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.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Let the Games Begin

If you ask a child today how they occupied their free time, most answers would be – playing on some type of gaming console, watching the Telly, or being outside playing some sort of sport with their mates.

Unfortunately Romans didn’t have these types of option available to them. While there is the possibility to have an outside sport like game (using a ball) during the Roman period, it was more likely you would catch a child with some sort of board game or a nut (marble) game.

The first game, entitled Orca, allows each play to have 5 nuts that they take turns to try and throw them into a bucket. The winner is determined by which ever player gets the most nuts of their original 5 into the bucket. The name Orca is a Latin term that means whale, which in this game the whale (or to be specific its mouth) is represented by the bucket.

The next game is called Delta. Delta is a Greek letter that is in the shape of a triangle (Δ). Delta also is a triangle deposit at the mouth of a river. So it is not surprising that the Delta Game Roman children played involves nuts (again) being thrown onto a triangle on the ground. The triangle is divided into 10 sections and after each child has thrown all 5 nuts, they count up their scores.

Additionally there is the Rolling Walnut Game where competitors start with 10 nuts, and roll them down a slope one at a time in an attempt to hit their opponent’s nut, which they then get to keep. The player with the most nuts wins.

Finally there is Castellatae. This begins with five small clusters of nuts (3 walnuts and 1 on top). Each player has 5 nuts and tries with five throw to disturb the nut clusters. The units he/she has managed to hit are theirs to keep. After that the clusters are reconstructed from a ‘large’ pot and the next player tries in turn. Whoever has the most nuts after 5 rounds is the winner.

These are only some games that Roman Children would play, if you are in the Bath area tonight and fancy learning about these and other games, visit the Roman Baths Museum between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm tonight, 10 July 2013, at the Great Bath where Bethan will be there explaining more games and leisure activities that the Romans participated in.

Additionally you can see these Roman games in action on 15th July 2013 at 1:30pm, on the Kingston Parade during the Beau Street Hoard Funding launch. The children playing the games have been working with the Learning & Programmes co-ordinator to learn these games and create their interpretation of Roman Coins for the event

Otter Class from Moorlands School painting their coins

Along with these games, there will be an actual Roman Priest and Roman Soldier along with our modern day Roman Gladiators – two of the Bath Rugby players

Bath Rugby's Olly Woodburn

Bath Rugby's Ben Williams

If you are in Bath and want to witness this amazing event, stop by – it is free to all and donations for the Beau Street Hoard are welcomed!



Thursday, 4 July 2013

Roman Bracelets

Snakes, spinning and stone: what do they have in common? Roman bracelet designs!

One of the curatorial tasks at the Roman Baths Museum is to update the collection records. This involves checking that each object has been photographed, described and researched and preparing needed information for entry to the collection management database.

Earlier this year, a collection of eleven Roman bracelets needed to be catalogued so they were tekan off display and brought to the office where the curatorial staff and volunteers had the opportunity to look at each one closely and admire their detail and workmanship while they were being documented.

A favourite bracelet looks like a snake chasing its tail, but is not connected. The snake has an oval body, shaped mouth and ear-lugs, impressed eyes and ear-holes with evidence of scales on the tail.

Our beautiful spiral snake bracelet.

Research has revealed that its single-headed spiral form and naturalistic style mean it is possibly an early example of popular Roman spiral snake jewellery. To the Romans, the snake was a symbol of healing, regeneration and rebirth. A similar bracelet is part of the Llandovery Hoard.
Roman women and girls adorned themselves with jewellery of many different materials and designs. Most of the examples in this group are made from a flat ribbon of metal with incised, punched or notched decoration but there are also three bracelets made from wire.

Another is made of three wire strands spun together with a single strand extending at one end to form a loop. When examined closely, we noticed that one of the three strands has corroded differently and is green for its full length.

Three-tone twisted-wire bracelet.

The bracelet appears to be made from wires of different alloys and may have been three different colours when new.

Most of the bracelets are made from copper alloyed with other metals in various proportions. The different bracelet is carved from shale, a layered sedimentary rock. Although there is only a segment left, this piece shows it was originally quite large and slightly conical in shape.

Remaining segment of the shale bracelet
 It is possible this bracelet was shaped to fit the upper arm above the bicep muscle, perhaps made for a man.

All eleven bracelets are on display in the Aquae Sulis gallery of the museum so everybody can have a close look and share our admiration at their workmanship.

Nicola Pullan is a foreign correspondent from the University of Sydney.

Refs: Brailsford, Guide to the Antiquities of Roman Britain
Davenport, Archaeology in Bath, Excavations 1984-1989
Johns, The Jewellery of Roman Britain