Ancient gemstones discovered in the drains of Roman baths, archaeologists say

Millions of Brits are estimated to have lost jewelry down drain pipes, amounting to over $1 billion in losses, according to a 2015 survey.

It turns out, their Roman forebears had the same habit of misplacing valuables down drains, according to new archaeological findings.

Over 30 artfully engraved gemstones have been discovered in the drains of a 2,000-year-old Roman bath in Carlisle, England, according to the BBC.

The small stones likely fell out of rings worn by bathers and wound up trapped in the ductwork, the outlet reported.

“They were set with a vegetable glue and in the hot and sweaty bath house they fell out of the ring settings,” Frank Giecco, an ancient Roman expert and head of the excavation project, told the BBC.

All of the unearthed gemstones, which vary in size and color, are shown here.
All of the unearthed gemstones, which vary in size and color, are shown here.

The degree of craftsmanship associated with the stones, some of which were amethyst and jasper, indicated they were high-priced items that their owners likely sorely missed, according to The Guardian.

“You don’t find such gems on low-status Roman sites,” Giecco told the outlet. “So they’re not something that would have been worn by the poor.”

Mesopotamians likely first wore these types of gemstone rings, known as intaglios, about 5,000 years ago, according to ArtNews. Because of their unique engravings, which occasionally depicted portraits of philosophers, they were used to “sign” documents.

The bathhouse itself was initially discovered in 2017, according to the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle. Its remains were found inside a large Roman fort attached to Hadrian’s Wall, the northernmost point of the expansive Roman Empire.

Among some of the other artifacts unearthed at the site were bone hair pins, pottery and gaming pieces, the museum’s website states.

The museum will eventually display the gemstones for visitors to see, according to the BBC.

Researchers associated with the excavation did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on Feb. 1.

Carlisle is about 100 miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland.

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