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18th century cold bath found in Bath Assembly Rooms

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Archaeologists conducting excavations in the basement of the Bath Assembly Rooms have uncovered an 18th century cold bath.

The Bath Assembly Rooms, located in Bath, England, were designed by John Wood the Younger in 1769 to provide a place for social gatherings, including balls, concerts, teas, and gambling. ‘Polite society’ flocked to the Assembly Rooms, including the novelists Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, and the painter Thomas Gainsborough.

Excavations in the basement have unearthed the remnants of a once-popular health practice: a Cold Bath, which was used for ‘taking the waters’. According to the researchers, the cold bath could be the only one of its kind located in a historic assembly room, providing unique insights into 18th century society.

Bath was renowned for its hot mineral water and emerged as sought-after destination for thermal bathing since the Roman period when it was known as Aquae Sulis, meaning “the waters of Sulis”.

In the 18th century, medical professionals endorsed cold baths as a therapeutic measure for both men and women to address various physical and mental ailments. They prescribed a routine of frequent, if not daily, immersion in cold water for brief intervals, followed by a swift warming process.

According to a press announcement by the National Trust: “There was a surge in plunge pools and cold baths in private houses and estates along with public facilities in Bath and other towns, however the location of the one at the Assembly Rooms suggests it would have been more exclusive, and for those wanting a more private cold bath experience.”

The Cold Bath was one of many rooms in the building. The New Bath Guide of 1778 noted “…a commodious cold-bath, with convenient dressing-rooms,” and there were rooms for billiards, coffee and gambling along with spaces for balls and concerts, making it a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all leisure, health and entertainment needs.

Underneath one end of the Ballroom lies a trio of chambers: the central space houses the Cold Bath, flanked by dressing rooms on either side. The excavation process entailed the removal of a subsequent flooring structure that had been laid over the Cold Bath, along with the removal of a substantial volume of debris. This revealed the ancient steps leading into the bath, its meticulously crafted stone walls, and an alcove designed to accommodate a statue or sculpture.

It is probable that individuals seeking access to the bath would have arrived, potentially by sedan chair, and gained entry from the street through a staircase located in the northeast corner of the Assembly Rooms, rather than utilising the main entrance to the building.

During WW2, German bombing by the Luftwaffe damaged the Assembly Rooms. In the years after the war, the cold bath was filled in with rubble and buried beneath a 20th century floor.

Tatjana LeBoff, National Trust Project Curator explained: “There are many elements of this discovery that are still a mystery. The Cold Bath at the Assembly Rooms is highly unusual. It is a rare, if not unique, surviving example, and possibly it was the only one ever built in an assembly room.”

“It is unlikely men and women of status would have used the Cold Bath together so there could have been different days or times when they were available to each. We are still researching records, letters, diaries and other documents to see what more we can find out that will help us piece it all together,” added LeBoff.

National Trust

Header Image Credit : National Trust – James Beck

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Archaeology

Revolutionary war barracks discovered at Colonial Williamsburg

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Archaeologists excavating at Colonial Williamsburg have discovered a barracks for soldiers of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence.

Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum that forms part of the historic district in the city of Williamsburg, Virginia.

Williamsburg was the capital of the Virginia colony from 1699 until 1779, founded by English settlers during the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622–1632).

Tensions with England mounted over fundamental civil and economic rights for the colonists, resulting in the American Revolution and the American War of Independence.

Image Credit : Colonial Williamsburg

Archaeologists excavating next to the museum’s visitor’s centre uncovered foundations of a barracks that could accommodate up to 2,000 soldiers from the Continental Army and up to 100 horses.

“We have horseshoes,” said Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg executive director of archaeology. “We also have this object here which is a snaffle bit, so it’s part of a horse bit that goes in the mouth to control the horse. And this object here is part of a curry comb for brushing down the horse’s coat.”

Excavations have so far unearthed only a small part of the complex, but experts suggest that it covered roughly three to four acres.

The barracks were known from Eighteenth-century maps and other historical documents, but until now, the exact location of where it existed within the colony interior was unknown.

According to the historical sources, the barracks were built between 1776 and 1777, and were later destroyed by fire in 1781 by soldiers of the British Army under the command of General Cornwallis.

Excavations also uncovered mid-1700 chimney bases, ceramics, gun flint, coins, musket balls, military buckles, and items of decorative jewellery worn by high-ranking officers as cufflinks.

An interesting discovery are examples of lead shot with indications of tooth-marks, suggesting that the soldiers chewed on the lead shot because it tasted sweet.

Header Image Credit : Colonial Williamsburg

Sources : Colonial Williamsburg

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Pleistocene hunter-gatherers settled in Cyprus thousands of years earlier than previously thought

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Archaeologists have found that Pleistocene hunter-gatherers settled in Cyprus thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

An analysis of the oldest archaeological sites on the island suggests that the first human occupation occurred between 14,257 and 13,182 years ago.

This analysis, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used archaeological data, climate estimates, and demographic modelling.

The demographic modelling indicates that these early groups consisted of hundreds to thousands of people, who arrived in two to three main migration events over a period of only 100 years. Within just a few centuries, 11 generations – the population of Cypris had expanded to up 4,000 to 5000 inhabitants.

According to the study authors, these findings refute previous studies that suggested Mediterranean islands would have been unreachable and inhospitable for Pleistocene hunter-gatherer societies. “This settlement pattern implies organised planning and the use of advanced watercraft,” says Professor Bradshaw.

The climate estimates suggest that these early settlers arrived at a time during an increase in temperature and precipitation, also enabling an increase in environmental productivity that could sustain large hunter-gather populations.

Dr Moutsiou, said: “It has been argued that human dispersal to and settlement of Cyprus and other eastern Mediterranean islands is attributed to demographic pressures on the mainland after abrupt climatic change saw coastal areas inundated by post-glacial sea-level rise, forcing farming populations to move to new areas out of necessity rather than choice.”

Our research, based on more archaeological evidence and advanced modelling techniques, changes that”, adds Dr Moutsiou.

The research – “Demographic models predict end-Pleistocene arrival and rapid expansion of pre-agropastoralist humans in Cyprus” by Corey Bradshaw, Christian Reepmeyer, Frédérik Saltré, Athos Agapiou, Vasiliki Kassianidou, Stella Demesticha, Zomenia Zomeni, Miltiadis Polidorou and Theodora Moutsiou – has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Header Image Credit : Michalakis Christoforou

Sources : Demographic models predict end-Pleistocene arrival and rapid expansion of pre-agropastoralist humans in Cyprus. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2318293121

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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