Roman Baths: August 17-31, 2008
Extra: Serkan Demir is from the Trakia Universitesi in Edirne
With the experience of the first sondage in mind, we started the second sondage on a larger scale, with the aim of reaching the original foundation trench south of the southwestern pillar of the frigidarium 1 (the 'large hall'). Still quite surprisingly we were only able to fulfill this goal at a depth of 6,8 m below the current walking level. Here we indeed encountered the layer that we may identify with the fill of the original foundation trench of the southern face of the building. This layer consisted of a refill of weathered ophiolite, small limestone rubble and - rather remarkably - fragments from exclusively roof tiles. The ceramics associated with this layer could be dated in the 2nd Century AD, affirming and strengthening earlier hypotheses on the age of the building.
The sheer size and depth of the building's southern face raised the question on the possible presence of 'underground vaults' below the eastern part of the building. These vaults were encountered underneath the western and southwestern part of the building, but the connections towards the east were all blocked due to collapse. Certainty could be obtained by geophysical research in the parts already excavated of the frigidarium 1, the caldarium 3 and tepidarium 2: at approximately 1,5 m below the walking level of these rooms, the radar clearly detected large uniform voids over the whole area under research. One of the aims for future campaigns might be to encounter entrances or staircases that lead up to these rooms. One probable solution could be to continue the excavation of one of the service rooms west of the large hall, where in 2001 we uncovered a staircase that might connect the 'underground vaults' with the 1st and 2nd floor.
Moreover, based on the profiles we could postulate some ideas about the origin of the very thick packages (several meters) of 6th Century AD dumped rubble. The length profile shows clearly sloping depositions of rubble and mortar of the kind that can be associated with the collapse from the building's vaults. The sloping layers point towards a window or door opening in the room with the small cold water bath (later adapted to become a praefurnium), that must have been used to dump all loose debris encountered in the adjoining rooms. The rubble probably spread as a cone over the hill sloping down towards the south from the western face of the building. However, in the short profiles the relative horizontality of these layers may suggest the presence of another large east-west oriented wall south of the Baths, which would have contained the main part of the debris. On the other hand, however, no signs were encountered indicating the possible presence of a walking level at whatever depth encountered, although the top of the foundation trench fill may once have functioned as such.
While digging the sondages a lot of finds were collected, especially from the 6th Century AD layers of debris. This material consisted mainly of ceramics (of which a high percentage of unguentaria fragments), fauna (animal bone of sheep and goat; parts that served for consumption) and concentrations of metal (nails) and stucco (painted plaster found in a specific lenzing within the debris). In the actual foundation trench we revealed a small column fragment of pavonazetta marble. Due to its small dimensions this fragment should be regarded as sham architecture, as it could not have had any structural function within a building.
Frigidarium 1 (the 'large hall')
Since last week, both Roman Bath teams are removing the thick collapse layers within the frigidarium 1. Already in 2001 we uncovered parts of this enormous 16-pillared hall, measuring about 1150 m2 in surface and probably completely covered by a mosaic floor. Since 2006 the excavation of this room has been a recurring aim that will last for several future campaigns. This year's main goal is to uncover the mosaic floor from the south up to the main central pillars, documenting the gradual collapse of the building while excavating. In 2007 a major find was encountered in the southern parts of the room, where the team uncovered fragments of a 4-5 m high statue of Hadrian. The exquisitely carved head of Hadrian is now an important part of the exhibition 'Hadrian - Empire and Conflict', currently running in the British Museum.