Welcome to the Roman Baths Blog!

This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Locksbrook to Lansdown!

It’s busy-ness as usual for the Collections team this week as we’re moving the contents of our Local History store all the way from St Johns Store on Locksbrook Road up to a new and improved store in Lansdown.

Needle douches at St Johns Store

The move has involved considerable planning, as the collection ranges from rickety needle douches to beautiful wooden furniture. Originally, the new space seemed like it would be too small for the sheer amount of objects, but with the installation of a mezzanine floor and some lovely new racking, the move was fit to go ahead.

A hair hygrometer measures the humidity of the atmosphere in %RH (relative humidity)

Of course we hit a few bumps in the road – mostly to do with conservation because the environment up on Lansdown isn’t always the friendliest! On one of the first days of planning the move, we took a hygrometer with us to measure the moisture in the air, which read 92% RH (relative humidity) after just an hour! Considering the nature of the collection (lots of wood and metal), which requires a much drier, more stable environment this had to be dealt with quickly. Today, we have just the machines for the job – two dehumidifiers that consistently keep the humidity in the store at a balmy 45%RH.

Planning the move!

Even with the racking put in place, space was still an issue. The only way to solve this was to chalk it up to experience and literally draw chalk lines onto the floor, outlining the shapes and sizes of objects to make sure we were using the remaining space as efficiently as possible. It’s not just a matter of being able to squeeze around it – we also need to have access for collections purposes as well as for our visitors to view these amazing objects!

A beautiful desk fits snugly in its allotted area of floor space

I can’t express my delight when all this hard work paid off and each object slotted smoothly into its intended space to within a centimetre of the chalked outlines! Work continues today to get everything moved to Lansdown, and it’s already looking like the store we always wanted.

The move is still in progress, but we'll be open for visitors soon!

Join us up at Lansdown North on the 26th October from 11am-3pm to celebrate the Grand Opening of our new store. For more information, please visit the Museums Week website.


Zofia
Collections Assistant

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

A Stony Situation

With a very busy summer coming to an end, you might expect life at the Roman Baths to quieten down a little - but things couldn’t be further from the truth! The Archway Project is in full swing, with some preliminary excavations in the vault beneath York Street in central Bath already unearthing some exciting surprises.

Archaeologists at work in the York Street vault

When the Archway building works under York Street are completed and the new Investigation Zone is opened to the public, it will be filled with Roman stones from the site as part of the interpretation and display. The Collections team and our volunteers have undertaken the laborious task of recording hundreds of stones, some previously unidentified and many untouched since their discovery by the Victorians.

Identifying stones at our offsite store 

With all hands on deck and a crack team from Cliveden Conservation, who lifted, weighed and sometimes turned each stone individually, we recorded 202 stones with weights going up to 620kg in just 10 days!

Cliveden Conservation lifting and weighing a stone from the Roman Baths

In that time, Cotswold Archaeology joined us for three days to create a 3D photogrammetric record of 15 specific stones. This involved taking hundreds of photographs of each stone from every angle possible in order to create a digital 3D model that can be examined in minute detail, rotated and moved around with ease on a screen. The chosen stones will be used in an app for schoolchildren to identify specific types of Roman building blocks and manipulate them on screen, learning more about Roman building and how the Roman Baths may once have looked.

Photogrammetry in action!

The results of this work will also be incredibly helpful as a conservation record for our collection, showing the stones in a way that allows us to easily examine, compare and move them around without having to physically lift these huge blocks again! Our plan is to produce a 3D model of every stone that we have been examining, and with this technology at our fingertips continue to learn more about our incredible site for years to come!

A sea of stones, recorded, weighed and identified

For more information about the Archway Project go to our website and keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates as they happen!


Zofia
Collections Assistant


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Tuesday Times Tables: Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke It!


Beth's Tuesday Times Table
Tuesday 29th August marked the final Tuesday Times Table event, making it my turn. While no one can deny the research is fascinating and it’s great to interact with visitors, there is something slightly unnerving about standing by the Great Bath with the culmination of a good few weeks of work, waiting for some interest - perhaps more so when you are trying to interest them in small pieces of clay pipe!

