Third Century Gems Recovered from Carlisle Bathhouse Excavation

Our Archaeologists in Carlisle first excavated at Carlisle Cricket Club in 2017 and last year, following support from Heritage Lottery Fund held the largest community excavation in the North of England.

On site our team, and dedicated volunteers have discovered a monumental Roman bathhouse complex; the largest Roman building so far discovered on Hadrian’s wall.

Gems that were discovered in the 2022 excavation came from the drain of a high status bathhouse on the site in heavy use around 200AD with a possible connection directly to the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus, and his wife Julia Domna.

We now have 34 intaglio from our site that were lost in the third century. Our archaeologists believe they are lost as a result of the hot, steamy and wet environment of a Roman bathhouse, where glue deteriorates and gems might easily become detached from signet rings, or occasionally the entire ring become detached from the finger and washed down the drain. It is not believed that that there is any ritual significance to the deposition as was once suggested for the intaglio discovered at the Roman baths at Bath.

The intaglio can be seen on many levels from pieces of art to connections to the individuals who owned them. It is noteworthy that very few have an obvious military connection as you might expect from a garrison town such as Carlisle but include deities such as Fortuna, Bonus Eventus, Apollo and Ceres.

The gems were found alongside a series of beautiful hairpins which suggests many of these jewels belonged to female rather than male owners. There is a distinct style to a number of the red jasper intaglio which may point to a jewellery workshop supplying the Hadrians wall zone based in Carlisle.

We hope to be back on site supported by the UK Government through the Shared Prosperity Fund, in May 2023.

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