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Excavations in Georgia reveal Roman military bathhouse mosaic

Excavations in Georgia reveal Roman military bathhouse mosaic

Amosaic floor has been discovered by a Polish-Georgian archaeological expedition in a section of a Roman military bath house at the Apsaros fortress near Batumi. It is the first such discovery in the Adjara region and one of only a few in the whole of Georgia.

Apsaros fortress was located on the only convenient route from Colchis (western Georgia) to the Roman provinces in Asia Minor, hence its strategic importance.

Excavations in the modern village of Gonio, where the fortress is located, have been conducted since 27 June by researchers, students and volunteers. Up until now, they have unearthed only part of the mosaic, which consists of geometric motifs, but they still have three weeks of work ahead of them.

Although, many mosaics are found in the ancient Roman world, the one at Gonio is interesting, as it is a rare example of luxury flooring within a bathhouse built by the military for their own use. Other mosaics discovered in the southern Caucasus are later in date and were usually made for the local elite.

The early date of this discovery has surprised the researchers at the second half of the 1st century AD. The bathhouse was erected just after first Roman garrison appeared, probably during the reign of Vespasian (69-79 AD). The area containing the mosaic formed part of the bathhouse, the surface of which exceeded 1200 m2 and consisted of a number of rooms. The estimated size of the whole mosaic is thought to be about 100 m² and was laid on a floor under which there is a well preserved hypocaust, only partially filled in with soil.

The Polish team started working in Georgia in 2012, and wanted to find potential archaeological sites to carry out excavations along the Black Sea coast. However, early on their attention was directed towards the fortress in Gonio, where they carried out geophysical surveys. Last year’s excavations within the fortress uncovered three rooms, which are part of the large bath house, where work continues this season.