Archaeologists always say that one of the best sources of information for their excavations are the garbage dumps: they provide very relevant data about what the ancient inhabitants of the place ate or how they lived. They are often small deposits, so digging through the sewers of a place as emblematic as the Colosseum in Romeinaugurated in the year 80 AD and which would house shows until the 6th century, would be something like immersing yourself in a waste gold mine from the romans.
That is what a team of researchers from the Colosseum Archaeological Park has been doing for almost a year. The findings in the 70 meters of underground channels in the southern area of the monument analyzed in remains of snacks and fruit consumed by the spectators, of animal bones that participated in the show and even more than fifty coins have been presented this Thursday by the director alfonsina russo and other experts at a conference titled The hydraulics of the Coliseo: Presentation of the new data of the investigations in the collectors of the sewage system.
The project to study the sewers and the hydraulic and drainage systems of the Flavian Amphitheatre, for which guided robots have been used, has brought to light a fascinating panorama of the context linked to the shows. The remains of wild animals such as bears, lions, leopards and even dachshunds bear witness to their participation more than 1,500 years ago in different types of games: there were the venations or wild beast hunting; exhibitions of captured prey, such as the parade of the pompa circensis; or the use of wild animals in the execution of those sentenced to death, called damnation ad beasts.
Archaeological documentation has made it possible to gather information, above all, through numerous objects and food, about what life was like in the city of the Tiber at the beginning of the 6th century and about the last years of shows celebrated in the Colosseum, which ended in the year 523 AD, when it was abandoned and its marbles began to be looted —the amphitheater would become a fortress or a hospital. Researchers have discovered many seeds and fruits such as figs, grapes, melons, olives, peaches, cherries, plums, hazelnuts, walnuts and pine nuts, as well as leftover food that the spectators ate in the stands. In addition, remains of decorative plants such as the laurel or the boxwood bush have been documented.
“The important research work promoted by the Park, in collaboration with the best Italian and international institutes, has made it possible to better understand the functioning of the Colosseum with regard to the hydraulic structurebut also delve into the experience and habits of those who frequented this place during the long days dedicated to the shows”, highlighted Alfonsina Russo.
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Material finds include game dice, objects for personal use, such as a worked bone pin, clothing, tacks —the nails of the sandals—or remnants of wall and floor coverings. Archaeologists have also found a set of bronze coins from the late period, “no less than 53”, as well as a gold sestertius dedicated to the emperor. Marcus Aurelius and minted between AD 170 and 171 to commemorate his first decade in power. The researchers point out that they could have been coined to curry favor with the people, as another personal propaganda campaign. Who knows if it was thrown into the public but it fell into the arena, being then pushed into the sewers by the blood of the felled beasts.
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