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Renovations Reveal Twelfth-Century Bath House in Spain

Thursday, February 18, 2021

SEVILLE, SPAIN—According to an El País report, renovation of a popular tapas bar on Seville’s Mateos Gago Street revealed the walls and skylights of a twelfth-century hammam, or bathhouse, built during the rule of the Almohad Caliphate. Archaeologist Fernando Amores explained that Seville was one of the two capitals of the Almohad Caliphate, which controlled much of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. The structure, painted with geometric decorations, stood near the city’s main mosque, now the site of a Christian cathedral. “The drawings were made in red ochre on white, and large fragments were preserved on the walls and vaulted ceilings. This is the only surviving Arab bath with an integral decoration; until now, the only known examples had paint just on the baseboards,” added archaeologist Álvaro Jiménez. When the building was converted to a hotel in the early twentieth century, the hammam’s walls were covered. The modern bar’s main area, which features an eight-sided vaulted ceiling, is thought to have been the bath’s warm room. A rectangular dining area to the side features a barrel vault and probably served as the bath’s cold room. The hot room is thought to have been located on the site of the bar’s kitchen, but only a portion of a twelfth-century arch survives. To read about a hammam unearthed at the bustling medieval city of Aghmat, go to "Letter from Morocco: Splendor at the Edge of the Sahara."

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