Professor Jens Koehler Presents Paper on Roman Spa Cities at International Conference in Chaves, Portugal

The ancient Roman spa in the center of Chaves

The ancient Roman spa in the center of Chaves

JCU Art History Professor Jens Koehler participated in the conference “Symposium Aquae: Spa Cities in the Roman Empire – Cidades Termais No Império Romano” from October 16 -18 in Chaves, Portugal.

Professor Koehler was invited by the organizer, Sérgio Carneiro, and by the city council of Chaves, to present a paper entitled The Golden Age of Spas: Roman Thermal Baths of the High Empire (2nd Century AD).

The reason for the meeting were the nearly completed excavations of a Roman spa complex in Chaves. Chaves, the ancient Aquae Flaviae, is in the north of Portugal, about 120 km East of Porto. In the center of the city, close to the ancient Roman bridge across the Tamega river, 73° Celsius hot springs are still filling several large pools, probably dating to the Severan period (early 3rdcentury AD). Outstanding finds were made, such as wooden bowls and a bronze container for playing dice. The archaeological site will soon become a museum, and a network for the touristic promotion of spa cities is on the way.

Archaeologists from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Turkey participated in the conference, each contributing examples of ancient spas and methodological considerations. An excursion to Galicia, the north-western region of Spain, allowed them to visit the spas at Lugo and at As Burgas (Ourense) under the guidance of the excavators. The conference was followed by many journalists and interested locals. Koehler said the hospitality was overwhelming, from his hotel inside an old fortress to the Portuguese food and wines.