Post-medieval clay pipes are an extensive part of the collection here at the Roman Baths, and while they may not seem it, pipes hold an unprecedented importance to archaeologists, and the dating of sites. Pipe smoking was brought to England in around 1585 by Sir Walter Raleigh, and at the time no one had seen people smoking from the mouth - that was the stuff of dragon stories. In fact, rumour has it that when Raleigh first landed in England, proudly smoking his pipe, the moment was ruined by one of his own servants who having never seen a man smoke, and assuming his boss to be on fire, doused him in water to put him (and his pipe) out!

Diagram showing the phases of clay pipe design development from around 1585 to 1900

Despite the efforts of Raleigh’s servant, smoking and pipes caught on. So much so that a whole new style of pipe, the churchwarden pipe, was created. These pipes had stems of around 10-12 inches long, and were made originally for the sole purpose of allowing the churchwardens to smoke without the smoke blowing into their face and blocking their view. Unsurprisingly, this caught on, as it also meant no one had to stop smoking for tasks such as reading books or newspapers, talking to friends, or writing.


My table allowed visitors to become the archaeologist, dating examples of clay pipe and identifying them from brief descriptions. I had interesting examples of how pipe design varied as well, how pipemakers put their own artwork on their pipes. These include a pipe showing a figure seated on a rock, or a more intense scene showing one man begging for his life as another points a shotgun at him - all taking place in a picturesque location under a tree! The most popular pipe, however, was the only one that couldn’t be handled; a beautiful pipe where the bowl is shaped like a lady’s shoe. It is an incredibly unique pipe - there aren’t many examples of similar designs.

Top: pipe bowl shaped like a lady's boot. Middle: pipe bowl showing shooting scene with the shooter, the tree and the victim. Bottom left: pipe bowl showing a figure seated on a rock. Bottom Right: particularly ornate pipe bowl
I had a great time researching and presenting my table, who would have thought small pieces of clay pipe could be so interesting and tell us so much!

Beth Light
Volunteer

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Tuesday Times Tables: Sulis has a Spring in her Step

Having toured the Baths for the first time in a number of years it struck me that although the Baths might have been a place to relax and socialise, religion had an enormous presence in the cultural understanding and use of the site. In order to study and interpret the religious aspects and traditions of the Baths, I sourced some artefacts that had been found in the Sacred Spring, thrown into the waters to win the favour of the residing goddess, Sulis Minerva.

Izzy with her Tuesday Times Table
The complexity of the goddess can be seen in the variety of objects found in the spring:  curse tablets, intended for revenge, a souvenir pan from Hadrian’s Wall, perhaps dedicated as a precious object for the eventuality of good health, and silver feathers from a helmet, for success in a military campaign.

As a mixture of long-term taboos and superstition, religion came to play a huge role in Roman culture with pietas (religious duty) becoming a principle that any Roman would fear to reject in light of the wrath of the gods. Sacrifice, prayer and worship were activities carried out by the devout for personal and collective gain in divine appeasement. Animals would be chosen for their sex, age, fertility and colour (depending on the god/goddess being sacrificed to), slaughtered and its vital organs burnt so that queries might be answered or divine support obtained.

Finds from the Spring. Top: A bronze patera dedicated to Sulis Minerva Bottom: A curse tablet describing the theft of six silver coins

Another prevalent aspect to a religious Roman society was priesthoods. These had a dual purpose to Roman culture both in religion and the state, as did the emperor as head of Rome and its religion (as pontifex maximus). Priestesses were also a vital part of the religious system and contrary to the religious appeal that women should carry out acts of worship in private, the Regina Sacrorum and the Flaminica Dialis had similar privileges to their male counterparts – an interesting attribute to a traditionalist system.

The proximity of the temple complex and tholos to the baths acts as a physical reminder of the purpose of the baths and what these buildings represented to their people. Religion in Bath seemed to play a large part in its society, with the idea of unification through commonality in myth being evident. Through the hybridisation of Sulis and Minerva, a community of Celts and Romans arose and with the further expansion of their empire, the Romans continued to achieve harmony with compromise.


What would you throw into the Spring and dedicate to Sulis Minerva?

Izzy
Volunteer

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Shining a Light on Ancient Greece

Είναι όλα Ελληνικά για ‘μένα. It’s all Greek to me… Not something I imagined myself saying while on placement here at The Roman Baths. Yet here I was, tasked with putting together a handling session for my Tuesday Times Table and being drawn to my Greek heritage. Some of the Greek pottery was brought to my attention, and it immediately peaked my interest. I decided to bring out the Baths’ small collection of ancient Greek oil lamps.

