Public spa or elite mansion? 1,800-year-old Roman complex poses mystery in France
Tucked amid the carefully tended vineyards of eastern France, an abandoned structure sat buried under the region’s unofficial capital city. The crumbling structure sat in dirt and obscurity — until now.
Archaeologists in Reims unearthed a Roman structure dating back to the second century, France’s National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research said in a March 14 news release.
The structure was a monumental complex, which had more than 20 rooms and stretched over 65 feet. But the once-impressive structure lead to a mystery. What is it? What was it used for? Who lived here?
Archaeologists found clues amid the ruins.
The 1,800-year-old complex included two large porticoed galleries with an open space in the middle, the release said. Ancient water pipes indicated a basin or fountain once stood in the open space which was most likely a garden.
Among the complex’s more than 20 rooms, archaeologists identified vast hallway-like corridors and some living rooms with chalk floors and remnants of central fireplaces.
Nine rooms were identified as part of an ancient thermal bath house, experts said. Five of these rooms had hypocausts, a distinctive Roman heating system, under the floor. Looking like small stacks of tiles, hypocausts were placed near a fire and the hot air heated the structures and above flooring, according to Britannica.
Hypocausts were common among both private houses and bath houses during Roman times, Britannica reported.
Archaeologists also unearthed ceramics, copper tableware and numerous painted plasters, filled with floral designs and rare blue pigment.
The complex was located in a very privileged area, placed near a gate that was built around the same time, the release said.
Based on these findings, archaeologists identified two possible explanations for the mysterious structure. The complex might have been a public spa complex, a common type of Roman building, or the home of an extremely wealthy person.
Several other large Roman dwellings have been uncovered in the surrounding area.
The monumental complex was inhabited from the second to third century and then abandoned, archaeologists said. The structure was partially destroyed and its materials reused to construct other buildings.
Further excavations are needed to fully unravel the mysteries surrounding the elaborate complex.
Reims is located in the Champagne region, famous for its wine-growing, and about 95 miles northeast of Paris.
Google Translate was used to translate the news release from France’s National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP).
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