Archaeologists Unearth Britain\'s Own Miniature Coliseum

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Archaeologists Unearth Britain's Own Miniature Coliseum

A very interesting read. Amazing that such a dominant structure totally disappeared.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of Britains own miniature Coliseum, it was revealed today.

The two-tier stone built structure, in Chester, which dates back to 100AD, hosted gladiatorial contests, floggings and public executions.

Experts say the amphitheatre is the only one of its kind in Britain and the new evidence proves that Chester must have been an important site within the Roman Empire.

Dan Garner, senior archaeologist for Chester City Council, said:
... Quote:
Previous findings have suggested that the amphitheatre was a two-tier structure, but it was always believed the second tier was made of timber.

We have now discovered the upper level was actually made of stone and stood about ten metres (33ft) high. It would have looked like a mini Coliseum and had a seating capacity of around 10,000 to 12,000.

The extra tier would have been added as the popularity of the amphitheatre grew, a bit like adding an extra tier at Old Trafford. It would have been a very impressive structure.

English Heritage archaeologist Tony Wilmott, who has also been working on the site, said the existence of such a structure in Chester was a mystery.

He said: It obviously means that Chester was a very important place but why, we dont know.

One of the theories is that the Roman emperor Septumus Severus was planning to use the city as a base for an invasion of Ireland.

If successful, Chester would have become the provincial capital of the new arm of the Roman Empire.

As such, it would have needed a large amphitheatre to provide entertainment for its large population, which would have included high profile political and military figures.

The dig also discovered that the Roman theatregoers were fans of tacky novelty souvenirs.

Among the discoveries is part of a bowl, which dates back to the second century, featuring images of gladiators.

The items were probably sold from wooden market stalls outside the arena.

Mr Wilmott, who discovered the bowl, said:

... Quote:
These were basically mass-produced, cheap souvenirs. The spectators would watch the event and then buy a bowl featuring their favourite gladiator.

We recently went to the Roman amphitheatre in Arles, in France, and bought a similar item, a novelty ashtray in the shape of the amphitheatre. So here we are 1,800 years later and we are still buying the same cheap souvenirs as the Romans did.

The archaeologists have also discovered the remains of Roman fast food spare ribs, chicken bones, and coriander and poppy seeds.

The findings of the dig have added weight to calls for the amphitheatre to be explored further.

Controversy surrounds the site, which is partially obscured by a former convent, which dates back to the 18th century, and a modern court complex, which was opened in 2000.

Mr Garner said: It is a bit of a political hot potato. Some people want the buildings torn down to reveal the rest of the amphitheatre, but other people oppose it, especially as the former convent is a Grade II-listed building.

I am staying apolitical on the matter, but obviously the more significant finds that are made adds more weight to the calls for them to be knocked down

The findings of the dig, which is part of a three-year joint project between the city council and English Heritage, will be used to determine the ultimate fate of the rest of the site.

The second-year dig begins in June and is expected to attract more than 40,000 visitors to the city.
By netchicken: posted on 19-5-2005

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