Roman Baths: August 3-14, 2008
An important aim of this year's campaign was to focus our attention on the southern part of the Frigidarium 1 (the large 16-pillared hall at the eastern end of the Roman Baths). Already in earlier years parts of this room were excavated: in 2001 the western extension was uncovered, yielding a semicircular small bath, while in 2005 we extended towards the east and north of the room. Eventually in 2007 the most southern part was excavated, more in particular the area defined by the southernmost four pillars. All uncovered areas proved to be decorated with a rather well-preserved mosaic floor, considering the enormous mass that has collapsed on top of it. Despite the vastness of this room (with a total surface of about 1150 m ) there is little doubt that the whole floor is still covered in mosaics, showing simple geometrical motives in black and white.
In 2007 the most southeastern and -western niche, formed by the four southern pillars, clearly indicated that they once yielded more-than-lifesize statues (see 2007 reports). However, because of it's enormous size, none of these niches could originally have contained the 5 m high statue of emperor Hadrian of whom parts were discovered last year (see special report on find of Hadrian in 2007). Moreover, the southwestern niche originally was equipped with a doorway leading up to the semicircular (private) bath in the adjoining room. Only when this doorway was closed off in a later phase (the private bath was reused as a praefurnium for the rooms north of it) it could have been appropriate as a location for a statue, for which we indeed discovered traces left in the floor. On the other hand, the surrounding mosaics were clearly adapted to fit the base of a statue, which we should keep in mind when dating the lay-out of (this part of) the mosaic floor.
The hypothesis that the southern part of this large hall was used as a statue gallery has been confirmed this year, as both niches immediately north of the ones mentioned above showed similar traces of statue bases and remains. In both niches the feet of two originally ca. 3.5 m high statues have been found: while in the eastern niche these were found in the rubble layer on top of the floor, the ones in the western niche were still in situ. In both cases the feet were dressed with simply decorated sandals, as were the in situ found feet discovered last year.
Except of these feet (which now make a total of 7 feet, including the one we found of Hadrian) two more statuary fragments were found: a female head and left arm. After careful study the head (and arm?) could be ascribed to Faustina The Elder, the wife of Hadrian's successor Antoninus Pius (see special report on find of Faustina in 2008). They had a long and happy marriage together and she even was deified by emperor Antonius Pius after her death. The head, measuring 76 cm in length and 48 cm in width, was found facing down in the rubble layer above floor level. The relatively high position in which it was found, on top of large rubble fragments, seems to indicate that the statue could never have fallen like this but was pulled to this exact spot. This would also explain why the broken nose and ear parts were found in the immediate surroundings of the head: in stead of being scattered all around due to the impact of the fall, these fragments probably only broke off when more collapse fell on top of it. The back upper part of the head is hollow, which could have served for accommodating a crown, veil or upper hairdo in a different material.
The study of the stratigraphy of the collapse confirms once again that the collapse of the building was a gradual one, with human actions undertaken in the time in between to try to recover fragments of marble wall veneer and statuary, possibly with the intention of burning them for lime production. Remarkable in that view was the discovery of the remains of owl pellets in the bottom layers of the collapse (see 2005 reports). This year we have the impression that some parts of the room had been cleaned from the collapsed wall plaster before the larger fragments of the above vaults gave way. On the other hand, up to now we don't have any indications that show us more damage caused to the floor in the parts lacking a thick protective packet of mortar and plaster.
This year we succeeded in documenting some larger intact, though collapsed, vault parts scattered across the room at a depth of in between 2.30 - 0 m above floor level. One piece shows evidence that also the vaults themselves were covered with a layer of white plaster.