Hilariously (and embarrassingly), at first glance and having only seen photographs of the top of the lamps, I thought they were some form of ancient tea pots! With a bit of research into the collections database, I was happily surprised to discover they were oil lamps, or lihnaria (λυχνάρια, sin. λυχνάρι). Thus, my session became all about how the Ancient Greeks used these tiny pieces of pottery to illuminate their lives.

Tori with her Tuesday Times Table
I picked four lamps that could be handled, and had various replicas to show the difference between styles of lamps and the difference between Roman and Greek lamps. All of the Greek lamps that were displayed are mould made. The first two lamps are anthropomorphic, and date possibly between late 3rd and late 2nd century B.C. These two were the most interesting to me because they had human-like faces. 

Anthropomorphic lamps
The next lamp is possibly from the 3rd- late 2nd century B.C., and has two distinctive Corinthian heads on either side. The last lamp has been a little bit trickier to date and understand, because it is missing its nozzle. It seems that it comes from Athens, but it could possibly be Roman dating from when the Romans invaded Greece.

Lamp with Corinthian Heads and Possibly Roman Lamp
The way the lamps were used was to pour oil in the centre hole, and then grab some material for the wick and place into the spout until it touches the oil. Then it could be lit, and could stay lit for a few hours. Through my research, I discovered that there were many types of lamps and some lamps even had multiple spouts to provide more light. However, these lamps used up a lot of oil and burned much faster.

Overall, this was a really fun experience and I am really happy I got the chance to bring out these ancient Greek oil lamps. This was an excellent way to bring out parts of the Baths’ collections for everyone to see. I cannot wait to see what future Tuesday Times Tables are in store!

At the end of Tori’s table, people got to make their own lamp to take home!

Tori
Placement Student

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Textiles to Dye For!


Textile production was a major part of the ancient economy and clothing was used to give a visual message about the wearer’s rank, wealth and sometimes their profession. Despite the fact that textiles very rarely survive in archaeology, there are some artefacts which can at least tell us about how they were made


Hannah's handy diagram showing the basic stages of textile production: collection of raw materials, spinning and weaving.

Using this sophisticated diagram of my creation and a selection of spindle whorls and loom weights from the museum’s collection, my Tuesday Times Table explained how an item of Roman clothing would have been made. As an added treat (and my favourite object), I also brought out a replica warp-weighted loom to show how the weaving process worked. Weaving a piece of cloth on a loom like this was a very long and slow process, especially when making a Roman toga. They were made of a single piece of cloth which measured up 
to 6ft in width and 12ft in length. That’s a lot of weaving!
Hannah with her table

As well as spinning and weaving artefacts, I also showed some examples of natural dyes used in Roman Britain. The most commonly used dyes were madder (red), yellow (weld) and woad (blue) and these were relatively cheap. The most expensive dye of all was purple, knows as Tyrian or Phoenician purple. It was so expensive because it was made from the mucous of tiny Murex sea snails. 1000s of these snails were required to make enough dye just to trim one garment! Because of this, purple was associated with the emperors and is still associated with royalty today. 
Dyes used in Roman Britain: madder (red), weld (yellow), woad (blue) and alkanet (lilac). Green could be made using a mixture of weld and woad.

The most surprising thing about my handling table for many visitors was the bright and varied colours of the dyes. We often think of the Romans wearing only white togas, perhaps because colour from the ancient world has generally not survived well. It is easy to forget that almost all of the pure white marble statues and friezes we see in museums today would have once been painted in bright colours, which would have more accurately shown what Roman clothing looked like. In short, the Romans and their clothes were much more colourful than we imagine!
Hannah
MA Placement student 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Tuesday Times Tables: Writing Like A Roman

Just like we do today, the Romans used many different writing materials. Everyday writing was usually done using an iron or lead stylus on a wooden tablet spread with wax, or a thin sheet of wood. More important documents were written with a pen and ink (made of soot and resin) onto wood, papyrus or parchment. At the Roman Baths, we have our famous curses, which were inscribed onto small sheets of lead. Graffiti was painted or scratched onto walls. Gaming counters, made of pottery or bone, were sometimes marked with a stylus or knife on one side to play particular games.

