For 1,500 years, this Roman bath complex lay undisturbed beneath the sand dunes of Caños de Meca beach, in south-western Spain. The remains of the structure were uncovered during recent surveys by a team of archaeologists from the University of Cádiz researching Roman oyster and fish farming in the region. The buildings emerged from the sand in an exceptional state of preservation. Unlike many Roman ruins in the Iberian Peninsula, where only the foundations survive, this structure stands over 4m tall, with entire walls, windows, and doorways still intact.
At present, two rooms have been excavated, revealing evidence of a hypocaust system that warmed the walls and floors with hot air, suggesting that this part of the building contained heated rooms (caldaria or tepidaria), as well as remnants of red, white, and black stucco and marble which indicate that the baths were richly decorated. Much of the site remains hidden beneath the beach, but it is believed to cover an area of more than 1.5ha.
The complex is thought to have been a communal bath used by local residents who worked in coastal jobs like fish farming and salting, which are known to have been common in this area. It was abandoned in Late Antiquity, around the 5th century AD.
Text: Amy Brunskill
Image: Universidad de Cádiz – LABAP
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