Protecting our past! Heritage Malta backfills Roman Baths to prevent further damage
The Għajn Tuffieħa Roman Baths were discovered by accident in 1929.
The Roman Baths found in Għajn Tuffieħa have been backfilled with layers of protective materials in order to conserve them for future generations, in the first ever intervention of its kind by Heritage Malta.
While structures on site provide the valuable baths with shelter from sun and rain, they sadly offer no protection against heat, wind and water seeping beneath. Besides erosion caused by the elements, damage has also been caused to the baths by small animals foraging in the area, plant roots, and people’s footsteps along the years, even though the site has only occasionally been opened to the public.
To prevent further damage, Heritage Malta has decided to preserve the site in its current state, which could only be achieved by backfilling it temporarily, providing a similar environment to that where it lay for some 2000 years prior to its discovery.
It’s been a long time coming
Plans for the conservation of the Roman Baths had been drafted for quite some time. In fact, two years ago, a trial was conducted by backfilling a small area on site, with the same materials used this time.
Following a detailed analysis of the site, in the month prior to this intervention, emergency conservation works were carried out by Heritage Malta’s conservator-restorers. These included consolidation works, plastering of cracks and plant removal. Detached mosaic pieces were put back in place so as not to be lost and so as to recreate the pattern. And every step was documented, including 3D modelling by Heritage Malta’s archaeologists.
And it can all be undone
The stratigraphy employed in the site’s backfilling is recognisable and reversible, enabling future archaeologists and conservator-restorers to distinguish the materials from the original site!
More about the Roman Baths
The Għajn Tuffieħa Roman Baths were discovered by accident in 1929, when workers were digging a trench to supply nearby fields with fresh water from a natural spring in the area. They informed Sir Temi Zammit, the Museums Director at the time, who excavated the site in 1929 and 1930 and who believed that the bathing complex dates back to the first or second century after Christ.
The complex, whose location was probably chosen in order to fully exploit the natural source of water in the vicinity, consists of pools and chambers. One of the chambers was kept warm and is, in fact, elevated, resting on a number of arches where fire would heat up the water.