Emily showing visitors how the Romans wrote at her Tuesday Times Table

For my Tuesday Times Table, I chose two of our nicest iron styluses, two bone gaming counters and three of my favourite curse tablets. I also picked seven pieces of inscribed pottery from the depths of our vaults.

The Romans wrote on pottery for lots of different reasons. Sometimes the owner would write their name on a pot to show who it belonged to, like you’d put a name sticker on a lunchbox. Sometimes they would write what was in the pot, like “olive oil” or “fish sauce”. Sometimes they would even use broken bits of pottery like we would use scrap paper, to make a quick note before they threw it away.

Dice cup fragment showing 'X' on base

My favourite piece is a fragment of a small beaker, with an “X” carved into the base. It is possible that this was a dice cup for playing games or gambling. Fortuna was the Roman goddess of luck, and her symbol was the wheel. Scratching an “X” onto the circular base of the dice cup made the shape of a (very vague) wheel, which made the cup lucky!

The most popular thing on my table, however, wasn’t an artefact at all. I used pictures of the letters from one of the curse tablets to create a handwriting or cursive Roman alphabet, which lots of people were very interested to see. It was easier to learn your ABCs in Ancient Rome, because they only had 20 letters. K, Y and Z were added to spell Greek words, but J, U and W weren’t used until much later.

The Roman alphabet

Have a go at writing like a Roman! What would you have written on a curse tablet?

Emily
Collections Volunteer

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Tuesday Times Tables: Marvellous Medieval Metalwork

On 1st August, I took eight different objects to the Great Bath area for visitors to handle. These objects were all under the theme of medieval metalwork to show the public a different side of the Roman Baths collection.

Vicky with her Tuesday Times Table

The tweezers were especially popular as they look so similar to modern day ones, but my personal favourite had to be the Papal Bull Seal. The Papal Bull was a formal proclamation from the Pope at that time, which was sent out to the countries whom it was relevant to. This would have been sealed with a lead bulla, which is unique to that Pope. Papal Bulls were first used in the Sixth Century, but were not officially known as Papal Bulls until the Fifteenth Century. At this time one of the offices of the Papal Chancery was named the ‘Register of Bulls’, though the term itself has been used from the Thirteenth Century.

Left: front of Papal Bull seal. Right: Reverse of Papal Bull seal

At first sight, it looks like a plain circular piece of stone, though on further inspection it can be seen that it is made of lead, which due to its property of corrosion resistance means that a lot of the pattern is still intact. On the front, there are two visible faces, and on the back is barely decipherable writing, though it can be identified as being a Papal Bull from Pope John XXII. 

This narrows the timeline down to 1316 – 1334, which in comparison to the other items on the table (where only general periods could be provided) is a lovely precise date. Sadly we do not have the Papal Bull itself, as it was made of parchment so hasn’t survived, meaning we cannot know the exact declaration which this seal was attached to.

For me, the most interesting part of this object is how it was found. According to our records a Mr. Symons was casually digging up his turnips and suddenly he found a Papal Bull seal in the ground in Freshford, Bath. Luckily, he knew it was important and not a useless circular stone and now it remains in the Roman baths collection. If only I was so lucky with my gardening!

Vicky
Roman Society Placement

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Tuesday Times Tables: The Idyllic Iron Age

When the Romans invaded Britain they found a country divided into tribal territories, some of which offered staunch resistance to the Roman advance. But this was not always the case. The Dobunni, who controlled the Cotswolds and northern Somerset, capitulated to the Romans and may have even surrendered before the army entered the South West. The goddess Sulis-Minerva, who was worshipped at the Temple in Bath, was a combination of Roman and British mythology and may have been a Roman tribute to the peaceful locals.

Bath has a relatively high concentration of nearby Iron Age hillforts, defensive structures that dominate the skyline, and yet remarkably few weapons, limited to a handful of iron spearheads. Instead, the artefacts that we have found in the area are more suggestive of a peaceful and pastoral landscape. The hillforts perhaps acted as meeting places or food distribution centres, with the lower slopes covered with cultivated fields and farmsteads.

