The Archaeological Park

Amedeo Maiuri's plan of 1958
Amedeo Maiuri’s plan of 1958

Anyone fortunate enough to find a copy of Robert Paget’s book ‘In the Footsteps of Orpheus’, where he describes his discovery of the tunnels at Baia will find that he makes references to the various sections of the bath complex according to the numbered sections in the plan above. The buildings we are concerned with here are in the upper sections of IV and to a lesser extent III which has the same orientation and a tunnel too.

The plan was printed in Amedeo Maiuri’s guidebook ‘I Campi Flegrei’, which is still in print in Italian, English and other languages.

Maiuri’s error

A glaring error on the plan is that Amedeo’s north isn’t – somehow he has it considerably out of true. The main tunnel, which Paget called the ‘Great Antrum 270’ (ie 270º on the compass) runs east-west, I have corrected Amedeo Maiuri’s drawing, to avoid confusion:

In September 2013 Peter Knight, a member of Doc Paget’s original archaeological team, sent me the extract of a letter from Doc Paget’s personal correspondence, written in 1970, to Professor John D’Arms, author of ‘Romans on the Bay of Naples.’

“… You people who live overseas and have to rely on short visits to sites and get the rest from books or local talent, are at a great disadvantage as you cannot have any chance of checking the dope that you read or are handed out.

… Even people like Beloch wrote about places he had obviously never seen. Everything about the Gulf of Pozzuoli until scuba diving enabled underwater research to take place, is the most arrant rubbish. The greatest offenders are Maiuri and Parascandolo. Even the Compass Rose in the plan on page 8 is 30º out”.

So Doc Paget was well aware of the mistake in Maiuri’s plan, which has been repeated by other people ever since.

Looking closer at the entrances

Amedeo's entrances

Amedeo Maiuri gave instructions to his workmen not to investigate the tunnel further back than about the rear of the Tholos. due to the possibility of toxic gases emitting from it.

Workmen cleared the trench below the Greek Temple and thus established the true height of the 400 foot (122 metre) tunnel leading into the hillside, Paget’s Great Antrum 270º.

Maiuri shows that the tunnel extended eastwards to an octagonal bath room. There is a slight kink in the tunnel where it enters under the foundations of the Greek Temple, suggesting that this extension was a later addition.

The situation in reality is not quite as simple as this, as this website aims to point out.

Yegul's entrances Yegul's lower level

An article published in the Art Bulletin of March 1996, called ‘The Thermo-Mineral Complex at Baiae and De Balneis Puteolanis’ by Fikret K. Yegül shows a plan of both the level of the surface buildings – the left drawing – and the level below it – the right drawing. Yegül states his plans are after Maiuri and indeed he copies the wrong north direction of Maiuri’s original plan on both of his drawings.

The drawing clearly shows that on the lower level there is a building with its corner cut across, with an entrance to a tunnel. Although this is shown going only a short distance towards the hill, in fact it joins up with the tunnel under the Greek Temple which he shows in the other drawing.

On Yegül’s upper level drawing we can see that he shows a dotted passage leading to chamber at the top centre right of the plan.This was the first tunnel to be investigated by Paget and Jones in 1962. Like the main complex of tunnels, it had been deliberately blocked and filled with earth in Roman times, before the site was buried in volcanic ash. Paget and Jones made metal scoops for their hands and in their own words burrowed in like rabbits. The tunnel angle shown here is wrong, but the tunnel does lead to a chamber within the hill, with some other extremely narrow tunnels running from it.

Yegül, or Maiuri if Yegül is copying his drawing here, seems to have extrapolated this tunnel-to-chamber idea by adding a similar chamber to Paget’s Great Antrum 270º. In reality it does nothing of the kind. Yegül should have known this as he was aware of Paget’s work and he quotes Paget’s paper ‘The Great Antrum at Baiae: A Preliminary Report’ (Papers of the British School at Rome).

Yegül elsewhere takes Paget’s measurement of the tunnels extending 300 metres into the hill at face value, but dismisses the whole notion of a ritual site as ‘fanciful and controversial’. He has clearly not been down there, as a he makes an error by stating that the sanctuary ‘might have provided a rest station just before the steep descent into the boiling sources of water and sulfurous vapors’. The sanctuary is not on the way to the water at all, it lies above it. It does not reside before the steep descent to the Styx, which starts at the dividing door some distance before it.

R F Paget’s entrances, Discovered in the early 1960s

Yegul's lower level

What Paget found was the three entrance tunnels shown at left in red, with a fourth tunnel leading from the temple to a point above the main tunnel. There is a wider tunnel leading from the building with the corner cut off which meets the tunnel under the temple. It is on a bearing of 280º.

Entrance one starts about 6 feet or 1.825 metres from the corner of the Temple, where it constricts to a width of about 0.55 of a metre (22 inches) and changes direction to 275º, before continuing this direction in a gun barrel straight line until an S bend obscures the view of a dividing door beyond it. A further complex set of tunnels proceeds from this point.

The other two entrances Paget called The Original Entrance, which is adjacent to the Greek Temple and one which enters at the back of the Tholos.

The Tholos entrance has been bricked up where it meets the main tunnel. A Roman pipe once lead into the main tunnel from outside the hill. Its remains sit on a shelf. The pipe leads back through the bricked up entrance to the Tholos tunnel and this is how the Romans pumped hot water into the later bath conversion. Hot water and steam for the baths did not come from within the hill here. The tunnel leads the wrong way for water flow, it slopes into the hill, not out.

The tunnel leading from a chamber at the back of the Greek Temple is at a higher level and is assumed to lead to where there is a tile set in the tunnel roof below at the junction of the main tunnel and the tunnel from the Tholos. The passage is blocked some way in by a land fall.

The tunnels themselves will be discussed elsewhere on this site.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Gary

    Apologies if i haven’t searched well enough for the answer to my question.
    I am presently reading ‘The Jesus Papers’, and just now reading about the tunnels at Baia.
    Michael writes that you are still waiting for permission to excavate further.
    I was sorry to find after doing some googling that he passed away.
    Did you succeed in excavating further? And if so what did you find?
    Thanks in advance for any information 🙂

    1. Persephone Hades

      Much has changed since ‘The Jesus Papers’ was written. Not least that Michael Baigent regrettably died some years ago. Paola Miniero, who was the Superintendent for Antiquities at the time of Michael and Robert’s entry, has retired and Dr Talamo has taken over. For some inexplicable reason Dr Talamo gave exclusive exploration rights in 2014 to an IT man and amateur caver. A survey of the tunnels was made by this man in 2014, but none of his survey work has been published, six years later. There will be no real surprises even if he did. Any future excavation will not only take endless red tape to gain the necessary permissions, but is also fraught with other problems of logistics, manpower and a large amount of cash, which would need to be raised somehow. A plan for soil removal was devised, agreed with Paolo Miniero and a financial benefactor found by Robert Temple, however this plan failed, for reasons which I can’t publish.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.