Sunday, December 2, 2012

Power Ball Jackpot - Roman Style!

Bath, England uses the moniker "Roman City of Bath" for its tourist marketing.  My wife Phyllis and I, and friends Tod and Laurie Jordan, had the pleasure of visiting Bath in 2008.  The city is known mostly for its restored Roman baths, although its Georgian architecture and Regency era association with author Jane Austin also draw visitors.
 The town was in its heyday as a resort, spa and meeting place for the rich and famous during the late Georgian and Regency period. The amazing thing is they had no idea what lay beneath their feet in those days. One of the most famous gathering places for the social elite in Regency era Bath was the "Pump House," an meeting hall and tea room. The hot mineral water spring that still flows from a fountain at the Pump House, comes from a vast Roman era bath and spa that was discovered beneath it in the mid 19th Century.

A Fountain in the Pump Room still provides hot mineral water just as it did in Jane Austin's time.
Photo by author

Ruins of a Roman bath house displayed beneath the Pump Room. 
Photo by author

Since that find, other Roman bath houses, villas and wells have been unearthed far below the modern level of the city.  Even as I and my wife visited Bath, another more spectacular find was being uncovered.  During excavations of a new building site on Beau Street, a scant 450 feet from the Roman Baths, a hoard of 22,000 silver coins was discovered under the tiles of a Roman bath house.  That find has been kept secret till June 2012 as the coins were being analyzed at the British Museum in London.

One of the 22,000 Silver Coins of the Beau Street Hoard

The excavation on Beau Street
 This is the fifth largest treasure hoard found in the UK and the largest Roman hoard of its kind.  It also has the distinction of being the largest hoard ever found by a professional archaeologist during a planned excavation.  The find was recovered with the utmost care using the latest scientific methods.

Six leather sacks of coins made up the hoard.  Conservators at the British Museum are slowly removing each coin from the encrusted block for conservation.

Dates on the coins range from about 30 BC to about 270 AD.  The encrusted coins are arraigned to indicate that six separate sacks of coins were deposited together.  Traces on some coins suggest the sacks were made of leather.  The estimated date of the hoard fits nicely with a time of extreme upheaval known as the "Crisis of the Third Century," in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed as Britain and Gaul broke away to form the short-lived Gallic Empire.  Perhaps someone hid the treasure planning to return for it.  Who knows why they did not return?

The Roman Baths is raising £150,000 to acquire, conserve and display the hoard. If you would like to help with a donation please phone the Roman Baths Administrator on +44 (0)1225 477773 with your credit card details, or send a cheque made payable to ‘Bath & North East Somerset Council’ to:
The Roman Baths
Pump Room
Stall Street
 BA1 1LZ


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