Excavation reveals ancient site of slaughter: David Keys reports on gruesome discoveries under a Roman arena used for blood sports - UK - News - The Independent

Excavation reveals ancient site of slaughter: David Keys reports on gruesome discoveries under a Roman arena used for blood sports

The gruesome remains of prisoners slaughtered almost 2,000 years ago in the Roman Britain equivalent of the Colosseum have been discovered by archaeologists in central London.

Severed legs and heads from 20 people have been recovered underneath a great amphitheatre built to provide entertainment for Romano- British Londoners.

The human remains - along with the remnants of a bull, a bear and several horses - were found in the drains underneath the 105m- long (344ft) elliptical arena, built - probably on the orders of the Emperor Hadrian - under what is now the City of London's administrative headquarters, Guildhall.

The discovery, believed to be the first time that remains of any amphitheatre victims have been found, confirms historical accounts of mayhem and slaughter in the arenas, constructed in every corner of the Roman Empire.

In many amphitheatres, thousands of citizens would gather to watch condemned criminals - stripped naked - being ripped to pieces by wild animals or forced to fight each other to the death.

It is estimated that London's amphitheatre had seating for 7,500 spectators. The human remains found in the arena's drainage system include five skulls, six leg bones and jawbones. A bull's skull may be the detritus from a form of bull-fighting in which the animals were pursued around the arena by horsemen armed with spears. The bear bone is almost certainly evidence of bear-baiting.

The excavation team - led by Nick Bateman, an archaeologist at the Museum of London - has also found large numbers of sheep and cow bones, probably from the food stalls which were set up around the amphitheatre on festival days.

The building was constructed about AD120 - roughly the same time that Hadrian ordered the erection of a fort in London and his great northern frontier wall.

The amphitheatre was located just 20m (66ft) from the south-east corner of the military fort which housed London's 1,000-strong garrison. Excavations over the past 10 months reveal that it was about 105m long and 85m (279ft) wide. It may also have been used for military parades and training, and public meetings. Much of the original timber has been removed by archaeologists. It is one of the few large Roman sites to have yielded large amounts of intact woodwork.

The amphitheatre was probably abandoned about AD370, and the first Guildhall built on the site in medieval times.

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

KS1 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Corporate Communications Manager - London - up to £80,000

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Corporate Marketing Communications M...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week