November 6, 2012

Notes from the bath house

Filed under: Egypt, Field photos — acagle @ 7:32 am

More photos! Today I was clearing out more of the tepidarium and noticed that some of the bricks seemed to be resting in some kind of order rather than all jumbled up together as they were in the rest of the room. I cleared away some of the sand and found that they had indeed fallen roughly as they were sitting as part of the roof:

They used somewhat flatter and more square bricks for the vaulted ceiling which, if I ever remember to do so, will take of photo of them. Here is another shot:

A couple of the bricks have been broken but you can still see how they overlapped to create the vaulting. One other thing to notice: They are sitting pretty much right on top of the stone floor:

That’s the “front” view and you can see that there’s very little if any sand between the bricks and the floor. This indicates that the roof fell either shortly after the previous project cleared out the room (likely, IMO) or sometime after it had been cleared of sand. I doubt the latter has happened since 1975 because of the amount and density of the sand in there. So I wonder if this room, and probably the others, were largely encased in sand thus supporting the roof and then it came tumbling down when the sand was cleared? That’s not to blame the earlier project, just to explain.

These next two are from the entry courtyard, whence a person would enter the bath. Sometimes also called an apodyterium or disrobing room, this one has benches on three walls:

That’s a stone piece on the seat with some dried and some fired mud bricks. Here’s a bit closer shot:

The place looks totally different from before we took the sand out. It feels far more like an actual building now, in large part because the walls are higher without 50 cm of sand raising you up and covering up the lower parts of the walls.

I am, however, keenly aware that the sand we are removing has been protecting parts of the building. Nevertheless, one big reason we are doing all of this is to assess the state of the building and we are bringing in several conservators to examine it as well. It looks like we will have a certain amount of money to put towards repairing what needs to be repaired and putting toward mitigating actions to keep it from deteriorating further. Part of this may well mean closing it off for public entry — it’s been wide open for people to walk in and basically do whatever they want. Part of ‘doing whatever they want’ is laying in the tubs which, to be fair, would make a great shot. But the plaster in the tubs is fairly fragile and it just can’t withstand a lot of people stepping on it and such. On top of that, many walls and wall stubs will be getting hit with backpacks and such and it’s just a matter of time before they start keeling over as well. So, we will probably end up closing most of it off. The walls are short enough that you can easily see inside so at least viewing won’t be hindered very much.

It’s the classic tradeoff between being able to view something and the inevitable damage that is done when that something is removed from its natural protection: the ground. Frankly, I’d rather be doing this than digging up new stuff, some of which may or may not ever see the light of day again (or get analyzed) and end up deteriorating.

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