The remarkably well-preserved remains of Roman baths have arisen from the sand dunes at Caños de Meca beach, near Cádiz, in southern Spain.
It is one of the latest discoveries to be documented in a research project that has also uncovered a megalithic Bronze Age tomb and a Roman maritime villa, both at nearby Cape Trafalgar.
As authorised by the Ministry of Culture and Historical Heritage of the Junta de Andalucía, a team of researchers led by Professor Darío Bernal from the University of Cádiz has been investigating the Roman remains of oyster and fish farming in the southern Iberian Peninsula and North Africa.
Whilst searching for old lagoons and marshy sites that may have been used as fish or crustacean farms, the archaeologists came across the 4m-high walls of the Roman baths emerging from the sand.
According to Professor Bernal, ‘the structure has an exceptional state of conservation’. It retains several windows and a door with its lintels still in place. An excavation of two rooms revealed the remains of a hypocaust system for heating the walls and flooring.
The communal baths were most likely used by local workers involved in coastal processing activities such as fish farming and salting.
Chronological dating confirms the site was abandoned in the 5th century AD, before it eventually disappeared beneath the dunes.
As part of this research project, named ‘ARQUEOSTRA’, archaeological investigations at Cape Trafalgar earlier this spring also unearthed a ‘Roman maritime village’. Remains of murals exquisitely adorned with floral motifs and geometric designs were uncovered, as were seven salting pools, two of which contained organic material associated with the production of the popular Roman fish sauce, garum.
The Roman villa and salting pools, dating from the 1st century BC-1st century AD, provides evidence that Cape Trafalgar was a significant maritime production centre within the Roman empire.
An intact Bronze Age megalithic tomb dating to the first half of the second millennium BC was also unearthed near the village. It comprises a corridor, flanked by four orthostats on either side, that leads off into a circular chamber.
The skeletal remains of six individuals were also recovered from the tomb, with one wearing a spectacular stone-bead necklace.
Professor Bernal’s team will conduct further biomolecular, palaeogenetic, and isotopic analysis to shed light on the geographical origin, kinship, and diet of those buried in the tomb, and they expect their continued excavation work and archaeological surveys to reveal further insight into the Roman maritime past of southern Spain.