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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 80    1965  page 76

Excavations at Eccles, 1964: Third Interim Report.
By A. P. Detsicas, M.A., F.S.A. Scot

The furnace-room was floored with a double layer of bonding-tiles which were found covered with a thick deposit of soot and ashes; the entrance into this room is not definitely known, though a gap in its south-east wall may represent it.
   Room 57 measured 15 by 10 feet 6 inches and was built with walls of the standard construction and thickness. Its function is not certain as its floor had been completely removed in later periods; it could have been heated from Room 52 through a flue, probably at the north corner of Room 52, but no evidence was found for this.
Similarly uncertain is the function of Rooms 55 and 56 (5 feet 6 inches by 10 feet 6 inches, and 7 feet 6 inches by 10 feet 6 inches, respectively). But Room 56 at least appears to have been heated from Room 58, since there was evidence for a flue in its north-west wall. However, both these rooms, and especially Room 55, were thoroughly demolished and levelled in later periods, in particular to allow the construction of Room 43 in Period V; there is a possibility that both rooms had floors of opus signinum laid down upon a solid foundation of mortared ragstone as elsewhere in the baths.
   Room 58, the hot plunge-bath of the suite, measured 14 feet 6 inches by 23 feet 6 inches and had walls of standard construction, except for the wall dividing it from its furnace-room, Room 46, which was 2 feet 6 inches thick and built entirely of coursed bonding-tiles set in bright yellow mortar on a foundation of ragstone. Room 58 was floored with opus signinum to a thickness of 6 inches, laid down on a solid foundation of mortared ragstone resting on the subsoil; this foundation layer was some 13 inches thick and identical with that found in 1963 below the floor of Room 28.10 Little doubt remains that this room was hypocausted in this phase as it certainly was in all subsequent ones; but, owing to the several major reconstructions in this area during the life of the baths, no direct evidence was found for a hypocaust on the opus signinum floor in the form either of pilae, their mortar pads or even masons' markings. But that one existed in this phase is clear from the function of the room as a hot plunge-bath and by surviving details bearing on the floor level. Its identity as a hot plunge-bath is proved by a very unusual feature in the form of evidence for a testudo in the arch connecting Room 58 with its furnace in Room 46. A testudo was a semi-cylindrical metal tank with its flat side set over the furnace and its end open to the bath below the surface of the water; by this means a circulation was set up which maintained the heat of the bath water.11 In Britain structural evidence for testudines is rarely found because walls do not often survive to sufficient height to preserve it. In the
   10 Arch. Cant. Ixxix (1964), 125.
   11 J. B. Ward Perkins and J. M. C. Toynbee, The Hunting Baths at Lepcis Magna, in Archaeologia, xciii (1949), 176-7.

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