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Keith J Matthews & others
Chester City Council
Chester Amphitheatre: investigations summer 2000
Name: Keith J Matthews Affiliation: Chester Archaeology Role: Main author Metadata: Keith J Matthews Other contributor: Gerrard Barnes Other contributor: Gillian Dunn Other contributor: Julie Edwards Other contributor: Alison Jones Other contributor: Cheryl Quinn Other contributor: Ian Smith Other contributor: Margaret Ward Email: K.Matthews@chestercc.gov.uk Web: http://www.chestercc.gov.uk/heritage/archaeology/archaeology.html Web: http://www.kmatthews.org.uk/amphitheatre/index.html Postal: Chester Archaeology, 27 Grosvenor Street Town: CHESTER Country: England, UK Postcode: CH1 2DD Phone: +44 1244 402027 Fax: +44 1244 347522 URL: http://www.chestercc.gov.uk/heritage/archaeology/archaeology.html
Archaeological investigation (principally by excavation) of the site of the Roman amphitheatre at Chester, UK.
Report on small-scale excavations carried out on the displayed (northern) part of the Roman amphitheatre at the legionary fortress of Deva (Chester, UK).
Chester City Council
ISO31 03/01/2003 (last modified)
MS Word 97 document
Point: OSGB 340850 366140 PlaceName: Chester PeriodName: Prehistoric PeriodName: Roman PeriodName: Sub-Roman PeriodName: Saxon PeriodName: Medieval PeriodName: Post-medieval PeriodName: Modern
Restricted: Chester Archaeology This report was created in Microsoft™ Word 97® using Arial, Tahoma and Times New Roman True Type® typefaces. Digital photographs were taken with an Apple™ Quick Take® 150 digital camera at 640×480 pixels resolution in 24-bit colour; scanned images were obtained from a Twaincompliant Epson™ Perfection 1200S® flatbed scanner and modified in Corel™ PhotoPaint 9® (including conversion to greyscale). Maps were produced using MapInfo® Professional 4.1 on an Ordnance Survey™ Landline® map base; they were exported as Windows™ bitmap (.bmp) files for further editing. Matrices were produced using the ArchEd Version 1.0 computer program devised by Igor Pouchkarev, Stefan Thome, Christoph Hundack and Petra Mutzel of the Max-Planck-Institut für Informatik in Saarbrücken. They were exported as Windows™ metafile (.wmf) graphics for incorporation into the report.
Metadata Contents List of illustrations List of tables Contributors Acknowledgements Summary Introduction Background to the site The project Brief description of monument Objectives Methods Site preparation Excavation Reinstatement Project archive Background information Geology Topography Previous archaeological discoveries Synthesis of existing data Prehistoric activity The Roman amphitheatre The sub-Roman and Saxon periods Medieval Post-medieval The excavation Trench I Description of stratigraphic Interpretation Trench II Description of stratigraphic Interpretation Trench III Description of stratigraphic Interpretation Trench IV Description of stratigraphic Interpretation Trench V Description of stratigraphic Interpretation Trench VI Description of stratigraphic Interpretation Trench VII Description of stratigraphic Interpretation Trench VIII Description of stratigraphic Interpretation Trench IX Description of stratigraphic Interpretation
i iii vii x xi xii xiii 1 1 1 1 2 3 3 3 5 5 6 6 6 6 10 10 10 11 11 12 14 14 14 16 19 19 20 22 22 23 24 25 27 29 29 31 32 32 34 35 35 36 37 37 39 41 41 43
sequence sequence sequence sequence sequence sequence sequence sequence sequence
Discussion Phasing Evidence for the history of the site Phase VIII: public open space (1972-2000) Phase VII: consolidation (1969-72) Phase VI: excavation (1960-69) Phase V: demolition (1929-59) Phase IV: St John’s House (1735-1929) Phase III: domestic colonisation (c 1200-1700) Phase IIb-IId: abandonment and robbing (Middle Saxon-c 1200) Phase IIa: dereliction of amphitheatre (sub-Roman?) Phase I: construction and use of amphitheatre Phase 0b: prehistoric Phase 0a: natural The documentary evidence Overview The documents The Comberbach family Dee House St John’s Lane/Street St John’s House Little St John Street Cartographic evidence The artefacts Methodology Cherts and flints The worked lithics The material Dating Group value Potential Building materials Roman Ceramic Mortar Cement/plaster Medieval Ceramic Post-medieval Ceramic All periods and undated Stone Slate Cement/plaster Concrete Daub Pottery Roman Medieval Post-medieval Pipeclay Post-medieval Stone Glass Roman Post-medieval Vessel Window Coins and tokens Metal Roman Iron Copper alloy iv 46 46 47 47 48 49 50 50 50 51 52 54 56 56 57 57 57 57 58 59 59 62 62 68 68 68 68 69 69 70 70 70 70 70 71 71 71 71 72 72 74 74 74 74 74 74 74 74 76 78 80 80 81 81 81 81 81 84 85 85 85 85 85
Lead Post-Roman Iron Copper alloy Lead Organic artefacts Roman Bone Post-Roman Wood Bone/antler Plastic Further work Discussion The industrial remains Raw materials Hematite Galena Waste products The environmental remains Summary Hand-collected and site-sieved material Recovery Post-excavation methods Results Discussion Wet sieved samples Methods Results Discussion Potential Hand collected and dry sieved assemblage Wet sieved samples Overall discussion The excavation The excavation process The excavated remains The Roman archaeology of the site Amphitheatres in the Roman world The history of Chester’s amphitheatre Amphitheatres and the military The function of Chester’s amphitheatre The post-Roman archaeology of the site Early medieval Medieval Post-medieval The nineteenth and twentieth centuries The conservation of buried or partly buried remains Improved interpretation and presentation Potential of the data collected for further study Appendices 1: concordances Contexts Features Subgroups Groups 2: summary of research questions (Matthews 2000, 18) 3: the approved Project Design 4: Hugh Thompson’s trench numbering scheme 5: Latin terms used in relation to amphitheatres 6: Latin texts dealing with amphitheatres M Tullius Cicero v 86 86 86 86 86 87 87 87 87 87 87 87 88 88 90 90 90 90 90 91 91 91 91 91 92 94 96 96 96 96 97 97 97 98 98 98 99 100 100 102 104 105 106 107 107 107 107 108 108 109 110 110 110 112 113 114 115 117 123 125 127 127
