces of ceramic and metal clamps came to light. The team exposed on the one hand in the three southernmost sectors the inner face of the south façade of the complex, and on the other hand in the most eastern sector the east wall of frigidarium I was as well.
Once the topsoil of these sectors was removed, the team started excavating the first layer of collapse. The latter contained a large amount of tile and brick originating from the fallen roof and walls. All tiles and bricks were lying in different directions, suggesting that the whole roof did not go down at once, but over time. Two tiles contained a stamp written in retrograde. The first one referred to ELAIOY and the second to EYPIK. Both stamps were already known from previous tiles recovered from the bath complex. The first one possibly refers to a tile factory that was part of an estate called after its olive orchards.