Tag Archives: discovery

Unexpected find: Seating plan for Rome’s Colosseum

Unexpected find: Seating plan for Rome's Colosseum

A man dressed as a gladiator enjoys his lunch in front of Rome’s Colosseum, Friday Nov. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Spectators who once flocked to Rome’s Colosseum could find their seats with the help of red numbers painted over entrance archways. What’s amazing is that hints of that paint still remain, Discovery reports.

A team restoring the Colosseum has spotted remnants of it in Latin numerals carved high up on an entrance gate. “This is an exceptional discovery because we did not expect that some trace of the red paint was still preserved,” Colosseum Director Rossella Rea tells the International Business Times.

The red color, derived from clay minerals and iron oxide, had to be repainted every two or three years—which makes the find that much more unexpected.

It also casts a light on how Romans found their seats when going to watch gladiators, wild beasts, and public executions. “The 50,000 spectators had a ticket that said which numbered gate arch they were supposed to enter,” says Rea.

“Inside the arena, there were other numbers to help people access their seats, which were assigned according to social class.” Admittance was free, but of course the emperor had the best seat in his private box, New Historian reports.

Rome’s social and political elite also sat high up, followed by upper-class businessmen and government officials, ordinary Roman men, and finally women and the poor, who had to sit or stand on wood benches.

Built in 70AD, the Colosseum is undergoing a $33 million restoration to clean off dirt that’s accumulated since the Middle Ages. (After its glory days, researchers say, the Colosseum became a “condo.”)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Surprise Find: Seating Plan for Rome’s Colosseum

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Archaeologists: For centuries, Rome’s Colosseum was a ‘condo’

Archaeologists: For centuries, Rome's Colosseum was a 'condo'

This once used to be a … “condo”?AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

If only these walls could talk. Rome’s iconic Colosseum, built nearly 20 centuries ago in 72 AD, has long been known as the site of gory gladiator battles and animal slaughter.

Now, archaeologists who spent three weeks studying an excavated area beneath some 80 arched entrances that opened up into the arena say that after the Roman empire crumbled, the ancient structure came to house—gasp!—ordinary Romans, reports the Telegraph.

Discovery likens the Colosseum to a “huge condominium” from the 800s until at least 1349, when a major earthquake inflicted significant damage. “This excavation has allowed us to identify an entire housing lot from the late medieval period,” explains the Colosseum’s director.

Among the findings: terracotta sewage pipes, pottery shards, the likely presence of stables and workshops, and the foundation of a wall that marked the boundaries of one of the properties.

They believe that friars from the nearby Santa Maria Nova convent, who controlled the building for a time, rented out square feet within the Colosseum as housing.

The amphitheater, no longer used as an arena, became a huge courtyard, they say, thriving with people, animals, and goods. Archaeologists even found a tiny monkey figurine carved in ivory, likely a chess pawn.

Smithsonian notes other unexpected uses followed: In the 1500s, Pope Sixtus attempted to make the Colosseum a wool factory. (On US shores, archaeologists are trying to solve the mystery of Plymouth colony.)

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Roman Emperor Commodus’ Mini-Colosseum Found?

Roman Emperor Commodus’ Mini-Colosseum Found?

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 08/15/2013 1:23 pm EDT  |  Updated: 08/16/2013 3:41 pm EDT

Emperor Commodus Mini-Colosseum

Researchers believe they have found a miniature “Colosseum” structure in Rome that once belonged to Roman emperor Commodus.
 Legend has it that the fearsome Roman Emperor Commodus fancied himself a gladiator, once slaughtering 100 lions in a single day. Now researchers say they may have found the wannabe warrior’s personal “Colosseum” on an archaeological site in southeast Rome.

The model arena was part of a residential complex of the Antonine-era emperors, known today as the Villa of the Antonines archaeological site, in what is now the town of Genzano di Roma, Italy. This particular project was spearheaded by New Jersey’s Montclair State University, which sent a team to the site to work with geophysicists from the University of Rome La Sapienza in June.