The ramparts of Little Solsbury Hillfort

Carbonised grains of Emmer wheat, an early form of domesticated wheat and very important in Iron Age life, was found in a hearth in the Little Solsbury hillfort. The wheat could be made into porridge, and sherds of the courseware pots it was cooked in have also been found.

There are also indications of cloth making. Spindle whorls made of stone and bone were used to spin the fleece of local sheep into yarn. A large lump of Bath limestone with a hole drilled through it was used to weigh down threads on a loom to create woollen textiles. A fine bone pin would push the weft threads together to create a tighter concentration and a finer cloth.

Iron Age coin showing horse and wheel on reverse (BATRM1980.316)


 The archaeology around Bath shows there was a preoccupation with ritual and belief. Two bronze spoons were deposited in a stream in Weston. They are decorated with beautiful curvilinear designs. Pairs of spoons like these are found infrequently across Britain and always in ritual contexts, in water or burials. Coins like the one pictured were discovered in the Sacred Spring at the Roman Baths, and indicate the importance of the waters before the arrival of the Romans. Many were minted by the local Dobunni tribe, but others were from the tribe south of Bath and may show tribal interactions were good-natured in the area.

These artefacts were brought out for visitors to investigate Iron Age Bath as a landscape of domesticity and mystery as part of our programme of Tuesday Times Tables, so join us next week to find out how they continue!

Jim
Volunteer

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Festival of Archaeology: Baffling Bones!



Last month, we decided to assemble a table of animal bones and activities for the Festival of Archaeology, which was held at the Roman Baths on Monday 17th July. This involved sorting through and selecting an appropriate variety of animal bones, that were suitable for the public to handle and use for the activities.


Once we had chosen the bones, we then had a task of identifying what part of the skeleton they came from and what animal it belonged to (this could be hard, especially if they were broken!) After going through 5kg of assorted animal bones and fragments, we had a huge mixture, that ranged from a pig’s vertebrae (part of the spine) to a horse’s tibia (upper back leg bone) and a cow’s mandible (jaw).

Vicky and Maddy with their 'Baffling Bones!' handling table

We also set up an activity called “Baffling Bones!”, the aim of this was to see if people could identify the bones provided, and try to figure out which animal they came from. For the younger children, there was a game, where they were given a picture of a cow’s skeleton, and they had to put the labels of bones in the correct places to win a sticker!

On the table, we also had a cow’s skull which was found in the Temple Precinct (thought to be medieval) and photos of the Temple Precinct under excavation. 

I brought the bones out again for Tuesday Times Tables the next day, and had a total of 96 visitors in 2 hours!

If you missed the Festival of Archaeology or the start of our Tuesday Times Tables, don't panic! Handling tables continue every Tuesday evening until the 29th of August.


Maddy
Placement Student

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Is Money the root of all Evill?

There are many different ways an object can end up in our collection at the Roman Baths, which means that we have a huge range of items, from enormous Roman stones to Haile Selassie’s golf clubs! This is because our museum’s collection policy includes objects that have relevance to Bath’s long and fascinating history, so when an important item surfaces we are sometimes able to acquire it.


Our latest acquisition is a perfect example. It’s a Bath Bank banknote from 1814, worth £5 at the time, and like many of our objects it has a story to tell. On the front of the note you can see the signature of a man called William Evill, and just above that is the name of his business; James Evill & Son. This was one of Georgian Bath’s most famous toy shops – but not as we might know them today.

The front of the banknote, showing Evill’s signature
These toy shops were full of fashionable commodities, luxury goods, and beautiful hand crafted souvenirs. To begin with, Evill’s store opened in the Marketplace around 1759 as a “cutler and hosier”, but this was only the tip of the iceberg! It went on to be the longest running toy shop in Bath, and Evill expanded the remit to include everything from gilt thimbles to pistols, handmade watches to surgeon’s instruments, all lavishly displayed on glass shelves in glass windows, sparkling and catching the eye of every passer-by.

The back of the banknote, with various handwritten notes
The banknote was originally issued in Evill’s name but it seems to have changed hands a number of times after that point. There are handwritten notes of different names and dates on the back, possibly reminding the bearer when or where it had come from. They’re a little hard to decipher, but my favourite is the writing halfway down the banknote when it was “taken of a gentleman”.

Can you distinguish any names or dates? We’re hoping to do some research and find out a little bit more about these individuals.

