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Chester Amphitheatre Project Blog

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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

Comments?

4 Comments:

Blogger Icarus373 said...

Re: the stone block in Trench C. On my way home yesterday (Saturday) I purchased a book from the Museum shop titled: 'Roman Amphitheatres in England and Wales'. P.18 shows part of the 'Gladiator Mosaic'from Bignor with the caption "Secutor and Retarius fighting across the top of a stone containing a ring to which unwilling apprentices were tied. Watched by the Rudarius". I'm not sure if there is any hard evidence to back the 'unwilling apprentices' idea or whether this is just speculation on the author's part. Nevertheless the block, and it's ring, are clearly there and part of the composition.

What do you think?

Glyn.

8:10 PM, September 11, 2005  
Anonymous TimP said...

This is all very exciting stuff; work has been quiet for me in Chester over the summer, but am back with tours in ernest next week and throughout September. I look forward to seeing these developments and the dig in action. Great stuff. Cheers, Tim.

9:08 PM, September 11, 2005  
Blogger InfoArch said...

Gladiator Mosaic...

Thank you for letting us know about the gladiator mosaic. As it happens, we just realised this connection this past weekend as well. The depiction of this type of block in a mosaic gives it great significance. Our site directors will have the fun task of looking through many other Roman mosaics to see if there are any other depictions of this stone block in arenas. Our belief at the moment is that the purpose of the block was to hold people and or animals captive but also to give the public a better view of the action(as the block is situated in the center of the arena). We will let you know as we find out more!

9:39 AM, September 13, 2005  
Anonymous TimP said...

If you do a Google Image search for Bignor Mosaic, there are at least two matches with the gladiators and a block between them...

cheers

Tim

9:35 PM, September 13, 2005  

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