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Chester Amphitheatre Project Blog


Welcome to the official Blog of the Chester Amphitheatre Project.

Friday, September 23

So Long, Farewell...

The big news is that as of this week we have completed all of the archaeological tasks we have set out to do and then some. And as of yesterday, a large section of the arena wall was finally uncovered in Area B. The section of wall is around 3 or more meters high and perfectly preserved. The area of wall in Area B is much higher than those exposed arena walls that were uncovered by FH Thompson in the 1960s.
Even though today is our last day, we are soldiering on and are still excavating. There are several features still to study, including more pits in Area C (around the 'apprentice stone'). There has not been any scheduled excavation for next year, but the site will just be covered over for the winter (as it was last year) until interpretation, preservation and access questions are all answered.
It has been a wonderful season this year, with so many hard-working archaeologists, volunteers and students. We archaeologists feel very proud and thankful to have worked on such an interesting and prestigious site. We just wanted to say a few words about this season's excavation:

"What to say? It has been both a pleasure and a joy to work here. The people are great, the site too. It's been a really good introduction to archaeology, and taught me skills that'll hopefully be useful in the future. I can't say enough how thankful and grateful to everyone on site I am; they have been supportive and helpful throughout. I wish them all the best, and thanks!"
--Will Craige (student and volunteer)

"It has been a stupendous season, with a huge amount of new information recovered. It has also been enormous fun, and the weather has been kind all summer. Most of all we have had a superb team of professionals, students and volunteers. And I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to their hard work and enthusiasm, to thank them whole-heartedly, and to wish them all the best for the future."
--Tony Wilmott (Project Co-director, English Heritage)

"It's been fantastic working with great company and learning 'tricks of the trade' in the process. One of my reasons for moving to Chester was its amazing history and the amphitheatre has never ceased to amaze me. Being here has furthered my desire to do an archaeology postgraduate, because if it's this much fun being a 'volunteer', it must get better being here full time. Thanks for a great two weeks , and Trench 'C' is the best!"
--Kasia Phillips (volunteer)

"There(s) (was) lovely"
--Cheryl Quinn (Archaeological Draughtsperson, Chester Archaeology)

"This has been such a wonderful opportunity. From an outreach perspective it has been great talking with the public and working with them to understand the 'non-archaeological' perception of the whole project. But it has also been great working on an archaeological site with such amazing people. It has been a great experience--I have learned a lot and made friends as well."
--Marie Rowland (Outreach Assistant/Archaeologist)

"It was cool...and I'm tired."
--Clare Malleson (Environmental Assistant/Archaeologist)

"We drunk a little wine, listened to a bit of jazz and did some archaeology here and there..."
--Rob Blackburn (Site Assistant/Archaeologist)

posted by InfoArch at 11:10


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Sunday, September 18

The Latest News from the Trenches...

A big event this week has been the study of the square stone block, which was uncovered last week in Area C. It has recently been related to a mosaic at Bignor Roman Villa, in West Sussex. In the mosaic (which you can see at ) there is a square stone block, similar to the one we have uncovered in Trench C, situated between two fighting gladiators. In Roman Amphitheatres in England and Wales, by Roy Wilding, the mosaic is depicted and labeled as an 'apprentice stone' to which unwilling gladiators were chained. At the moment, our site directors are still looking for other examples of this type of stone, ideally featured in mosaic form as well. Also in this area a number of stone lined post-holes seem to represent a small building. Beneath this there are many other cut features. This suggests that there has been intensive use of the arena for post-Roman occupation. All of these features pre-date the earliest "cultivation" soils in the arena, which date to the 12th century. Watch this space for more details!

Area B continues to provide surprises. The robber trenches of the amphitheatre walls are 2m deep, and the robbing seems to date to the 11th century. The amphitheatre was probably plundered for stone during the construction of St John's church at that time. Excavation in Area B is going fast and vast amounts of soil are being removed everyday. Hopefully, by the time we close for the season we can uncover much more of the Roman and pre-Roman layers.

In Area A, the finds keep coming fast and thick from the layers of sand in between the concentric and exterior walls of the amphitheatre. So far this week we have discovered some intriguing and rare Roman cut glass, samian ware, copper-alloy pieces, part of a copper-alloy brooch, and an interesting piece of lead shaped like a coin (but possibly a token to get into the amphitheatre). Also found were two intaglios (like the one found last year in the picture to the left)--pieces of cut stone (often reddish-orange carnelian) with engravings of gods, goddesses, or just emblems such as weights and scales. Intaglios (Italian for 'carving') were often used as a stamp or a seal and were pressed into clay or wax to create a raised impression. They were often set into rings or other types of jewelry; however, in this case the intaglios were found on their own.
It is important to note that some of these small items, like an intaglio, are found not only through excavation but through the processes of flotation and wet-sieving as well. To put it in perspective--the intaglios that we have found are only a bit bigger than a thumbnail.

--The Archaeologists

posted by InfoArch at 10:00


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Friday, September 9

News From A, B and C...

These past few weeks have seen vast changes in Areas A, B and C. The trenches are getting deeper, and as such, we are uncovering new and exciting information in the amphitheatre's archaeology and construction.
As stated in the last amphitheatre diary, the focus in Area A is solely on the Roman archaeology of the site. During this week's excavation, a Roman layer rich in occupational finds was uncovered. This occupational layer is cut by the steps of the concentric (inner) wall of the amphitheatre, thus predating them and making it quite an early layer in the amphitheatre's archaeological record. This layer has yielded a bit of everything--pottery, bone and even small pieces of copper-alloy. Another major undertaking has been the removal of the layers on top of the timber grillage, as well as most of the grillage itself. Pieces of pottery, including early Roman (including some red-painted ware that has yet to be identified) and native wares made in a late Iron Age tradition, have been found in the layers covering the timber grillage. These pieces were redeposited above the grillage when the grillage was being put into place. The grillage pieces themselves have also produced quite a number of archaeological finds, including a coin of Domitian that has so recently helped us to date the original construction of the amphitheatre to around 95/6 AD. Nails in the decomposed wood of the grillage have also yielded important information. On some of these nails, the corroded wood has been preserved allowing analysts to discover that the grillage beams were made of beech and not oak (as we had originally expected).

For the past few weeks the excavation in Area B has been concentrated towards the back of the trench nearest to the east entrance of the amphitheatre. On the side of the trench against Little St. John's Street, the amphitheatre's concentric wall has been located. However, there is a large robber trench as well, the fills of which are currently in the process of being removed. In fact, tons upon tons of spoil have been removed from that area just this week. Interesting as well is the appearance of a linear feature running almost parallel with the east entrance of the amphitheatre. This feature could possibly be a part of the east entrance or something Post-Roman. In the process of uncovering these layers, many Roman artefacts have been found including various examples of interesting pottery (including samian ware), copper-alloy fragments, Roman window glass, and animal bone.

Area C is located almost in the exact center of the amphitheatre's arena. Currently, it's depth is around 4 meters and we are not stopping there. At this depth, we are past the Medieval and now into the early Post-Roman phase of the arena floor. About 6-8 postholes have been uncovered, some with packing stones around them. Several small pits have also been uncovered. However, what has been most intriguing about this layer (for archaeologists and the public alike) is the large square stone block in the center of the trench. In the center of the block is a chunk of lead with iron inserts (possibly for a chain to be attached). The nature and usage of this block is currently being questioned. A few interpretations are that it could be part of an animal tether, or that it could be something that was built during Roman occupation and simply reused later. As we dig even deeper, down to the Roman layers, more information will hopefully be revealed.

-The Archaeologists

posted by InfoArch at 09:24


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