Zofia
Collections Assistant

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Way Back Wednesday: the Science of Skeletons


As well as organising the Science Week events at the Roman Baths, I was able to design a handling table. My topic of choice was human remains, as I have an interest in them and there is a lot they can tell you. One issue with this is the ethics of choosing to have human remains in public areas of the site as visitors may not wish to see human remains outside a case. This was overcome by producing a sign to warn visitors about the remains on show and to only have skeletal elements not whole skeletons out.

My research for the table was into how you could age and sex a skeleton from different elements. It was hard to condense the information down into language that the everyday reader would understand as there are lots of technical words such as diaphysis and epiphysis for the shaft and ends of long bones respectively.  This could have be why information sheets explaining how to do this have not been produced before.

Skull of a Roman Male

One common comment made about the table was about the condition of the teeth.  Teeth are the most common skeletal element found as they are resistant to chemical and physical destruction. The teeth which attracted the most attention belonged to a 25 year old Roman male, and the condition divided opinion. Some said they were well looked after and in better condition than the modern equivalent, while others said they were worn. The teeth could be in better condition due to the fact the Romans didn’t consume as much sugar as the modern population, as sugar wasn't available in Europe at this time. Instead, they were worn due to milling methods used to make flour leaving sand which in turn wore down the teeth.


The assessment of skeletal remains is very subjective, as this comment on the teeth wear shows, so even if you know the correct methods you might still be wrong, and if sexing you only have a 50/50 chance of getting it right!

Katharine Foxton

Bradford University Placement Student

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Saltford Festival: Musings on Metalwork


Roman Baths object handling at Saltford Brass Mill

At the beginning of June, our Collections and Learning teams packed up the van and spent the day at Saltford Brass mill for the Saltford Festival.

We took a selection of archaeological metalwork to fit with the theme of the location, choosing objects from the local area and that could showcase the use and preservation of different types of metal.

Copper Alloy

A pair of Roman tweezers found in Keynsham
As we were in a Brass mill, brass would be the most fitting metal to choose! However, archaeologists choose not to distinguish between brass and bronze, instead using the term ‘copper alloy’. Bronze is a mixture of copper and tin and brass is a mixture of copper and zinc, and without scientific testing it’s very difficult to distinguish between the two.

You can recognise copper alloy from the tell-tale green colour caused by corrosion, sometimes called verdigris.

Iron

A selection of iron objects including an axehead from the site of the Thermae Spa in Bath
Again, iron is recognisable from the way it corrodes, producing distinctive red rust. As with all metals we do our best to slow down and prevent this process, keeping the objects as dry as possible in sealed containers with packets of silica gel to absorb any moisture.

The objects pictured are in particularly good condition. Archaeological metalwork is not always so lucky!

Lead

A piece of the lead sheets used to line the Great Bath

Lead from the Roman Baths has survived incredibly well and some Roman pieces are still in place, for example the sheets that line the Great Bath. We took a section of that lead with us to Saltford, and almost everyone commented on the incredible weight of just this one small piece!

You may question the use of lead, and rightly so. Today we know that it is poisonous, and we definitely wouldn’t use it to line our baths! However, the Romans didn’t know this and instead prized it as the perfect material for plumbing.

Silver

A silver coin of Julian II
There are a number of silver objects in the Roman Baths collection, and most of them are coins. The examples we took to Saltford included a Roman Imperial coin known as a siliqua of Julian II, made at the mint at Trier, Germany. 

Silver is a perfect choice for making currency, and even though this coin is well over 1,000 years old the design is as crisp as the day it was struck! 

Did you know?

The Latin for Lead is plumbum (also used for its chemical element symbol Pb), which is where the word ‘plumbing’ comes from!


Zofia

Collections Assistant

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Katharine’s Placement Reflection


When I first applied for a student placement with the Roman Baths Collections team over a year ago, I could not have imagined the experiences I would have and how quickly the 6 months would pass. During this placement I have learned about how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep a museum running and everything that needs to be considered when interpreting the collection.

One of my main projects was to catalogue the archive for the archaeological excavations at The Tramsheds on Walcot Street. This consisted of a large paper and archaeological archive of a variety of artefacts, including Roman pottery, clay pipes and tile. The first task for cataloguing was to arrange the paperwork into relevant sections and then number them accordingly. This task seemed like it went on forever due to the large number of photographs - about 1,050 in total! The cataloguing of 47 boxes of artefacts was completed by our amazing volunteers, so a huge thank you to them. Cataloguing this site has shown me how much information about the local area is stored in museums.

