Welcome to the Roman Baths Blog!

This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Day in the Life of an Archaeologist (Well … Almost…)

Alright, so technically I'm not working as an archaeologist, but I do have a degree in archaeology! I’m currently working as a student placement here at the Roman Baths. However, my work still involves archaeology, although I am not familiar with all the time periods and material I am now working with.
Carrying some Equipment around Englishcombe

Englishcombe was a Festival of British Archaeology event, hosted by the Roman Baths that took place back in July 2010. During the setup and activities many of us who are working here at the museum got the chance to work at an archaeology activity where we demonstrated the practice of archaeology by surveying the Wansdyke. We had all the proper tools and equipment and were taking measurements of the site, providing a demonstration, while answering visitor questions.

I was the lucky individual who got to help set up in the morning. We dragged all the equipment down to the site and used a bench mark (a point of known height) to set up our surveying equipment. This took quite some time because the area was rather hilly. We then set about creating a grid and line and began to take the measurements.

The Roman Baths hosts an event for the Festival of British Archaeology every year and bases the information on the location selected. This year the event was hosted in the Tithe Barn in Englishcombe so the event had a Medieval theme.

Keep an eye out for next years Roman Baths Festival of British Archaeology event!

Katrina Elizabeth

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Meet the volunteers......

My name is Amélia, I'm 23 and I am from France. I am currently studying Public Law and Cultural Management at the University of Orléans in France. One day I hope to work in a Cultural Program Department or in a museum. That's why I applied for a work placement at the Roman Baths and I was really lucky to get the chance to work behind the scenes for 3 weeks in June 2010. I have written a blog to share my experience of my work placement at the Roman Baths.

Amelia in the collections office

On 6th June 2010 I boarded the coach from Sully; a little town where my parents live to Bath, England. On the coach there are people from the twining association between Sully-sur-Loire and Bradford-on-Avon; the president of the association had kindly let me join them on their journey. After a pleasant journey we are quickly at Calais, a short channel tunnel crossing and we arrive in England.

Monday and it is my first day at the Roman Baths, Susan, the Collection Manager introduces me to the other staff in the office; I have to remember a lot of names and try and concentrate on what people are saying to me!

Susan shows me around the Roman remains and the museum, it's a beautiful place; there is a roman pavement around the Great Bath, a hot water spring and around the upper terrace there are various statues of the Emperors and Governors of Rome. We move from the museum into the eighteenth century Pump Room, a very "chic" place, where we can drink a glass of Spa Water - it is good for health but it's not tasty!

It's like an old movie set, in fact, some movies and T.V. programmes have been filmed here.
After a few days I know the name of everyone on the team. There is Susan the Collection Manager and Helen the Collection Assistant, Stephen the Roman Baths and Pump Room Manager, sweet Gladys the Team Administrator and James the Office Apprentice. Then there are the other volunteer’s, Beth from Australia, Edina from Hungary and Penny from Bath.

During my placement I went with Stephen to various meetings: "Public Services Team meeting", "Management Team meeting" and the "Business Team meeting” these all give me great insight into how the site is run. After a while I meet with Pat the Commercial Manager and Maggie the Press Officer and I am given my first task- to translate the Fashion Museum website into French.

I work to a timetable set out prior to my placement and I have a lot of visits: the Victoria Art Gallery, the Fashion Museum, St Johns store and even the Ashmolean in Oxford. During my lunch hours I walk around the World Heritage City of Bath, it is rich in architecture and there are a lot of musicians playing on the street. Very often we can hear a woman singing opera songs as her voice drifts through the office window.

The days go by very quickly and before I know it the end of my internship comes It's time to go back to France. I met a lot of very nice people; a good mix of very different people from various places around the globe. I learnt a lot about English cultural management and improved my English.

So if you want to meet people from all around the world and share learning experiences why not come to the Roman Baths and volunteer.

Amelia’s update: I'm currently on work placement at a museum in France; the Museum of Resistance and Deportation in Loiret. I will be going back to university at the end of the summer and will start a "work-study program" in the Cultural Development Department for the Town Council of Rouen.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Women: Hair Free since BC

Epilators, razors, hot wax and cream. Every modern woman has her weapon of choice when it comes to combating unsightly body hair.

Our ancient foremothers and their medieval granddaughters were no different. They kept themselves looking well groomed with the help of tweezers.

Roman women (and men) plucked their arm pit hair using tweezers. Well, actually they didn’t pluck it, their servants did. Between that and scraping hot, grimy oil off bathers (with a strigil) I can safely say Roman beautician is not on my dream job list.

Medieval women were not fond of the follicles that grow between your eyebrows and the crown of your head. Woe to the unfortunate maiden with a low forehead! She would have to pluck away at her hairline back towards the crown until she achieved the highly fashionable high forehead all the cool kids were wearing.


I pulled out a pair of tweezers for our Englishcombe display. They were excavated from Swallow Street, Bath in the 1980s and archaeologists were never quite able to put their finger in a precise date. They are probably medieval but they could also Roman.

I guess we’ll never know if they were used to pluck arm pits or foreheads.

The tweezers were displayed as part of a medieval vanity set during the Archaeology for Everyone Event, part of the British Festival of Archaeology, at Englishcombe. They were displayed along side a mirror case and a bone comb.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Aquae Sulis

Aquae Sulis is the Roman name for Bath. Many people mistakenly think that it is the name for the baths themselves, but it is actually the name of the Roman settlement which became Bath. The name ‘Bath’ dates to the 6th century.

The city of Bath has been continuously occupied since Roman times, although the area had been lived in long before that. In the Saxon period the place name was first Aquaemann, which was a name designed to not be associated with a religion (as Aquae Sulis was associated with the Celtic and Roman religions as Sulis was a Celtic goddess and Minerva a Roman goddess). Mann was an Old Welsh word meaning place, so the new name meant 'place of the waters'. However, Bath was also known by the Saxons as Akemannceaster, which references the healing powers of the waters, and 'Hat Bathu'. The modern version of the Saxon name, Bath, evolved from the latter.

As you can see, Bath has had many names throughout the ages, but it has been a constant presence, mostly due to its natural hot springs, which throughout history have been said to have healing powers. However, the city itself began as Aquae Sulis.

The Sacred Waters and Baths in Aquae Sulis

Much of Aquae Sulis, or Roman Bath, was destroyed (while in ruins) by King Alfred the Great and his son who reorganised Bath and provided it with a new street layout.

The Baths and Temples of Aquae Sulis

Aquae Sulis translates as ‘the waters of Sulis,’ so you can see why many people make the mistake of thinking it refers to the baths.

Katrina Elizabeth