The Pit and its Relics

The most important discovery connected with the excavation of the baths was, however, the great pit (LVII) already referred to, which lay on the north side underneath the base of the rampart. Here the cobbles towards the north had subsided—a sure indication that something was to be looked for below them. The subsidence had perhaps been expected by the builders of the rampart, for at this point the layer of cobbles was two feet thick, and was placed upon a bed of yellow clay eighteen inches thick, such as was frequently used in filling disused holes. The pit was more or less square, measuring seventeen feet by eighteen feet at the mouth. In the upper levels were a number of bricks which had doubtless been used for lining the walls of the baths. These were scored for plaster. There were also one or two fragments of tegulae mammatae—tiles with points projecting so as to leave an open space for hot air between them and the wall. At twelve feet was a human skull. A little lower came a fragment of a dish of Terra Sigillata with the maker's name IVLLINI, a little lower again a charred piece of oak, a bronze camp kettle, a small tankard handle, a strigil, a short sword with a bronze mounting, a fragment of a larger sword, a sword bent double with part of its hilt of bone, five iron hub rings, a hippo-sandal, several much rusted pieces of iron, and a small cube of bone bearing marks which showed it to be a die. At fifteen feet there were recovered a bronze helmet mask, a lamp of iron, the pieces of a coarse earthenware bowl, and yet another sword—this time the typical heavy blade of the legionary. Towards the bottom, which was reached at twenty feet, were two bronze pots, a rake, and a very fine bronze oenochoe.

The whole find is of the highest interest. The bronze jug with its lotus decoration, the strigil, and the die bring back to us the more luxurious side of life at Newstead. With them we must class the enamelled fibulae, the playing 'men' of bone, and the gem with a figure of Helios found on the ruined floors above. But what interpretation are we to put on the broken and twisted sword blades, the heavy gladius, the charred oak beam, the dead man's skull, and the beautiful crushed visor-mask? For a moment we seem to peep behind the curtain which hides from us some tragedy. Perhaps the earliest occupation ended in disaster. At the west end of the oldest part of the bath building were the remains of a second skull. Possibly after some abandonment the weapons lay on the surface beside the ruins and were thrown into the pit when it was filled up.