Archaeologists have just begun the largest excavations seen at the Roman Baths for thirty years and residents and visitors are being given the chance to watch them at work!
The 20-minute tours will run at regular intervals throughout February and will give people access to the excavations taking place in vaults which are not normally open to the public.
The work is taking place as part of the Archway Project, which will create a new Clore Learning Centre for the Roman Baths (romanbaths.co.uk/archway).
The tours are free with admission to the Roman Baths, however, visitors can give a small, optional donation to the Roman Baths Foundation (charity number 1163044) to support the excavations.
Highlights of the new tours will include:
- A Roman exercise area, which will be part of a new Investigation Zone, in which schoolchildren will be able to carry out research in and amongst Roman remains when it opens in 2019.
- An in-situ stylobate – a collonaded walkway which contains a Roman doorway leading through to a possible row of shops, where traders might have sold memorabilia to visitors, oil for the sauna, or food and drink.
- The other side of the south wall of the Great Bath, behind the curved alcoves (exedra) where people relaxed.
- A Roman culvert, and pipework and drains from Georgian and Victorian times.
- A wall where you can see archaeological deposits (stratigraphy) dating back 2,000 years.
Councillor Paul Myers, Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “The tours are a great chance for visitors to go behind the scenes, meet archaeologists and possibly watch them at work discovering even more about the history of our treasured Roman Baths. It’s also great for any Bath and North East Somerset residents with a Discovery Card because these archaeology tours are free with the card.”
Although modest in scale, this will be the most significant archaeological work to have taken place on the site since Sir Barry Cunliffe’s investigations in the 1970s and 1980s.
Professional archaeologists will lead the excavations, supported by local volunteers from the Bath & Camerton Archaeological Society.
They will begin by carrying out ground radar and resistivity surveys, before opening up a number of trenches and re-excavating some 19th and 20th century drains. This will allow them to investigate the deposits through which the drains were dug.
A small programme of archaeological works took place in September 2017 and unearthed some exciting finds: three Roman coins and a Roman nail cleaner with a rare peacock design.
The Archway Project is supported by National Lottery players through a £3.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
For more information go to www.romanbaths.co.uk