Gemstones, lost for 2,000 years, found in Roman Baths, England.

Roman baths, Bath, England

A fabulous discovery of gemstones have been discovered in a drain at a 2,000 year old Bath House, by archaeologists in Carlisle, England. The treasure trove of gemstones, found in Roman baths, which were situated by a Roman Fort adjacent to Hadrian’s Wall in the North of England.

About 30 gemstones, including amethyst and jasper, were found and were believed to have fallen out of the rings of the bathers. It seems that the vegetable glue holding the gemstones in place dissolved in the hot, steamy waters.

The baths would have been emptied to be cleaned and the gemstones must have washed into the drain. Where they sat for 2,000 – 3,000 years!

The beautiful stones, some of which were only a few millimetres across, had intricate carvings on them, called intaglios – indicating that these would have been expensive items crafted by expert craftspeople. One such gemstone was an amethyst carved with the goddess Venus holding a flower or a mirror. 

The find was reported in The Guardian newspaper which you can read about here

Roman baths, Bath, England
Steam rising off the hot mineral water in the Great Bath, part of the Roman Baths in Bath, UK

Theft was a big problem in the Bath Houses of the day – the bathers could either keep their rings on and risk losing a stone in the waters, or remove them and risk them being stolen whilst bathing. It was such a problem that “Curse Tablets” were displayed and can still be seen at the Roman Baths Museum in Bath – wishing revenge on thieves. In 1978 about 130 of these curse tablets were discovered, which called for the goddess Sulis Minerva to return the stolen articles and, at the same time, curse the thieves.

The find of these beautiful gemstones illustrates an age-old point. Don’t wear your precious jewellery (or even the not-so-precious jewellery) in the swimming pool or whilst bathing. Apart from glue being dissolved by liquids and chemicals (even modern-day jewellers glue which will be far superior to the vegetable glue used 3,000 years ago), but metal expands and contracts as it heats and cools. A slightly loose stone is very vulnerable in such conditions. 

It’s a fabulous find and excavation work will continue in Carlisle next year so it will be interesting to see if any other treasures are discovered. 

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