L Annaeus Seneca M Valerius Martialis C Plinius Secundus C Suetonius Tranquillus Q Septimius Florens Tertullianus Cassius Dio Cocceianus Aurelius Augustinus 7: the Chester Archaeology context record form 8: Discarded finds Bibliography Supplementary bibliography 127 128 133 133 133 134 134 135 135 138 141
List of illustrations
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Chester’s amphitheatre, 17 August 2000 Location plan Location of the trenches The first discovery, in June 1929 P H Lawson’s reconstruction of the amphitheatre, c 1930 The ‘Amphitheatre Gardens’ in July 1958 The start of excavation in 1960 Trench I Cut (48)
1 2 3 6 7 8 9 14 15 15 15 16 16 17 18 19 20 20 21 21 21 22 22 23 23 24 24 25 25 26 26 26 26 28
10 Cut (51) 11 Trench I matrix 12 Cut (84) 13 Cut (86) 14 The axial drain as excavated in 1960 15 Postholes of the supposed timber platform as excavated in 1964 16 Trench II 17 Trench II matrix 18 Feature (79) before excavation 19 Trench II, west end 20 The column pit as excavated in 1967 21 The column in situ, mid-July 1968 22 Trench III matrix 23 Concrete slabs (96) 24 Trench III, feature (54) 25 The modern peripheral drain 26 The Roman peripheral drain as excavated in 1965 27 The late paving as found in 1965 28 Trench IV, south end, showing sandstone blocks 29 Feature (92) 30 Trench IV matrix 31 Feature (93) 32 Feature (110) 33 Feature (98) 34 Well (110), looking east, 17 July 1969
35 The northern entrance, July 1969 36 Trench V matrix 37 Trench V at start of excavation 38 Rubble deposit (56) 39 Trench A67/1, showing hollow recorded as (117) in 2000 40 The eastern entrance before excavation in 1967 41 Trench VI, showing cut (112) and concrete (44) 42 Trench VI matrix 43 Feature (43) 44 Trench VII matrix 45 Slot (25) 46 Feature (25) as first photographed in late July 1968 47 Trench VIII matrix 48 Structure (20) 49 The back of St John’s House 50 The moulded stone from the foundations of wall (20) 51 A sketch of the fragment of moulding excavated in 1969 52 Trench IX matrix 53 Cut (61) 54 Cut (63) 55 The stratigraphic subgroups 56 The stratigraphic groups 57 The sandstone base of a lean-to structure against the arena wall 58 A sub-Roman lean-to structure agains the arena wall 59 Dee House, 1997 60 The front door of St John’s House before demolition in June 1958 61 Braun & Hogenberg’s map of Chester, c 1580 62 Speed’s map of 1610 63 Hollar’s map of 1656 64 De Lavaux’s map of 1747 65 John Stockdale’s map of 1797 66 John Wood’s map of 1833 67 Detail from McGahey’s aerial view of Chester, 1855 68 The 1874 Ordnance Survey 1:500 map (not to scale) 69 The 1911 Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map (not to scale) 70 The 1959 Ordnance Survey 1:1250 map (not to scale) 71 SF <4> 72 A roundel (in Paris) depicting Legiones XX & II watching a venatio 73 A slate bas relief of a retiarius from Newgate Street, Chester 28 29 30 30 31 31 32 33 33 36 36 37 38 38 39 40 40 42 42 42 45 46 53 54 58 60 62 63 63 64 64 64 65 66 66 67 70 106 106
74 Location of the trenches excavated in 2000 75 Location of earlier trenches 76 Feature (86) south facing section 77 Trench I plan 78 Trench II plan 79 Feature (114) northeast facing section 80 Trench III plan 81 Featre (93) northeast facing section 82 Feature (109) northwest facing section 83 Trench IV plan 84 Trench V plan 85 Trench VI plan 86 Feature (92) southwest facing section 87 Trench VI northwest facing section 88 Trench VII plan 99 Trench VII northwest facing section 90 Trench VIII plan 91 Trench VIII north facing section 92 Trench IX plan 93 Trench IX northwest facing section 94 Trench IX northeast facing section pullout, 143 pullout, 145 pullout, 147 pullout, 147 pullout, 149 pullout, 151 pullout, 151 pullout, 153 pullout, 153 pullout, 153 pullout, 155 pullout, 157 pullout, 157 pullout, 157 pullout, 159 pullout, 159 pullout, 161 pullout, 161 pullout, 163 pullout, 165 pullout, 165
List of tables
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Summary of stratigraphy, Trench I Summary of stratigraphy, Trench II Summary of stratigraphy, Trench III Summary of stratigraphy, Trench IV Summary of stratigraphy, Trench V Summary of stratigraphy, Trench VI Summary of stratigraphy, Trench VII Summary of stratigraphy, Trench VIII Summary of stratigraphy, Trench IX
14 19 23 25 29 32 35 37 41 47 71 71 72 75 76 76 78 82 92 93 93 94 94 94 94 94 96
10 Site phasing 11 Quantification of Roman ceramic building material 12 Quantification of medieval ceramic building material 13 Quantification of post-medieval ceramic building material 14 Quantification of Roman pottery 15 Quantification of Roman pottery according to common name 16 Quantification of medieval pottery 17 Quantification of post-medieval pottery 18 Quantification of post-Roman vessel glass 19 Trench VII animal remains 20 Trench IX animal remains 21 Modern phase totals 22 Roman to post-medieval totals 23 Middle/Late Saxon phase totals 24 Sub-Roman/Middle Saxon phase totals 25 Sub-Roman phase totals 26 Roman phase totals 27 Wet sieved samples
Keith J Matthews BA