Katharine with her completed Tramsheds archive

As well as cataloguing, I helped with various events celebrating the history of Bath.  World Heritage Day showcased the wide range of artefacts in our collection showing the history of the Spring from the Mesolithic to the 20th Century. We also had a selection of spa equipment out and photos showing the different treatments you could have received. This was very interesting as I got to learn more about the history of Bath while explaining this to visitors.  The event at Saltford Brass Mill showed what an amazing collection is housed at the Roman Baths with a wide variety of objects of differing metals.

Susan and Katharine with the handling table at Saltford Brass Mill

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working at the Baths and will miss all my colleagues who have made the experience so special. One day I hope to come back, but who knows…

Katharine Foxton 
Bradford University Placement Student

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Roman Architecture



For my part of British Science Week, I was given the task of designing a display revolving around the topic of my choice, Architecture. Rather than focusing on arches specifically, I decided to broaden the information and open it up to many different aspects of architecture.  

As I am particularly interested in the topic, I learnt that focusing on the science side of architecture more difficult that I had first thought. I found that I had to first wrap my head around how the Romans actually managed to get their constructions to stand, and then concentrate on simplifying and limiting what I had gathered. The aqueducts were fascinating to research, as the Romans had a considerable grasp of how they worked and how to create the perfect speed of flow, ensuring even the smallest of towns received water! One of the most difficult things to grasp was the materials used by the Romans, as this was particularly scientific involving the Calcination of Lime creating Mortar, which was then used in essentially all of their constructions.

 
A Successful Architect
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On the day, I had a number of visitors who were particularly interested in the materials used, and were fascinated by how light and porous some of the materials actually were (i.e. the Tufa block). As my table was located beside the Great Bath, I was able to point out where they could find these materials, which are hidden unless you’re looking for it!

The small collection of columns which showed the differences between the column orders was a particular interest to many, as the intricate details on the columns astounded many people. I was able to have a small piece of a column on display too, showing the details and thickness of the columns that were used by the Romans. It was especially impressive how much of the columns capital remained prominent, specifically for how heavy the item was and how damaged the bottom part of the piece actually is.

As it is not common practice to touch items on display, many people were hesitant to touch the materials I had out, and were even hesitant to touch the arch activity. After watching other visitors try, more people (not just children) began approaching the table and were particularly interested in trying their hand at being a mini architect!


Lucy Pidgeon, Bath Spa University 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Roman Baths investigates science


As part of British Science Week, the Roman Baths organised a number of events to allow visitors to find out about the science behind some of our museum objects, for which I was project manager. The week started with Science Busking which consisted of three tables explaining the science behind pottery, such as how the pot was fired; metals, what metals the Romans made and worked and bone, showing how you can sex and age a skeleton. These tables mainly were visited by adults however some children also visited the tables. The arch model was also set up and this attracted the attention with visitors of all ages. Over the three hour period this event ran it attracted 547 visitors. The BRSLI Science Cadets also had a variety of geology based activities in the education room to find out about Bath’s hot spring. 

 Our successful Science Busking event


Throughout the week hands-on tables ran next to Great Bath to allow visitors to handle some of the museum objects. These ranged from human remains, coins, mosaics and Roman architecture. A volunteer or placement student compiled the information and stood with their table to answer any questions the visitors may have had. The tables all attracted interest from visitors with numbers ranging from 90 to 220 visitors wanting to find out more. The most popular day was Thursday, with over 200 people wanting to find out about mosaics and to look and touch a real skeleton.

The final two events were Bath Taps in Science organised by the University of Bath. The penultimate event was held at the University and was to encourage children to be interested in science, the Roman Baths took the table top arch and some x-rays and objects. The children enjoyed building the arch and couldn’t quite understand how it stood up without anything supporting it. 

The final event was held at Royal Victoria Park, where the Roman Baths set up the aqueduct and arch model. Both proved extremely popular with 370 people engaging either on one or both of the activities. 
Overall, Science Week proved a success with all the events catering to all age groups and engaging both children and families.
Katharine Foxton 

Bradford University Placement Student