Tag Archives: bath house

Roman Bathing Pool

A 1,800 year old bathing pool that was probably part of a 2nd or 3rd century CE bathhouse used by soldiers of the Tenth Roman Legion was exposed in a salvage excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority and announced today. The discovery suggests that the scope of Aelia Capitolina, the city built by Hadrian after crushing the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135CE, was much larger than previously estimated. This kind of information about Aelia Capitolina can contribute greatly to research on Jerusalem because it was that city that determined the character and general appearance of ancient Jerusalem and the city that we recognize today. Take a tour of the Roman Gate and plaza, Struthion’s pool, Ecce Homo arch, the Cardo and secondary cardo to understand the Roman city.

Though we know from the writings of Josephus that the Tenth Legion was stationed by Jaffa Gate in what is today the Armenian Quarter from after the destruction of the Second Temple the extensive archaeological excavations failed to discover even one building that had belonged to the Roman legion. One relic that I like to show people is the stone in the wall north of Jaffa Gate, in secondary usage, that has inscribed on it LEGIO X FRETENSIS

During the excavation we uncovered a number of plastered bathtubs in the side of the pool. Incorporated in the side of the pool is a pipe used to fill it with water and on the floor of the pool is a white industrial mosaic pavement. The bathhouse tiles, which are stamped with the symbols of the Tenth Legion “Fretensis” – LEG X FR, were found in situ and it seems that they were used to cover a rock-hewn water channel located at the bottom of the pool. The hundreds of terra cotta roof tiles that were found on the floors of the pool indicate it was a covered structure. The mark of the soldiers of the Tenth Legion, in the form of the stamped impressions on the roof tiles and the in situ mud bricks, bears witness to the fact that they were the builders of the structure.

– Dr. Ofer Sion, excavation director

An additional discovery that caused excitement during the excavation was when one of the roof tiles was found with a paw print of a dog (that probably belonged to one of the soldiers) that obliterated the usual symbol of the legion – it could have happened accidentally or as a joke when the tile was being manufactured.

Photos by Assaf Peretz, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority.

Roman Bath House from Herodium

One of the most exciting new installations that I saw in the Israel Museum’s renovated archaeology galleries was the display of a part of  the laconicum (hot dry room) next to the calderium of the Roman bath house that was found at Lower Herodium. I arrived to see the museum staff putting the final touches to the installation that shows clearly all the components: the hypocaust, the underfloor heating system where the floor is supported by stone pillars (pilae stacks) and the clay tubes in the walls to let the heat pass through; the plasterwork and fresco paintings on the wall; the mosaic floor.

Nearby is another square mosaic floor with a geometric, intertwined circle and pomegranates (one of the 7 species that grows in the land of Israel and characteristic Jewish motif of this period) in each of the corners. You can see this mosaic on site at Lower Herodium in the main tepidarium if you climb onto the roof of the bath house (though I learned that the one in the museum is the original and on site is a copy). If you look to the right, there is another mosaic in the small tepidarium designed as an opus sectile pattern of tiles.

I didn’t see any other artifacts from Herodium being readied for display – I was hoping to see the 3 sarcophagi that were discovered.