Introduction, The Excavation, Documentary Sources (co-author), Prehistoric Finds, Discussion and overall editing. Documentary Sources (co-author)
Gillian Dunn BTech MIFA Roman Finds Julie Edwards BA Cheryl Quinn BA Ian Smith BA MSc Medieval Finds and Post-medieval Finds Illustrations Animal Bone and Environmental Remains
Margaret Ward MA MIFA Samian Ware
Thanks are due first and foremost to the volunteers who did the heavy work on site: Pete Aston, Paul Bennett, Chloe Bowes, David Clarke, Geoff Davis, Gareth Dickinson, Sandra Flynn, Paul Glover, Carolyne Kershaw, Celia Kinnersley, Angela Marchi, Chris Owens, Laura Parry, Blair Poole, Richard Potter, David Roberts, Judith Sheppard, George Storey, Sue Tinline, Steve Ward, Toni Williams and Edward Winter. Thanks are also due to Ian Smith, who was assistant director of the project, and on whom fell most of the recording work; to Alison Jones, who was lead finds officer throughout the project; and to other members of Chester Archaeology who worked on site. Thanks are also due to English Heritage for giving Scheduled Monument Consent, for part funding the project and for giving permission at short notice to excavate slightly more than was originally intended.
Limited excavation on the exposed part of Chester’s Roman amphitheatre in the summer of 2000 focused on a small number of specific questions. It improved knowledge about the extent and nature of the archaeological remains, and helped generate suggestions for the future management of the site. Specifically, the results of the project were: 1. Enhanced research potential (especially fine tuning the research methodologies relating to the specific questions posed in the Research Agenda (Matthews 2000)). Question numbers refer to the summary of research questions in Matthews 2000 and Appendix 00, below. a) There is data that could provide evidence for modifications to the design of the stone amphitheatre (Question 4) b) There is data that could provide evidence about the superstructures of the minor entrances (Question 5) c) There may be surviving evidence for the superstructure of the ‘central platform’ (Question 9) d) There may be limited evidence for the use of the amphitheatre and changes to that use through time (Questions 11, 12, 13 and 14) e) There may be evidence that the amphitheatre was used as a place of execution (Question 16) f) There is evidence for the nature of occupation in the amphitheatre during the post-Roman periods (Question 24) g) There is evidence for the use of the amphitheatre buildings in the sub-Roman and Saxon periods (Question 25) h) Sufficient evidence survives to reconstruct a large part of the postRoman history of the site (Question 26) i) There may be evidence for the dates of stone robbing that could link it to the phases of construction of St John’s Church (Question 27) j) There is evidence that shows how long the ruins may have been visible (Question 28) k) There is evidence that shows how long the arena may have been visible (Question 29) 2. Suggestions for the conservation of buried or partly buried remains. a) Little damage appears to have been done to most of the buried remains, with several important exceptions. b) Denudation of the gravel surface in the Northern Entrance has exposed part of the stone lining of the axial drain, which needs protection. c) A few cut features survive in the arena, which may be vulnerable to degradation, although there is no evidence for this at present. d) The gravel in the Eastern Entrance is very thin and sits directly on top of in situ archaeological deposits in places, exposing them to potential degradation, although again there is no evidence for this at present. 3. Suggestions for improved on-site interpretation and presentation. a) The excavation has shown that the concrete slabs marking out the position of the outer wall and minor entrances is misaligned by about 1 metre in an anticlockwise direction. b) The visibility and interpretive usefulness of the concrete markers is limited and could easily be enhanced c) The quality and quantity of signage is no longer adequate; much of it requires a level of knowledge not possessed by the average visitor.
Chester Archaeology Answers to specific questions addressed by this project were: • Important archaeological features and deposits survive in situ below the gravel surfacing or the seating bank, ranging from Roman to twentieth century in date. • These features and deposits have enormous archaeological potential for enhancing our understanding of the development of the site. • Very few archaeological features survive beneath the modern gravel surface of the arena, so the question of their protection is not a major issue. • As virtually no Roman features survive beneath the gravel, there is no potential for displaying them. • The modern ‘seating bank’ consists partly of material excavated from the site during the 1960s and of in situ archaeological deposits with enormous potential. The professional objectives of the project were met: • The archaeological stratigraphic excavation and survey were carried out to the highest professional standards and the recording ascertained the presence, date and character of the archaeological remains as detailed below; • High-quality information fulfilling the academic objectives above was recovered; • Appropriate analysis was undertaken of all the data recovered and a summary of that analysis is included below; • The project archive has been prepared and deposit with Chester Archaeology, where it can be consulted for the purpose of serious academic research.
