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Bronze Age Settlement Found Under Roman Bath Complex at Corinth

Bronze Age Corinth
Spectacular finds from the site of Chiliomodi, ancient Corinth. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

A Bronze Age settlement and an elegant Roman bath complex were recently unearthed at the site of ancient Corinth, the Greek Ministry of Culture announced on Wednesday. The excavation at Chiliomodi, Corinth not only confirmed the existence of the extensive nature of the Roman baths but also revealed the existence of a Bronze Age settlement underneath, which had previously been unknown to researchers.

Archaeologists working the dig under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture date the original settlement in Tenea back to the 3rd millennium BC and say that it was one of the first to be created in the northeastern Peloponnesian peninsula of Greece.

The purpose of this year’s research, under the direction of Dr. Elenas Korka, was to further excavate the areas of the Roman baths that were excavated in 2019 and 2020, and to investigate the possible expansion of the surrounding market areas that were identified for the first time last year.

Elegant Roman-era baths juxtaposed with Bronze Age settlement

Baths from the time of the Emperor Vespasian were unearthed behind the arch of the western caldarium. An elevated floor made of clay tiles and masonry pipes were used to supply water to the series of baths and to drain the wastewater.

Eight coins were found in the area, one of which dates back to the end of the second century A.D. to the beginning of the third century A.D. The rest date back to the end of the fourth century A.D. to the beginning of the fifth century.

Other spectacular finds made during the excavation this year included a Roman-era bronze ring, a stone fork, lamps and even an entire marble colonnade.

However, the most meaningful discoveries made this year included the Bronze Age settlement located adjacent to the Roman baths. An entire conical wine cellar dating back to the end of the 7th century was one of the most unusual finds of all there.

Wine cellar
A gigantic hole that may have functioned as a wine cellar was also found at the site. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Archaeologists discovered the Bronze-Age settlement located just 45 meters (yards) north of the bath complex, at a depth of approximately 2 meters, covered by a two-meter-thick layer of crushed stone and ceramics shards.

The inner walls of what the researchers believe may have been a cone-shaped wine cellar was found, consisting of large clay tiles; on the upper part there are superimposed spiral levels, which most likely allowed people to descend and climb back up from the cellar.

Among the Bronze-Age findings from that site are figurines of rams, storage vases, parts of clay hearths with engraved decorations, parts possibly of portable clay offering tables with spiral and engraved decorations, tripod legs, jugs, numerous fragments of open vessels, and bottles with black and red paint.

A large number of flywheels, as well as obsidian pieces, blades and scales, as well as grinding tools, were also found at the Bronze Age site.

Roman baths Corinth
The site at ancient Corinth showing the extent of the Roman bath complex. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Roman baths at Corinth contained warm, cold rooms, locker rooms, treadmills

North of the “warm rooms,” which were used for the initial, hot baths that people would enjoy before they moved on to cooler baths, the third praefurnium of the baths, as well as the storage areas for the wood used to heat the baths were excavated.

The baths, which have a total area of ​​about 800 square meters (8,611 square feet) include three warm rooms (caldaria) with arches overhead; their small pools (alvei) had underfloor and wall heating, courtesy of the wood-fired furnaces. There are also three praefurnia, or sauna-like rooms, as well as two cold and lukewarm bath rooms, one of which is the piscina frigida.

The extensive, elegant Roman bath complex also includes locker rooms and treadmills, a three-way water filtration tank, a rainwater collection tank, and a water tower.

Bronze Age finds Chilimodi
Bronze Age finds from the Chilimodi site at ancient Corinth. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

The archaeologists believe that the public baths at Tenea were founded shortly before the middle of the second century A.D. two new construction phases followed, one in the fourth century A.D. and another in the 5th century, during which various repairs and building extensions were carried out.

To the east of the baths, the exploration of the commercial areas continued with the opening of new sections, extending both north and south, which were bordered by roads and lanes.

Six new rooms were located which seem to have provided housing at the bath complex. The excavation of the above areas helped significantly in the mapping of the urban fabric of the city, which is constantly being created with ever-greater clarity.

Roman bath site Corinth
Items found at the site of the Roman baths at ancient Corinth include a spectacular carnelian stone carved with the likeness of a young man. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Roman-era glass, stone seals, cosmetic containers found at site of baths

Pottery indicating commerce was also found at the site, including Roman-era glass and ceramic cosmetics vessels, pins, and lamps, along with product storage areas and a total of 179 coins dating from the end of the second century A.D. all the way to the middle of the sixth century A.D.

Further excavations in the room where the treasure of 30 gold coins minted during the reign of emperors Marcianos, Justin I and Justinian were found in 2020, yielded more than 120 new coins, bringing the total number of coins to 202, which archaeologists believe indicates the high level of economic activity that once took place in that area.

Deeper down, an earlier building from the late Hellenistic period was subsequently unearthed; its secrets will be unlocked during the next excavation season in 2022. Two new buildings were excavated further north and further south of the above-mentioned market areas, indicating the expansion of the city in both directions.

The Ministry of Culture announcement noted that the excavations of the main body of the bath complex have now been completed.

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