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Chester Amphitheatre Project Blog


Welcome to the official Blog of the Chester Amphitheatre Project.

Monday, July 25

The LATEst Amphitheatre Diary

Here is, a bit belatedly, the most recent Amphitheatre Diary from the Chester Chronicle:

The last two weeks has really seen the team getting into their stride, and the fine weather has enabled us to make excellent progress on all parts of the site. In the main Area A, we have concentrated on investigating a narrow strip of archaeology which lay outside the outer wall of the first amphitheatre. Though the foundations for the outer wall of the second amphitheatre were dug through this material, the narrow strip lay beneath the seating and was therefore protected and survived. It is unique in the Roman Empire to have surviving archaeology which can tell us what happened immediately outside an amphitheatre when the building was in use, and we have therefore been taking our time.

Near the northern entrance to the amphitheatre we have been puzzled by a small, semicircular structure which was built against the outer wall of the first amphitheatre. This structure was plastered on the inside, and the plaster was painted. In the debris found inside were fragments of white, yellow, light and dark blue, and red painted plaster. At least one of the red pieces had a stripe pained on in white. The red is very dark, and may have been made with cinnabar, an expensive imported pigment. Apart from the arena wall in the latest period, this is the only evidence for painted plasterwork on the site, and its presence must mean that this little structure was important. The most probable explanation is that this is a shrine. There is other evidence to back up the idea. At the amphitheatre at Carnuntum in Austria, the shrine of Nemesis occupies the same relative position to the entrance as our shrine. At Caerleon in Wales, a small structure in the same relative spot was also interpreted as a shrine.

The small room within the amphitheatre at the arena end of the north entrance has always been identified as the Nemesis chapel (Nemeseum) of the second amphitheatre, mainly because of the discovery there of an alter to the goddess. However, the Latin is an early form, and for some time it has been thought that the altar was moved from an earlier site – did the altar originally adorn our small, expensively painted alcove? The shrine is the right size not for a major municipal religious centre, but for a private dedication, and the Nemesis altar is very much a private dedication, made to the goddess by the centurion Sextus Marcianus after a vision. We can only imagine what kind of guilty conscience might have led Marcianus to have a nightmare and to attempt to placate the goddess of divine retribution. Possibly his response was quite lavish, not just the dedication of an altar, but the building and decoration of a shrine to put it in.

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

posted by Anthony at 11:31



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! And to think it survived all the disturbance, robbing-out and later use of the site - including the 20th-century excavations and landscaping. Why that particular position/orientation - was that where the gladiators or victims entered? And would they have had the opportunity to make offerings there before or after combat?

9:37 PM, July 27, 2005  
Blogger InfoArch said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:28 AM, July 28, 2005  
Blogger InfoArch said...

Shrine Orientation...

In Carnuntum (Austria) and in Caerleon (Wales), structures in the same position as our 'shrine' have been found and interpreted as shrines.
The shrines being in this particular position/orientation is seemingly to give access to the most people, as they are situated by the Northern (main) entrance of these resepective amphitheatres.
The shrines could have been used by spectators and gladiators alike, due to their location. Unfortunately, we have yet to find evidence to discern what kinds of people were leaving offerings, etc.

10:29 AM, July 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in caerleon a terrible woman called carol did archaeogy degree she from switzertland in 2000

9:04 PM, January 13, 2006  

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