Category Archives: SWITZERLAND

Roman Bath Discovered in Swiss Spa Town

Roman Bath Discovered in Swiss Spa Town

In the Swiss city of Baden, a Roman bath part of an ancient spa has been uncovered. It was dismantled at the new pipeline in Baden’s Kurplatz city center and in extremely good condition, completed with finely designed entry steps.

The Roman bath as uncovered at the building site in Baden

It dates back to the second half of the 1st or early 2nd century, according to archeologists. It was connected to a much later concrete conduit that piped the water from the thermal springs to the reservoir.

After finding a hot spring on the left bank of the Limmat river a few kilometers far off from the legionary settlement of the Vindonissa (modern day Windisch), Baden was founded by Romans as Aquae Helveticae about 20 A.D.

A civilian settlement grew around the mineral baths. It was burned by the legions during the upheavals of the Year of the Four Emperors (69 A.D.) but was quickly rebuilt in stone this time. The basin dates to the time of that reconstruction.

The highly mineralized waters always at a comfortable 47° C (117° F) combined with its riverbank location and a short distance from Zurich (less than 15 miles) made Aquae Helveticae a popular and easily accessible destination throughout the Roman period and beyond.

Even during times of decline, like when the troops left Vindonissa in the early 2nd century, the Roman baths were in continuous operation. In the 4th century, a defensive wall was built to protect the baths after the onslaught of Germanic incursions in the mid-3rd century.

While there is no surviving documentation of the use of the thermal baths after the collapse of the empire, but archaeological evidence does suggest at least some of the Roman facilities remained in operation through the 9th century.

By the 13th century, Aquae Helveticae had been rebuilt with new bathing facilities and a new name: Baden, the Middle German word for baths.

Most of the ancient Roman city and bath facilities lie under the modern spa town.

The remains of three bathing basins and few structures confirm that the medieval thermal baths and the modern ones were built over the Roman site and within its perimeters.

With so little material to go by, the question of whether the Roman bathing infrastructure was in continuous use after the Fall is still an open one.

The newly-discovered basin is a key clue, especially with the conduit pointing to it having been used after the late medieval reconstruction of Baden.

The basin is thought to be part of Baden’s legendary open-air St Verena Baths that were used from the Middle Ages well into the 19th century. But the find was probably only used early on, and at some point during its history, the St Verena Baths were made smaller and the Roman bath was forgotten, archaeologists believe.

But it remains important for the town’s spa history because it may provide a clue to whether there was continuous use of the baths between Roman and Medieval times, which has not yet been proven.

“We are very happy that we have further evidence of a 2,000-year-old bathing history [in Baden],” added [Andrea] Schaer, who is leading the archaeological project.

Also found was the structure that captured the spring water, which was built in the Middle Ages, but directly on the original Roman structure.

Farmer discovers a huge hoard of more than 4,000 ancient Roman coins in Switzerland

Farmer discovers a huge hoard of more than 4,000 ancient Roman coins in Switzerland

One of the largest treasures of that type found in Switzerland was a hoard with over 4,000 bronze and silver coins dating back to ancient Rome, unearthed in the orchard by a fruit and vegetable farmer.

Some of the Roman coins found in Ueken, Aargau canton, which experts say were buried 1,700 years ago.

Several months ago, a Swiss farmer found the old coins in Ueken, a town in northwest Switzerland. He mistakenly planted them when his cherry trees were examined.

He then contacted local archaeological experts, who confirmed the presence of a collection of more than 4,000 bronze and silver Roman coins.

Large troves of Roman coins are often found in Britain. In 2009, a collection of nearly 60,000 rust-worn coins, known as the Frome Hoard, was found in a field in Somerset in 2009.

This Swiss collection is also one of the largest ever found outside of the UK, which makes it very special.

The discovery also coincides with a renewed global interest in Rome and Roman history, prompted by the discovery of an intact tomb at the archaeological site of Pompeii in October.

Archaeologists explain that the reason why Roman coins are typically found buried in large quantities maybe because they were offered as a ritual gift to the Roman gods.

This was the case for the Frome Hoard, but although the majority of the Swiss coins have been excavated, no definite answers for their original purpose have yet been hypothesized.

Archaeologists have determined that their owner systematically buried them between 270 and 294 AD, and never came back to recover them.

The coins were taken out of circulation shortly after they were issued, but the archaeologists estimate that they have been worth between one to two years’ wages at the time. The coins, made of bronze and silver components, have been remarkably well-preserved in the soil.

Near-mint: bronze coins dating back to Roman times

“The owner must have deliberately chosen these coins in order to hoard them,” Swiss coin expert Hugo Doppler explained to the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. “Their silver content would have guaranteed certain value conservation in a time of economic uncertainty.”

Swiss archaeologist Georg Matter was thrilled by the discovery.

“As an archaeologist, one hardly experiences something like this more than once in one’s career,” he told Spiegel Online.

As exciting as the discovery is, though, the Swiss farmer who first discovered the coins won’t be able to keep his find.

The couple got missing in 1942 found in Melting Swiss Glacier

The couple got missing in 1942 found in Melting Swiss Glacier

The bodies of a couple missing for 78 years have been disclosed by a melting Swiss glacier thawed by rising temperatures. It’s not exactly a happy ending for their relatives, but at least it’s an ending, after many decades of uncertainty.

