Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a 12th-century bathhouse at a well-known bar in the southern Spanish city of Seville.
Cerveceria Giralda has been operating in the heart of the city since 1923, but the bar is housed in a building with a much longer history.
While vaulted ceilings suggested it may have been a spa and historical records said it had been one in the area, no one had found concrete evidence of its existence, University of Seville archaeologist Fernando Amores told CNN on Thursday.
Now window lights and red geometric paintings dating back to the 12th century have been discovered during the recent renovation work.
Restoration of window lights and paintings found under the decoration installed in the 1920s. Credit: Fernando Amores
In the 12th century, Seville was ruled by the Almohad caliphate, a Muslim Berber empire of North Africa that controlled most of the modern-day Iberian Peninsula – Spain and Portugal at the time.
Amores was part of a team of experts who collaborated to restore what he called a “very unusual” discovery.
The headlights are made in the shape of eight-pointed stars, and the red ocher paintings form interconnected geometric patterns.
There are four types of window lights in different sizes. Credit: Fernando Amores
Star-shaped windows are typical of hammams and there are four different types in different sizes, Amores said. However, the fact that the paintings completely covered the walls and ceiling is unusual, he added.
“It forms a beautiful sky,” Amores said, with light flowing through the windows reminiscent of the stars at night.
The intricate craftsmanship shows the importance of the spa, which was located near the city’s main mosque when it was built, he said.
There is more restoration work to be done, Amores said, but additional funding will be needed.
Archaeologists are also conducting carbon encounters in the mortar – a fine plaster – to get a more accurate construction date, Amores added.
Star-shaped windows are typical of hammams. Credit: Alvaro Jimnez
The project has been a collaboration between the building owners, the site owners and the team of archaeologists, Amores said, explaining that the whole process has been a triumph of collaboration.
“We are very happy,” he said.
The owners decided to do some renovation work last summer, a local spokesman told CNN. Until then, the original features were covered by a layer of decoration installed in the early 20th century.
As work uncovered evidence of the bath, archaeologists were brought in to oversee, the spokesman added. The bathrooms had at least three rooms, they said, which are now used as the kitchen and two dining rooms.
Architect Francisco Diaz told local television station Canal Sur that archaeologists initially found nothing of interest, but then a flash of light was found on the ceiling. “From there it was like pulling a veil and all the window lights started to show up,” Diaz said.
Cerveceria Giralda serves tapas and beer, and is very popular in Seville.
“We think it (the bar) can be open to the public within a month, combining restaurant operations with possible visits at certain times,” the spokesman said.
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