The Bath Complex

Located on the Lower Terrace of the Gioiella-Vaiano Villa site, the bath complex consists of at least three rooms. Only the substructure, the hypocaust system, is preserved. Nevertheless, three rooms can be identified and the finds indicate a well-decorated bath house that contributes to the overall luxury of the villa.

Plan of the Bath Complex indicating the pillars for the hypocaust system (red circles) and the cocciopesto lining of the walls (plan by R. Kerns and P. Foss with ArcGIS)..
Water pitcher found in situ on the floor of the hypocaust in Vano B (photo S. Spiganti).

The largest room, Vano B on the north, is probably the caldarium, the hot room, of the bath. A channel on the north side of the room may be the stoke hole for piping hot air into the room. The east side of Vano B is apsidal. This part of the room appears to have extra support from below and does not have mosaic decoration, suggesting that there was likely a bathtub in the apse. On the floor of Vano B was a water pitcher (broken but with all fragments recovered) that appears to have fallen through the floor after the bath house was abandoned and the building began to collapse. Pitchers like this were used in bath houses to pour cold water over oneself while sweating in the caldarium.

View west of the Bath Complex at the Gioiella-Vaiano Villa. Vano A (rectangular room) is to the south and part of Vano B (apsidal room) is visible to the north. Behind Vano A, a third room, Vano C, was identified but remains on partially excavated. (Photo: R. Schindler)
Explore the 3D model of the north side of Vano B. Model: R. Kerns

To the south, Vano A is a rectangular room, although its eastern side has not been identified. Between Vano A and Vano B there is short passage through the walls that would have allowed air to flow from one room to other. For this reason, Vano A is identified as the tepidarium, warm room, of the bath. This area was difficult to excavated due to modern disturbance of the archaeological layers and we decided to leave some of the debris in place in order to preserve the pillars of the hypocaust. Behind Vano A, to the west, a line of cocciopesto wall facing indicates a third room, Vano C. This may have been the frigidarium.

Gioiella-Vaiano Villa Bath Complex, trench D2 view west. To the south the thin line of cocciopesto forms the apse of Vano B; perpendicular to the apse is a later north-south stone wall supporting a drain oriented west-east. (Photo: R. Schindler)

Each of the three rooms has a thin coating of pink cocciopesto on the inside of the walls. This forms a water-proof surface on the interior. It is appears that sections of the walls for the Bath Complex were cut directly into the natural sediment, here sand, and that this sand forms the support for the cocciopesto, while other sections, such as the apse, have stone support walls. In a late phase of the Villa’s occupation, the Bath Complex ceases to be used for bathing. However, the area continues to be used for other purposes, the specifics of which are unclear. A late north-south wall is constructed perpendicular to the north wall of the apse in Vano B and a series of re-used roof tiles are laid west-east over that wall to form a drain.

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