Second entrance to the sewers found during the University of Alicante's ASTERO project excavations at La Alcudia, in cooperation with the Provincial Firefighter Consortium
A team made up of the chief firefighter and engineer and rescue firefighters have worked with the technicians and lecturers involved in the excavations at La Alcudia in Elche during the second ASTERO project campaign
With the results of the next campaign, the team will find out when the Roman city was abandoned
Images courtesy of the Virtual Heritage Research Group
Alicante. 14 May 2018
During the 2017 campaign at La Alcudia in Elche, one of the findings by the ASTERO project scientific team was the main entrance to the baths on the western side, after years of excavations. Works were suspended, however, until a team of firefighters could get involved. As stated by Dr Jaime Molina Vidal, professor of Ancient History at the University of Alicante and principal investigator of the project, called "Archaeology and socialisation of knowledge at La Alcudia in Elche. The Eastern Baths and surrounding areas (ASTERO)", “last year we cleaned the sewers, the sections which had been unearthed long ago; we started the excavations but there was a dangerous area, which is why we asked the firefighters to take part.” Mr Molina explains that, in the end, “the oxygen level was measured at several points to access and check the condition of the vaults, to see if there was risk of collapse.”
The participation of the Provincial Firefighter Consortium has been indispensable, as the sewers (which have walls and vaults) are three metres underground, and this was the place the lecturers and researchers involved in the project had to access to remove earth and continue the excavations, under the firefighters’ supervision. Therefore, during this second campaign, the technical and research staff worked alongside members of the Provincial Firefighter Consortium twice a week. In this regard, the coordination and participation of chief firefighter Vicente Molina, who is also an engineer, and of a team of rescue bombers were essential. According to the director of the excavation, “to avoid risks such as collapses or lack of oxygen, cooperation between both teams has been essential. Moreover, only specialised staff were allowed access, never students.”
The scientists have discovered that the sewer turns. This has allowed them to calculate the direction and, at a street crossing, they have looked for and found another access to the sewer, about fifteen metres away from the only entrance known so far. The new access has already been opened, but the experts point out that this section of the sewer is blocked.
During next year’s campaign, the UA professor says, they “intend to go on with the excavations under the firefighters’ supervision.” Jaime Molina states that they will keep on working in this area. The aim is to find out when the city’s sanitation system was abandoned. “This is extremely important, as the abandonment of the main facilities and the use of the first cesspits delimit the abandonment of the Roman city,” the expert argues. In the next campaign, the excavations will be three and a half metres underground.
Last year, the team was excavating the thermal area of hot air, where two rooms were found. In this campaign two more rooms have been discovered, twice as large as the first ones. “Right now the baths are much larger than expected, with twice as much thermal space as we had estimated in early hypotheses,” professor Molina says. Next year, the ASTERO group will excavate the hot room, while this year they are excavating the warm room. “Much work is still to be done,” he reveals.