Background to the site
Chester’s amphitheatre lies immediately outside the southeastern corner of the Roman legionary fortress of Deva at NGR SJ 4085 6614 in the civil parish of Chester and the former ecclesiastical parish of St John the Baptist. It is one of the best known and substantial archaeological monuments in the city. The northern part, consisting of a little over 40% of the monument, is currently displayed as a public garden managed by the City Council through an agreement with English Heritage, whilst much of the southern part lies beneath Dee House and its garden, owned by the City. The remaining 20% is in private ownership.
Under the direction of Keith Matthews, with assistance from Ian Smith, Chester Archaeology excavated nine trenches between 31 July and 6 September 2000. The work of excavation was undertaken by members of the Chester Archaeological Society, students of archaeology from Chester College of Higher Education and West Cheshire College, and by other local interested volunteers (including members of the Chester Amphitheatre Trust). This made it a true community-based project.
Ill 1: Chester’s amphitheatre, 17 August 2000
Brief description of monument
The site consists of the consolidated exposed masonry of the Roman amphitheatre (primarily the arena walls and the north and east entrances) and the grass banks between the arena wall and the railing around the outside of the monument. The arena floor and entrances are currently covered by a spread of gravel. Wooden steps lead from the western grassed area down into the northern entrance, between the lower and upper parts of the east entrance and between the upper part of the east entrance and the eastern grassed area. A set of modern concrete steps completes the Roman sandstone steps up to the eastern grassed area from the north entrance.
Chester Archaeology The southern edge of the site consists of a brick and concrete wall. The concrete was poured into a trench, originally excavated archaeologically, in November 1960. The pebbledash facing on the northern face was applied following further archaeological work in 1964.
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The rationale behind the project was to see how much (if any) archaeology had survived the extensive excavations of the 1960s. It was anticipated that little would survive under the modern gravel of the arena floor and that, at best, slight traces of the timber amphitheatre might survive under the seating bank. Stone could be seen eroding through the gravel in the north entrance, while a depression in the centre of the arena on the line of the Roman axial drain gave cause for concern, as there was a risk that damage to in situ archaeology was being caused by visitors. The trenches were therefore located to test these ideas. The proposed project was limited in scale and closely focused on a small number of specific questions. It was hoped to improve knowledge about the extent and nature of the archaeological remains, as this would be valuable for the future management of the site, in terms of: a) Research potential (especially fine tuning the research methodologies relating to the specific questions posed in the Research Agenda (Matthews 2000)). b) Conservation of buried or partly buried remains. c) Improved on-site interpretation and presentation. Specific questions this project was intended to address were: • Do any important archaeological features or deposits survive in situ below the gravel surfacing or the seating bank? • Do these features and deposits have any archaeological potential (for instance, does any environmental evidence survive in the drain fill)? • Does the present gravel arena surface provide sufficient protection to any surviving archaeological features? • What potential is there for displaying any features currently covered by the gravel? • What is the nature and extent of the modern ‘seating bank’, and does it have any archaeological potential?
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Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 The professional objectives of the project were: • To undertake archaeological work through survey, stratigraphic excavation and such other techniques as are deemed appropriate and applying the highest professional standards of recording to ascertain the presence, date and character of the archaeological remains; • To recover high-quality information to fulfil the academic objectives above; • To undertake appropriate analysis of all the data recovered and publish the results in a suitable medium; • To prepare and deposit the project archive.
The site is a public open space, managed by the Parks and Gardens Section of Chester City Council through a Local Management Agreement with English Heritage, the guardians of the site. As such, it was not possible to secure the areas to be excavated; instead, they were fenced off from the public, whilst still permitting visitors to view the trenches. This was achieved by using road pins and hazard warning tape, reinforced with wire, and warning signs placed in appropriate places. The spoil heaps were contained within these enclosed areas. In the arena area, it was thought inadvisable to push road pins through the gravel surface, as there may have been in situ archaeological deposits or bedrock immediately under it; instead, the pins were supported in flowerpots, an arrangement that worked well. It was also thought important to provide information about the project while we were on site. We used a small angle-topped table with three laminated A3 panels, produced in house. A box containing copies of the June 2000 edition of The Past Uncovered (Chester Archaeology’s quarterly newsletter), which was dedicated to the amphitheatre, was also provided. Members of the public took up to 200 copies of the newsletter every day and, by the second week of the project, a reprint was necessary.
Ill 3: location of the trenches (for more detail, see Ill 74)
Arena floor and major entrances
It was decided to lay out three linear trenches in the arena and an L-shaped trench in the north and east entrances. Trench I (10×2 m) was set out against concrete dividing wall, in centre of arena, to sample the supposed timber platform and diverted axial drain discovered in the 1960s. Trench II (5×2 m)
Chester Archaeology then lay half way between the concrete dividing wall and the northern entrance; it was sited to sample the axial drain, to assess whether any of the original paving had survived and to examine the site of the small pit containing the re-used column fragment. Trench III (5×2 m) lay against northwestern sector of the arena wall, a short distance to the west of the entrance to the Nemeseum. This was located to sample the outer drain and the survival of the secondary paving recorded in this area. Trench IV (5×2 m across the entrance way, with a 2×2 m extension to the south at the eastern end) was laid out in the northern entrance, to the north of the modern wooden steps and running south along the east wall. This trench was intended to assess the nature of the exposed sandstone rubble eroding from the modern gravel surface and the survival of the axial drain. Trench V (intended to be 4×2 m across the southern part of the middle of the entrance, with a 1×2 m extension to the south at the eastern end) was located in the eastern entrance. This was located to assess the survival of deposits and nature of the modern step. However, it was not possible to cross the modern concrete step at the point where the entrance narrows, with apparently secondary masonry, as the wooden steps prevented access to the gravel surface. Excavation began with the clearance of the gravel cover by shovel down to the top of archaeology, defined as any deposit underlying the modern surface and its make-up. Exposed archaeological horizons were then to be cleaned and recorded. Further investigation of exposed features, including their excavation and a sampling programme (as appropriate) could then take place with the approval of English Heritage.
