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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.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.

Anyone remember that episode of the Simpsons where Lisa and Marge travel to the beach hoping to wash animals but end up cleaning rocks? That’s not as boring as they made it out to be. Cleaning finds is rather like how Forest Gump described life; “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”.

I’ve only been tasked with cleaning finds twice during my time here. The first time was mainly focused on bricks. They may’ve been all the same in the end but I did like the thought of uncovering a standout among a pile of similarities; even though the best I could find in the end was two brick remains sealed together with mortar.

Worked stone

Naturally, based on first impressions, I assumed I was just going to uncover the same thing when I was asked to wash finds discovered from excavations in the East Baths. But what do I discover in the end when I’m done? Bricks, yes; but far more than that: oysters, animal bones, stonework, pottery pieces, glass, and the occasional metal tool. I never thought for a minute these were the things I would uncover after washing off all that dirt; I honestly haven’t seen this many bones since the last time I made short work of my last KFC takeaway.

A mix of bone and stone

And after the cleaning’s done, the next fun part is identifying which period the finds may’ve come from, what animals the bones belong to, and what could the stoneworks have originally been a part of. Even when you’ve gotten rid of that last patch of dirt, you’re still trying to work out what exactly is it you’ve found.

Oyster shells and glass

These discoveries may not be gold or gems, but let’s not forget Indiana Jones: the Last Crusade where the Holy Grail was not one of the many golden, jewel encrusted goblets to choose from, but an aged artefact, probably no different that what we’ve had on display. Sometimes even the smallest and insignificant thing based on first glance can turn out to be a unique discovery.


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