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Chester Amphitheatre Project Blog


Welcome to the official Blog of the Chester Amphitheatre Project.

Monday, June 20

A New Year of Amphitheatre Diary

As last year Dan Garner and Tony Wilmott, the two site co-ordinators of the amphitheatre project will be supplying the Chester Chronicle with their fortnightly diary of events. Here is the first edition of this years excavations:

The second season of excavations at Chester’s Roman amphitheatre began in earnest on Tuesday, June 14. Riding on the success of BBC2’s Timewatch programme ‘Britain’s lost Colosseum’ (aired on Friday, May 17 – and again the following Monday, thanks to industrial action by the BBC’s Newsnight team!), hopes are high for another summer of astounding revelations that will help to re-write Chester’s history.

The winter protection has now been removed and the team have been showing off their gardening skills with some industrious weeding and a bit of grass verge trimming. As the white sheeting and sandbags were removed, the site emerged, and we began to remind ourselves of just where it was left last year – and just how much work remains to be done! Not only have we exposed the areas excavated last year, but enlarged the areas near the middle of the site.

A question we are already being asked by visitors is “What do you hope to find this year?” There are several answers. In the area near the middle of the site we are down to 17th century levels associated with the Civil War siege of Chester 360 years ago. We will discover what the landscape was like at this time, whether gun batteries were built, and how this may have influenced the strategy of the besiegers. Moving back in time, we hope to find out whether there are any monastic buildings relating to St Johns in our area, and how early these are. The discovery of early Christian burials nearby in 2000 suggests St Johns was an early foundation; can we confirm this? If so, is it related to the idea of the amphitheatre as a place of Christian martyrdom?

As for the amphitheatre structure, we still have no clear idea of how it was used in the early post-Roman period – the so-called Dark Ages. Was it a separate fortification? Was it inhabited as a refuge, or as a centre of power? Was it the location of the Synod of bishops at Chester in the early 7th century?

We have a great deal of evidence for the Roman phases of the amphitheatre, but there are still questions to ask about the architecture and engineering of the building and the way in which it was used. The most crucial question, though, is what date were the two amphitheatres built?

We will be writing fortnightly updates for the Chronicle during the excavation. The latest news can be found on the amphitheatre web-site at, or just come down for a look!

Dan Garner (Chester City Council) and Tony Wilmott (English Heritage)

posted by Archaeologists at 12:20



Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about an update on how things are progressing in areas B and C? The webcam is great but as we can't see the other two areas we'd like to know what's happening there too, please.

9:27 AM, July 04, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Information trickling its way through slowly..." - you're not kidding!

This website is marginally more boring than watching paint dry. It was great last year, loads of interesting information posted regularly, but now it's obvious that no-one connected with the excavations can be bothered with it.

Too much TV exposure? Or aren't you finding anything in those muddy holes any more?

9:33 AM, July 07, 2005  
Blogger InfoArch said...

We are sorry that it is taking awhile for updates to filter through to the website. Please remember that we've only just started excavations for the summer, and much of our time in the beginning was spent on removing winter coverings and cleaning the site. We promise there will be more news as we get it!

10:00 AM, July 07, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three and a half weeks to take the covers off and clean up the site? Wow, can I come and work there, it sounds a bit less strenuous than my job!

12:03 AM, July 08, 2005  
Blogger InfoArch said...

Site Cleaning...
In actuality it took about 1 week or so to remove the coverings from Area A, because it was weighed down with sandbags which had to be removed with shovels because they had burst. It took about another week in Area A to remove all the moss and weeds as well as to trowel the site to get a cleaner picture. Not exciting stuff I'm afraid, but it's necessary! Full excavations have been in the last week or so, and hopefully there should be more updates soon.

2:11 PM, July 08, 2005  
Anonymous TimP said...

Personally I find it really exciting. Look forward to hearing more about the possible Shrine found on the opposite perimeter of the Nemesium. National Archaeology Day is shaping up to be fun, and weather looks cooler, but dry & decent.

9:02 PM, July 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the first I've heard about the shrine - I've looked at every web page but if there is any mention of it I've missed it. I wish I lived nearer to Chester and could visit more often, so lots of information on this site would be the next best thing, hint hint!

9:52 PM, July 13, 2005  
Anonymous TimP said...

I only know of the possible shrine as I often work in Chester; if I recall correct, there was some plaster and maybe paint, and both were swiftly removed for the attention of conservators. I am optimistic of hearing more - but the question is when? :o)

2:52 PM, July 14, 2005  
Blogger InfoArch said...


We have recently posted a comment about the possible shrine under one of the other articles on this web page. To clarify, the 'shrine' has been uncovered in area A, near the northern entrance of the amphitheatre. Yes, we have found some plaster bases and painted plaster. The site directors have found examples of shrines in such a location in other amphitheatres, but we are waiting for the English Heritage conservation staff to tell us more about the painted plaster. If more expensive paints were used, it is likely that we could have a shrine.

3:38 PM, July 14, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for that! I'm hoping to visit on Saturday for national archaeology day - it was great fun last year, and more importantly, there was a good balance between jolly family activities and serious archaeological information. Looking forward to more of the same this time.

5:11 PM, July 14, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for a great day on Saturday! There was something to interest everyone - and it seemed as if the entire population of Chester must have visited at some time in the day, it was so crowded!
As for the excavations, Area A looks as if a lot of progress has been made this year, but the others look almost untouched. Will there be time to do everything within the planned 3 year schedule?

5:34 PM, July 18, 2005  
Blogger InfoArch said...

Comments on Areas B and C...

Perhaps it doesn't look it, but Areas B and C have come a long way. In Area B, we are currently excavating the 17th century layer and removing the 17th century cellar. In Area C, we have been digging so deep that we will soon have to step it in yet again.
We are in the middle of our 3-year project and in the last season of excavation (but it is hoped not forever). We hope to finish as much as we can this year for that reason. Next year will be the write up and assessment phase of the project.

11:25 AM, July 19, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What will happen to the excavated areas once you have finished digging - will they be backfilled or left open for public viewing and/or possible further excavation in the future? And has anything been decided about Dee house and what lies underneath it?

12:40 PM, July 19, 2005  
Blogger InfoArch said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:14 PM, July 19, 2005  
Blogger InfoArch said...

Future of the Site...

We are currently in the middle of a 3-year project designed to accumulate information and data to present to English Heritage and Chester City Council. Through this information, they will decide what is best for the conservation and presentation of the site. Nothing has been decided at this point--about the site, or about Dee House.

9:44 AM, July 28, 2005  
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