Four two-metre square trenches were to be laid out on the grass ‘seating bank’ (although this is a misnomer, as the Roman structure did not possess such a bank, and what is visible today is a creation of the early 1970s). Trench VI was located at the junction of the outer wall of the stone amphitheatre and the northern wall of ‘Entrance 2’ to assess the nature of support (if any) for the modern road. Trench VII lay to the southwest of the Nemeseum and was intended to assess the nature of the modern seating bank deposits immediately to the rear of the arena wall and to see if any trace of the timber amphitheatre survived in this area. Trench VIII was located to the east of the northern entrance and was sited to assess the nature of the seating bank deposits in this area and whether any earlier archaeology might survive. Trench IX was intended to be to the southeast of Entrance 4, immediately inside the ‘concentric wall’. However, the lack of concrete markings for the ‘concentric wall’ was not taken into account when setting out the trench, as a result of which it lay immediately inside the outer wall, occupying the possible corridor space between the outer and ‘concentric’ walls. It was located to assess the nature of the seating bank deposits and the survival of earlier archaeology. Excavation began with the removal of the turf cover (and safe storage of turves for later reinstatement) and the excavation by hand of modern deposits encountered. This was to include sieving of at least 33% of the soil deposits for improved finds retrieval. Any in situ earlier archaeological remains were to be cleaned and recorded but not excavated. Further investigation of exposed features, including their excavation and a sampling programme was subject to the approval of English Heritage.
Excavation and finds recovery
The spoil heaps were sited close to each excavation trench, with a minimum gap of 1.5 m between the base of the heap and the edge of the trench; spoil was dumped on the side of the heap facing away from the trench. For
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 Trenches I to V, separate heaps were made of gravel and soil deposits; for Trenches VI to IX, the turf was kept separate. All archaeological deposits were excavated by hand in their stratigraphic order (insofar as this could be ascertained before removal), using appropriate tools for the efficient removal of the deposit, the examination of its character and the recovery of artefactual and environmental material within it. The main tools used were trowels and mattocks. All finds were collected by stratigraphic unit, normally by hand, but with additional retrieval by bulk sieving of a minimum 33% sample of each deposit; in many instances, this was as high as 67%.
All trenches were designated by upper case Roman numerals and contexts by Arabic numerals, using a single context recording system. A pro forma (Appendix 7) was completed as soon as practicable for each context excavated. The form records its character, position, relationships, method of excavation, any sampling techniques applied, any finds retrieved but disposed of on site, and initial comments on the date-range and significance of finds (‘spot dates’). A matrix was maintained showing the relationships of all contexts excavated within each trench. Plans and sections were drawn, at scales of 1:20 and 1:10 respectively, showing the extent and thickness of all deposits. These drawings were related to the trench corners and show height above Ordnance Datum. All significant deposits and features were recorded photographically in colour transparencies using a 35 mm film format and in digital format, suing 24-bit colour at a resolution of 640×480 pixels. All finds were appropriately packaged and labelled for removal from site on a daily basis. All artefacts of obvious individual importance (e.g. coins, other recognisable metal objects except nails and dress pins (unless found in meaningful groups), and ceramic stamps) were numbered off-site and recorded in a register. All organic and other samples were also numbered and recorded in a register. Preliminary comments on the character, date and significance of finds were supplied to the site director by specialists as required to inform the excavation process.
The trenches were backfilled, compacted and turf or gravel reinstated at the end of the project as appropriate. Surplus spoil was disposed of off site.
The archive from the project reported here consists of all the written paper records, drawings, digital data and finds generated during the investigation. They are stored in the offices of Chester Archaeology, 27 Grosvenor Street, Chester CH1 2DD, pending eventual transfer to the Grosvenor Museum, 27 Grosvenor Street, Chester CH1 2DD. The archive may be consulted for purposes of genuine research by applying to Chester Archaeology at the above address.
The solid geology of the low-lying parts of Cheshire is frequently obscured by drift deposits up to ninety metres thick (Hebblethwaite 1987: 4). In places, though, the rock outcrops and can form an important element in the landscape. This occurs at Chester, where the River Dee has cut a ridge of Permo-Triassic sandstone known as the Chester Pebble Beds. This ridge is narrow, generally less than one kilometre in width, and is bounded on both sides by deposits of drift. To the west of the medieval walled city lies the broad flat alluvium of the former estuary of the River Dee, known as the Roodee, and to the east is a mixture of till (boulder clay) and glacial sands and gravels. Pockets of these drift deposits also occur on the sandstone ridge, where they may formerly have been more widespread, making the geology of Chester extremely complex. The natural identified during the 1993 evaluation by Lancaster University Archaeological Unit consisted of horizontally-bedded layers of clean yellowish-brown sand (Buxton 1993, 165), probably of glacial origin.
