The Public Thermae of Munigua

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Brief description: 

The public thermae are a small bath complex of 280 m2 located north of the forum in the lower area of the city. Excavations documented an earlier metallurgical production phase, which ended in the mid-I century A.D. This is a terminus post quem for the thermae construction, so this makes the thermae the earliest public building of the city. It is an angular row type balneum (Nielsen, I. 1990), and has an “L”-shaped plan consisting of an apodyterium, frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium, hypocaustum, a well and two peripheral stances. This building, however, underwent several reorganisations. After their construction in the Claudian period (middle of the first cent. A.D.) the thermae were enlarged in the Flavian period (around 80 A.D.) by a nymphaeum with wall paintings and a much larger caldarium with a new system of wall heating. After an earthquake, probably in the late second cent. A.D., the building was renewed on a reduced scale, showing a slow-down of the economic situation at Munigua although bathing still continued. Another renewal with reused materials took place after another earthquake at the end of the third cent. A.D.; this construction shows that the thermae were still used as a place for bathing and meeting. According to ceramics and coins, this situation changed in the IV and V Cent. A.D. when the building was used as working place and supplier of building materials, as for example, burnt bricks.

Although the thermae were excavated during the 1970s (Hauschild 1962; Hauschild 1969; Grünhagen 1977; Grünhagen and Hauschild 1977), some sealed deposits remained, which preserve a complete diachronic sequence: At the base is a metallurgical furnace excavated in the granite with associated dumped deposits of charcoal, ash, and slags, revealing multiple combustion events. In turn, these are sealed by a pavement of opus signinum dating to the construction of the thermae. The sequence continues upward with finely stratified Late Roman deposits, which originated when the building lost the bath function, and were sealed by a later opus signinum pavement.

  • Mario Gutiérrez-Rodríguez (Soil Micromorphology)
  • Paul Goldberg (Soil Micromorphology)
  • Francisco Martín Peinado (Physico-Chemical Analyses)
  • Thomas Schattner (Archaeology)
  • Wolfram Martini (Archaeology)

This geoarchaeological study has been extensively published in: Gutiérrez-Rodríguez, M., Goldberg, P., Martín Peinado, F.J., Schattner, T., Martini, W., Orfila, M., Bashore, C., 2019. Melting, bathing and melting again. Urban transformation processes of the Roman city of Munigua: the public thermae. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 11, 51–67.

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