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Down in the mud

July 4, 2011

Apologies for the recent silence on the blog. I’ve spent much of the last fortnight on my knees, scraping at a Northamptonshire hillside with an archaeological trowel. The team were – indeed, still are – uncovering  the remains of a Romano-British bath house. When I say ‘remains,’  please do not picture anything on the scale of the Baths of Constantine in Arles:

Baths of Constantine in Arles, with walls still at full height

British archaeologists have to content themselves with more humble fare. While the other bath house on the site (you can see it on the right here) had walls that still looked like walls, this one was probably demolished in Roman times, and they did a pretty thorough job of it.

Remains of walls and underfloor heating for bath house

It may not look much to you, dear reader, but believe me, every inch of that site has been lovingly and painstakingly trowelled out from beneath a field of grass. It’s not as chaotic as it appears in this unofficial end-of-the-working-day snap – in Jeremy Cooper’s excellent high-level photos*,  it’s possible to see the shapes of the rooms.

However, when your nose is close to the ground, it’s hard to see the site as a whole. Instead you concentrate on your own little patch, poking and prodding and scraping. From time to time you stand back and squint at it from different angles, desperately searching for some sort of pattern to reassure you that you aren’t just a sad obsessive who likes playing with mud. There really is – or  was – something there.

*Later  – I’ve just updated this link because the latest (2011) photos are even better.

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2 comments

  1. All your hard work has been rewarded as there’s a pebble drain named after you, Ruth ;-) Sorry it’s not Roman though – but it’s still important in the story. Barbara


    • I’m honoured! And even it if wasn’t Roman, it was rather lovely – as drains go.



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