The site occupies roughly level ground. This has been thought to have been created largely a result of post-medieval terracing accomplished by the dumping of deposits across the site to level it. The level of natural appears to drop away dramatically towards the southern end of the site (Buxton 1993, 165), and there have been suggestions of anthropogenic Roman and more recent terracing (Buxton 1993, 170 & 174). Although this is possible, a river terrace of late Pleistocene date at the 16.5-17 metre contour may be hidden beneath later dumped material at Dee House; to the west of the site, it forms a notable landscape feature in the vicinity of St Olave Street and Castle Street. Immediately to the south of the amphitheatre, the ground level falls away rapidly, with the Old Bishop’s Palace’s ground floor level some metres below the existing car park and office. The lane to the east of the site and Souters Lane to the west, which run down to The Groves, occupy hollows cutting down through the terrace, and probably follow former stream beds. They may have originated as glacial run-off channels formed during the retreat of the ice sheet at the end of the last glaciation.
Previous archaeological discoveries
The outer wall of the amphitheatre was discovered in 1929 (Williams 1929, 218) during the construction of a new boiler house for the Ursuline convent school that occupied Dee House at that time (Ill 4). The initial discovery was reported in a summary form as work had already begun on archaeological trenches designed to trace Ill 4: the first discovery, in June 1929 other parts of it. No (after Williams 1929) archive appears to exist for this initial discovery beyond a plan and isometric drawing in the archives of Chester Archaeology.
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 Further trenches dug by P H Lawson, who assumed that its dimensions would have been similar to those of the amphitheatre at Caerleon, confirmed the identification. Lawson’s carefully judged and small-scale trenches enabled an accurate assessment of its position and extent to be made. Some of Lawson’s drawings, including an attempt to work out the orientation of the long axis, with two possible alignments shown, and a reconstruction (Ill 5) form part of the archive held by Chester Archaeology. No written records are known to exist, and no separate report for this work was produced; instead, it was included with the following project.
Ill 5: P H Lawson’s reconstruction of the amphitheatre, c 1930
Work also took place in 1930-1 for the Chester Archaeological Society and the University of Liverpool, directed by Professors Newstead and Droop (1932, 10ff). They examined parts of the western entrance, perimeter and arena walls and the arena itself. Much of the structural history of the stone amphitheatre was established by their work. Some of the drawings still exist in Chester Archaeology’s archives, but no written records are known to have survived. Before the discovery of the amphitheatre, controversial proposals had been put forward in 1926 by the City Corporation to straighten Newgate and Little St John Street between the City Wall and St John’s Church (Crosby 1999, 80). Hostility to the scheme was increased by the discovery of the monument, when it was realised that the new road would cut directly across its centre. The City Improvement Committee delayed inviting tenders for the construction of the new road to allow the Chester Archaeological Society time to raise funds to cover the cost of diverting the road around the outside of the site, some £23,798. A special exhibition was held in 1932 at the Grosvenor Museum (which was then run by the Archaeological Society) to help raise money (Carrington 1996). The walls lining the proposed road had been built, cutting the site in two, and a new gate through the City Wall was under construction when the Ministry of Transport effectively blocked the scheme in 1933 by refusing loan sanction. This occurred as a result of extensive local and national protest at the imminent destruction of the amphitheatre; opponents of the scheme included the Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald. The Archaeological Society formed a Trust, which bought St John’s House, on the north-eastern corner of the monument, while the remainder of the northern half remained derelict for some years. The house was leased to Cheshire County Council
Chester Archaeology from 1934 to 1957. The outbreak of the war in 1939 led to the shelving of plans for the site’s imminent excavation (Mason 1987, 151). About 1950, the site of the abandoned road was converted to use as a public garden, known as the ‘Amphitheatre Garden’. By the late 1950s, the income generated in rent from St John’s House had increased to a point that allowed it to consider the excavation of the northern part of the site, although financial help from the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works was necessary. In 1934, more trial holes were excavated in the cellar of St John’s House and at 19 Little St John Street, which revealed parts of the northern outer wall of the amphitheatre (Newstead 1948, 103f). Again, some of the drawings exist in Chester Archaeology’s archives, including plans for modifications to St John’s House to allow the exposure of the northern entrance, but no written records are known to have survived. Further recording took place on 11-12 September 1939, during the digging of air raid shelters on the site of Entrance 1 (Anonymous 1940, 163; Newstead 1948, 102). The work seems to have begun without notifying the Archaeological Society, which registered its protests with the Office of Works. Work also seems to have taken place somewhere in the site in 1952, as the notebook labelled ‘Bag List’ in the archive for the 1960s work includes a reference to a box labelled ‘Amphitheatre 1952’, containing Romano-British pottery of mainly Flavian date. The project that generated this material appears to be otherwise unrecorded (even the useful list of work in Thompson’s (1976, 132) report does not mention it) and there is apparently no other Ill 6: the ‘Amphitheatre Gardens’ in July 1958. In the background, St John’s House is being archive for it. There are demolished two main explanations for this collection of material. One is that the establishment of gardens in the early 1950s on the line of the abandoned road that had been intended to run across the site permitted some small-scale work, which seems a reasonable enough possibility. The other is connected with Graham Webster’s statement that W J Williams made a suggestion about “a significant bulge in the retaining wall along Souter’s Lane… and he was right” (Webster 1996, 42). Unfortunately, we do not know what W J Williams had suggested and how Graham Webster was able to prove him right. The material contained in the box comprises three joining sherds of an amphora (probably of South Gaulish origin), a fragment of Holt mortarium, two pieces of decorated samian, an orange ware base in two pieces, two sherds from different black-on-brown ware vessels, a greyware sherd and a thick sherd of bottle glass1.
