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18th century cold bath found in Bath Assembly Rooms



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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Archaeologists find 22 mummified burials in Peru




A Polish-Peruvian team of archaeologists have uncovered 22 mummified burials in Barranca, Peru.

The discovery was made on the Cerro Colorado hill, where the researchers unearthed the burials in one of four mounds located in a cluster.

Bioarchaeologist, Łukasz Majchrzak, said: “The bodies are wrapped in fabrics and plant material known as burial bundles. Between the layers of the fabrics we found ceramics, tools, and cult objects placed as funerary offerings.”

The team also found corn cobs and unidentified plant materials, which were likely placed as food for the deceased on their journey to the afterlife.

Six of the burial bundles contain the remains of adults placed in the fetal position, with their upper and lower limbs tucked under their chests.

According to the researchers, the adult burials are arranged vertically, which makes them appear as if they were sitting. They all have a similar external appearance, wrapped in thick fabric and entwined with rope.

One of the adult bundles is decorated with geometric patterns, while the remaining bundles – as Majchrzak suggests – may contain representations of animals and deities.

The other 16 burial bundles mostly contain the remains of children no older than 2 years old who were placed in a horizontal position.

The team plan to use computed tomography to examine completely preserved burial bundles that have no visible damage to allow for a non-invasive anthropological analysis. In further stages, they plan to carry out a chemical and isotope analysis, including the strontium isotope, which will determine whether the burials are from a local population.

Header Image Credit : R. Dziubińska

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Oldest prehistoric fortress found in remote Siberia




An international team, led by archaeologists from Freie Universität Berlin has uncovered an ancient prehistoric fortress in a remote region of Siberia known as Amnya.

According to a study, published in the scientific journal “Antiquity”, the fortress is a complex system of defensive structures around an ancient settlement, dating from 8,000 years ago.

The fortress is spread across two settlement clusters, Amnya I and Amnya II. Amnya I consists of extant surface features such as banks and ditches, which enclose the tip of a promontory, and 10 house pit depressions. Ten further house pits, located approximately 50m to the east, comprise the open settlement of Amnya II.

Excavations have uncovered approximately 45 pottery vessels within the wider complex, including pointed and flat-based forms that reflect two distinct typological traditions.

The Amnya settlement complex signifies the start of a distinctive, enduring trend of defensive sites among hunter-gatherers in northern Eurasia—an almost continuous tradition that persisted for nearly eight millennia until the Early Modern period.

Tanja Schreiber, archaeologist at the Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology in Berlin and co-author of the study, explains, “Through detailed archaeological examinations at Amnya, we collected samples for radiocarbon dating, confirming the prehistoric age of the site and establishing it as the world’s oldest-known fort.

“Our new palaeobotanical and stratigraphical examinations reveal that inhabitants of Western Siberia led a sophisticated lifestyle based on the abundant resources of the taiga environment,” added Schrieber.

The construction of fortifications by foraging groups has been observed in different parts of the world, primarily in coastal regions during later prehistoric periods. However, the early in inland western Siberia is unparalleled.

According to the researchers, the discovery transforms how we perceive ancient human communities, questioning the notion that the establishment of permanent settlements with grand architecture and intricate social systems began solely with the rise of agriculture.

Header Image Credit: Nikita Golovanov

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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