Friday, February 4, 2011

Spanish archaeologists uncover 2,000-year-old Roman spa

Diego Ruiz, an archaeologist from La Vila Joiosa just north of Alicante, has spent nearly five years researching the Roman baths that were found in 2006 in Allon, the fourth and last Roman city in the province.

Located in the centre of the former capital of the Marina Baixa region, they are also the largest in the entire province, “And that is despite the fact that we have only excavated somewhere between half and two-thirds of the area occupied by this great spa,” says Antonio Espinosa, director of La Vila Joiosa’s municipal museum.

After analyzing three tons of tiles and bricks, decorative marble stones, coins and ceramics, Diego Ruiz concluded that the thermal baths of Allon were built between 85 and 110 AD.

“The bathers who came here,” he says, “walked from the dressing room (apodyterium) to a washing and massage room (unctorium), which was then followed by a sauna (caldarium) in hot water pools, then into a lukewarm room (tepidarium), where everyone would sit around and chat, and finally into an enormous cold water pool (frigidarium).”

The archaeologist believes there might also have been a larger pool for swimming (natatio), although this has not yet been excavated.

The research has also revealed that the baths were a centre of commerce: bathers had to pay an entrance fee. There also appears to have been a bar of some kind inside, and all along the arcade there were shops aligned in much the same way as today’s shopping galleries.

Now, the city of La Vila Joiosa wants to make the baths accessible to visitors and it has embarked on a project to turn them into a museum, as befits one of the greatest archaeological finds in the entire Valencian region during the last 10 years.

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