I am grateful to Dan Robinson of the Grosvenor Museum for locating the material and to Gill Dunn for its identification. 8
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 At the Ministry of Works’ request, small-scale excavations were undertaken in 1957, to confirm the exact positions of the amphitheatre’s walls. Hugh Thompson, then curator of the Grosvenor Museum, carried out the work (Thompson 1996, 50) to allow the Corporation to fix a final line for Little St John Street. Other than a trench location plan and a reference to a box of material in the ‘Bag List’ notebook mentioned above, there appears to be no archive for this material. Following this small-scale campaign, St John’s House was demolished in June 1958 (Thompson 1976, 131). The major excavation campaign that led to the exposure of the northern 41% of the amphitheatre began on 25 April 1960 and continued fitfully until 18 July 1969, still under the direction of Hugh Thompson. The most detailed work took place after 1965, following the transfer of the St John’s House site to state ownership (Crosby 1999, 83).
Ill 7: the start of excavation in 1960
Financial and other constraints meant that the focus of work was strictly on the Roman monument, and consequently a decision was taken to remove post-Roman deposits mechanically (Ill 7). Hugh Thompson (1996, 53) later expressed regret for this, saying that the clearance “might have been a bit ruthless and ham-fisted”. Nevertheless, post-Roman features that were cut into Roman deposits were recorded systematically and form an important component in assessing the post-Roman history of the site. Of special importance in this regard are the three section drawings of the southern face of what was recorded as Trench IC, which are the sole record of many of the arena fills (and even these are incomplete for a variety of reasons). However, the features recorded from 1965 onwards cannot be related to the stratigraphy recorded in this trench, dug in 1960. In 1993, the University of Lancaster Archaeological Unit undertook an evaluation excavation on the southern part of the amphitheatre site. This arose from a planning application by British Telecom plc, the owners of the site since 1970. Forty trenches were recorded across the entire southern part of the site; the Brief required that excavation should cease when ‘significant’ archaeology (defined as being earlier than the foundation of Dee House in 1730) was revealed. In practice, allowance was made for the excavation of earlier deposits at the City Archaeologist’s request in twelve instances (Buxton 1993, 11). Some evidence was produced for the survival of pockets of Roman archaeology beneath Dee House, but the overall impression was one of considerable truncation in most areas, with pockets of undisturbed archaeology surviving in places. The survival of medieval material was largely restricted to the southern part of the site, but it gave the appearance of being largely a soil build-up with few associated features. Those trenches located over the arena contained large quantities of post-medieval material, much of which was thought to derive from demolition work elsewhere in the city (Buxton 1993, 174). Considerable evidence for truncation was found in the area of the twentieth-century extensions south of Dee House. In 1994, Chester Archaeology undertook a small-scale evaluation in the car park area to the southeast of Dee House following a planning application to
Chester Archaeology grade down the levels. By this time, the site had been sold to McLean Homes Ltd. Six trenches measuring 2 m2 were positioned to examine a sample of the area proposed for grading down. The aim of the evaluation was to establish the nature and extent of the deposits likely to be affected by the proposed grading, to determine what degree of development would be permissible and also to establish if further archaeological work would be necessary before granting planning permission or as a result of development proceeding. During 2000, Gifford and Partners conducted a watching-brief on the south side of Dee House, during the construction of new offices by McLean Homes. As this work has not been written up at the time of writing (February 2001), it is not included here.
Synthesis of existing data
None of the previous investigations of the site produced any evidence for prehistoric activity. However, a large flint flake found immediately to the north in August 1908 was initially described (Newstead 1909, 27) as Palaeolithic in form. It was unfortunately captioned as an axe on the photograph accompanying not only the original publication, but also in the more popular Prehistoric man in Cheshire by William Shone Jr (1911, 24) and has found its way, unquestioned, into subsequent syntheses (e.g. Varley & Jackson 1940, 18). Despite a superficial resemblance (particularly in the published photograph) to an Acheulian hand-axe, it is certainly not an axe, but a flake. It is not bifacially worked, the ventral surface displays a prominent bulb of percussion, the dorsal surface retains two patches of cortex and it has no trace of secondary working. The flake is clearly a piece of débitage and although its form suggests an early date, it was not found in situ and could have been brought to Chester from elsewhere. It is not therefore good evidence for Palaeolithic activity in the area.
The Roman amphitheatre
The first amphitheatre on the site was built in the third quarter of the 70s AD, immediately after the establishment of the Roman fortress at Chester (Thompson 1976, 134). It was built around a grid of sill beams laid radially and joined by concentric beams (referred to as a ‘grillage’ by Hugh Thompson). It was somewhat smaller than the stone amphitheatre, apparently lying entirely inside the ‘concentric wall’ of the latter, but the arenas appear to have been of the same size. The timber-framed structure was replaced, probably later in the first century, by a stone amphitheatre (Thompson 1976, 182); the work was perhaps contemporary with the rebuilding of many of the legionary buildings and the fortress defences in stone. The stone monument consists of a number of linked elements. There is an outer buttressed stone wall some 2.5 m wide, with major entrances to the north, south east and west and a series of eight minor entrances (vomitoria), two spaced between each of the main entrances. An inner, ‘concentric’ wall, lies 2.1 m inside the outer wall, and is conjectured to have formed the inner wall of a corridor linking the entrances. Inside this was a low seating bank, acting as a base for timber framing to support the seats, in front of which stood the arena wall, up to 1.1 m thick. A series of paved surfaces and deposits was found in the arena. Finally, a drainage scheme included an axial drain running from the north entrance across the arena and debouching through the south entrance, and a peripheral drain running around the edge of the arena. By the middle of the second century the amphitheatre appears to have been largely abandoned (Thompson 1976, 182) and a thin layer of débris was allowed to accumulate over the arena floor (Newstead & Droop 1932, 19).
