Roman Bathhouse at Carlisle


Carved Head: Male. Measures 56X31X30cm. The apparent thick upper lip may represent a moustache.Made from red sandstone.

In February of this year I visited Carlisle in N.W. England to inspect the finds from a recently discovered Roman Bathhouse on the outskirts of the city. The report on this visit can be found here.

Yesterday, inspired by media reports of further important finds, I paid a repeat visit which proved very rewarding..

By way of background, Carlisle has evolved from the Roman fort of Luguvalium which was established in AD72. Later, in the 2nd century, Hadrian's Wall was constructed east to west across what is now northern England. Luguvalium benefited from this in that it fell within the Romanised territory to the south of the Wall. Furthermore, the Wall incorporated 17 major forts of which one, Uxelodunum was situated a short distance to the N.E.

Consistent with Roman military practice, a bathhouse was constructed to serve the 1000 strong garrison at Uxelodunum. This facility was located roughly equidistant between Uxelodunum and Luguvalium and close to a bend in the River Eden.

The bathhouse was originally constructed in the Hadrianic era of the 2nd century but subsequently underwent numerous reconstructions through to the 4th century.

Although only identified as recently as 2017, seven subsequent phases of excavation have generated vast quantities of pottery and tile together with over 5000 significant finds. The latter include 500 coins, items of personal adornment, military fittings, fragments of stone sculptures and inscriptions. 

One of the 'star' finds is a pair of large sandstone carved heads as illustrated herein.These heads may represent classical theatre masks. Both have plaited wigs and may have originally been painted.Stone depictions of this type are extremely rare in the Roman Empire and the Carlisle finds are the first to have been discovered in Britain.

Carved Head: Female. Grey sandstone.

Excavation site: Overview

 Excavation site: Backfilled to protect against the elements


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