The rural residents who lived near the Diablerets mountains, Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin went out to tend to their cows on 15 August 1942 and never returned. Now DNA matching has confirmed the recovered bodies are the missing couple.

Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, one of her daughters was 4 years old at the time of disappearance and now has 79 years old. She told Le Matin, Sarah Zeines, that she was three times climbing the glacier in the hope of finding traces of her parents

Francine and Marcelin Dumoulin disappeared in 1942.

“We spent our whole lives looking for them,” says Udry-Dumoulin. “I can say that after 78 years of waiting for this news gives me a deep sense of calm.”

The couple’s remains were uncovered on the Tsanfleuron glacier above the Les Diablerets ski resort by a ski lift worker, reports the BBC, at a height of 2,615 meters (8,579 feet). According to the director of the ski lift firm, it’s likely the pair fell into a crevasse.

Les Diablerets, Switzerland

Alongside their bodies were backpacks, a watch, tin bowls, a glass bottle, and male and female shoes still encased in ice. The bodies were found lying next to each other.

After the original disappearance, villagers spent two-and-a-half months searching for the Dumoulin’s, but eventually, their seven children were resettled with other families.

Marcelin and Francine, who were 40 and 37 respectively at the time of their disappearance, are far from the only missing people to be slowly revealed as the ice recedes.

Local police report that bodies hidden for decades are often uncovered,  and they have a list of 280 missing people stretching back to 1925.

Warmer temperatures have caused maximum snow depths in the Swiss Alps to drop by 25 percent since 1970, while the ski season has shrunk by 37 days at the same time – an indication of shifting snow levels.

Experts are crediting climate change for revealing other remains, like the two Japanese climbers discovered in the Swiss Alps in 2015, and the New Zealand climber whose body was found at the foot of the country’s Tasman glacier in the same year.

Back in 2014 the Italian Alps even gave up bodies of soldiers who died in World War I.

A steady trickle of frozen artifacts has been discovered in the same region since the 1990s, including a well-preserved love letter to someone named Maria.

As for the Dumoulin’s, they can now be given a proper funeral, although their daughter Marceline isn’t going to go for the usual black clothing.

“I think that white would be more appropriate. It represents hope, which I never lost,” she says.

Scientists Examine Iceman’s Neolithic Hunting Kit

Scientists identify 5,300-year-old sinew bowstring used by Otzi the Iceman

Swiss researchers are astounded to have identified Ötzi’s bowstring. Even though the Iceman had still been working on his bow, he carried a finished twisted string in his quiver which was made of animal fibers and not of plant fibers. It is elastic, extremely resilient, and is therefore ideal as a bowstring.

A length of cord found alongside the body of Ötzi the Iceman, the Neolithic hunter who was discovered entombed in ice high in the Dolomites, has been identified as a string for his wooden bow.

An extensive research project was carried out by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) which examined materials of Neolithic bows and arrows in detail for the first time. These were then compared to Ötzi’s equipment.

The cord, which was found tucked into a quiver used by the 5,300-year-old Iceman for keeping his arrows, is made of animal sinew – ideal material for producing a strong, powerful bow.

It is two meters long, almost exactly the same length as the bow that was found beside the mummified body of the hunter when he was discovered by a pair of hikers on the Schnalstal glacier in 1991.

“We had long hoped (for this) and now it has finally been confirmed by science: the cord in Ötzi’s quiver is indeed a bowstring and it fits his bow perfectly,” the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology, where the mummified body of the Neolithic tribesman is kept in a climate-controlled chamber, said in a statement.

The preserved remains of Ötzi the Iceman

It was previously thought the cord was made of plant material, but plant fibers “would not have withstood the tension of the bow and as such wouldn’t have been suitable for a bowstring,” said experts from the museum in Bolzano, in the German-speaking north of Italy.

The bowstring has been declared the oldest known and best preserved in the world.

The scientists from the Swiss National Science Foundation also discovered that the Copper Age hunter’s bow had been freshly-cut from a yew tree. It was not yet finished – they found marks left by a hatchet which would have been used to whittle and shape the wood.

A length of cord has been identified as a string for his wooden bow

“While arrows and arrowheads are relatively common finds worldwide, complete sets of hunting equipment consisting of bows, arrows, and sometimes even quivers are extremely rare and are only known from glacier finds of the Alpine arc,” the scientific team said.

“Prehistoric bowstrings are among the rarest of all finds in archaeological excavations. “The cord contained in Ötzi’s quiver may be the oldest preserved bowstring in the world,” said the experts, who published their research in the Journal of Neolithic Archeology.

They found that the hunter’s quiver was stitched from the skin of a chamois. A flap of leather protected the interior of the quiver, which held 14 arrows when Ötzi died.

“If required, it could be opened very quickly and an arrow could be pulled out with a single motion of the arm,” the scientists said. The discovery of Ötzi, in a 3,210m high mountain pass on the border of Austria and Italy, caused a sensation.

Intensive analysis of his weapons, clothes, and body – older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids – have added immeasurably to the understanding of the Neolithic age.  

Ötzi died after being struck in the back by an arrow, sparking a long-running mystery as to who may have wanted to kill him and why – the ultimate cold case.

His body and belongings were superbly preserved by the snow and ice of the mountains. He is thought to have been about 45 when he was murdered – a good age for the era.