The researchers reported that the Colsseum-like structure was oval in shape with curved walls and floors made from marble, according to Discovery. Measuring 200 feet by 130 feet, the structure has been dated to the second century.

The son of emperor Marcus Aurelius, Commodus ruled from 177 to 192 A.D., according to Brittanica. A brutal, bloodthirsty dictator, Commodus escaped a coup orchestrated by his sister in 182 only to be successfully assassinated by his wrestling partner in 192. Close to 1,800 years later, actor Joaquin Phoenix was cast as Commodus in the Oscar-winning film “Gladiator,” portraying the emperor as unpredictable, irrational and generally unhinged.

The real Commodus would have used his ampitheater to show off “for practice and for his first semi-public appearances as a killer of animals in the arena … and as a gladiator,” Timothy Renner, a professor of classics and humanities at Montclair, told The Sunday Times.

An underground canal found during the dig may have been used to stage naval battles, while underground chambers may have been used to hold the doomed victims, according to the Times.

“In Rome he killed dozens of animals,” Renner told the Times. “For example bears with single javelin shots, probably in the Colosseum — although at least some of the time he was on a protected walkway above the arena.”

The emperor wished to be known as a modern-day Hercules, according to Discovery. But Commodus did not stop with wild animals; he reportedly killed humans, too. Ancient accounts, including those of respected historian Dio Cassius, include gruesome details about the ruler “slicing off a nose, an ear or various other parts of the body,” reports Discovery.

gladiators minicolosseum found

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Medieval Knight Found in Parking Lot


Medieval Knight Found Under Parking Lot In Scotland; Mysterious Remains Thrill Archeologists

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 03/14/2013 9:57 am EDT  |  Updated: 03/14/2013 9:57 am EDT

Medieval Knight Found Parking Lot

Archaeologists this week announced the discovery of an unidentified medieval knight’s skeleton buried along with several other bodies under a Scottish parking lot.

The knight — or possibly nobleman — was uncovered during construction work, according to The Scotsman. Also found was an intricately carved sandstone slab, several other human burial plots and a variety of artifacts researchers believe are from the 13th-century Blackfriars Monastery.

(Story continues below.)

medieval knight found parking lot

Councillor Richard Lewis, a member of the City of Edinburgh Council, said the archeological treasure trove has “the potential to be one of the most significant and exciting archaeological discoveries in the city for many years, providing us with yet more clues as to what life was like in Medieval Edinburgh,” according to a statementreleased by the Edinburgh Center for Carbon Innovation (ECCI).

“We hope to find out more about the person buried in the tomb once we remove the headstone and get to the remains underneath but our archaeologists have already dated the gravestone to the thirteenth century,” Lewis added.

The team leading the excavation is part of Headland Archeology, which noted with glee that many of its researchers may have once walked over the bones while studying nearby at the former University of Edinburgh’s archaeology department. A statement released by the group says members are “looking forward to post excavation analyses that will tell us more about the individual buried there.”

Ross Murray, a project officer for Headland, told The Huffington Post in an email that the team has already divined some clues about the knight’s background.

“The knight would have been buried in the graveyard associated with the monastery meaning he had money or was important in the society of time,” Murray told HuffPost. “The more important you were the closer you got placed to the church. He was also pretty tall for the time being around 6ft or so.”

Echoing Councillor Lewis, Murray went on to say that the contents of the grave site and monastery will be “fantastic” additions to Scottish art history.

“We have now taken the body back to our labs and will have an osteo-archaeologist examine the body to try and establish their sex, age, if they had any diseases or even how they died,” Murray said. “The medieval was a pretty brutal time so a violent death wouldn’t be uncommon. We would also get radiocarbon dates from the bones to get a more accurate date for the burial and have an expert in medieval sculpture looks at the carved grave slab.”

After the excavation is complete, the former parking lot will house the rainwater-harvesting tank of the University of Edinburgh’s new ECCI building.

This impressive Edinburgh find comes on the heels of scientists’ confirmation this February that bones found under an English city council parking lot do indeed belong to King Richard III. Researchers from the University of Leicester used DNA analysis to identify the 15th-century monarch, who died in battle during the War of the Roses.

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