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 The arena was later repaved, probably in the 270s (Thompson 1976, 151), and the amphitheatre enjoyed a final period of use until it became a rubbish dump in the late Roman period. The material dumped in the arena contained pottery dating from the first half of the fourth century (Thompson 1976, 183).
The sub-Roman and Saxon periods
The immediately post-Roman use of the site is not known. The establishment of St John’s church to the east of the amphitheatre has traditionally been dated to 689, in the reign of Æthelræd I of Mercia (AD 675-704), although it could have occurred at the time of the resurgence of Chester as an urban centre, under Æthelræd II (879-911). By the tenth century, it was one of the city’s two Minster churches, with a monopoly on burial rights outside the defences, and was clearly an important establishment (Thacker 1987, 269). The amphitheatre’s location outside the former Roman fortress has been thought significant in the development of the Middle Saxon town (Ward et al.1994, 119). Seventh-century occupation may have lain outside the Roman fortress, typical of the wic sites identified in contemporary cities such as London and York. What is suggestive here is the location of the amphitheatre; that at Cirencester was used during the sub-Roman period as a defensive enclosure (Wacher 1974, 314), and it is possible that St John’s was deliberately sited next to an existing high-status dwelling and/or fortification. In the later Saxon period, St John’s was associated with a stone-carving workshop active in the tenth century (Thacker 1987, 279). William of Malmesbury, an Anglo-Norman historian, claims that Leofric, Earl of Mercia c 1031-1057, repaired and conferred privileges on St John’s as well as on St Werburgh’s; the foundation of the College of canons may have occurred at this date (Pevsner & Hubbard 1971, 148). In 1066 the church formed part of the manor of Radeclive (Radcliff) and was associated with a Minster church dedicated to St Mary (Morgan 1978, B11). It is not known where the latter church was located, but by 1377 the dedication had been absorbed by an altar-chapel in St John’s (Dodgson 1981, 83). Radcliff was last mentioned in 1258 (Dodgson 1981, 80); its name derived from the colour of the local sandstone, quarried to the south of St John’s. Late Saxon pottery was recovered during the 1960s. There is a Saxo-Norman shelly-ware rim sherd, reported as unstratified, and two rim sherds in a pinkish brown sandy ware from ‘the first post-Roman accumulation in the northern entrance’ (Thompson 1976, 216 nos 67, 69 and 70).
St John’s church continued to be the dominant feature of this part of Chester throughout the medieval period. In 1075 Peter, Bishop of Lichfield, transferred the administration of his diocese to Chester, initiating a major period of rebuilding at St John’s, which became his main cathedral church (Richards 1973, 103). Although his successor, Robert de Limesey, moved the see to Coventry before 1102, the building-programme continued. For several centuries the bishops occasionally continued to style themselves Bishop of Chester, and a palace was maintained near the church (Richards 1973, 104), immediately to the south of the present site. By the late thirteenth century the church was complete (Jones 1957, 81; Richards 1973, 103) and it prospered, not least as a place of pilgrimage for its relic of the Holy Rood (Jones 1957, 51). However, the economic troubles of the fourteenth century and reductions in the numbers of parishioners during the plague years in the middle of the century led to the increasing disrepair of the church, and in 1468 the tower over the nave crossing collapsed.
Chester Archaeology Little St John’s Street, to the north of the amphitheatre, was first recorded as viculus maioris ecclesiae Sancti Johannis (‘the lane of the greater church of St John’) and Souters Lane, to the west, as Souterlode, both in 1274 (Dodgson 1981, 77). These lanes are likely to have followed the lines of Roman streets because the existence of the amphitheatre ruins would have been a major constraint to road layouts in this area. When they first acquired street-frontage properties is not known, although it is reasonable to expect some form of occupation—not necessarily intensive—during the medieval period. The pits excavated during the 1960s excavation (Thompson 1976, 164) suggest domestic colonisation by the early thirteenth century. Most of the medieval deposits identified by the 1993 evaluation were found on the southern part of the site (Buxton 1993, 173). This appeared to be a result of post-medieval levelling to the north, which had removed medieval and late Roman deposits. The only features found were cobbled surfaces (Buxton 1993, 150) and a possible cesspit. The implication of the evaluation is that medieval occupation on the southern part of the site was not intensive. However, Newstead and Droop found stamped and glazed floor tiles of later medieval date (Newstead & Droop 1932, 38) which might have come from a nearby high-status house, although they may equally have come originally from St John’s church.
Evidence for the use of the site in the post-medieval period comes from the surviving structures, maps, written records and the earlier excavations. The main feature of the site still to exist is Dee House, a building whose core dates from around 1730 (Carrington ed. 1994, 100; DoE 1972, 80); this block, about 12.25 by 7.25 m, occupies the north-central part of the building. It was built for the Comberbach family, who occupied it until it became the vicarage of St John’s. Extensions to the south and southwest had been made by the 1740s, and between 1867 and 1869, a chapel was added to form an eastern wing when the Faithful Companions of Jesus took over the building and established a convent school. At some time towards the end of the nineteenth century a further extension was made to the west of the original core of the building. A flat-roofed building was added to the south in 1929 for the Ursulines who took over the school in 1925 and whose construction led to the discovery of the Roman amphitheatre. This new building was extended southwards in 1959 or 1960, and further alterations were made to incorporate various outbuildings to the west and south during the twentieth century. St John’s church continued to be modified throughout the post-medieval period. In 1547, Edward VI’s commissioners stripped the lead from the roof of the quire and its aisles, beginning the process by which large parts of the church fell into ruin (Richards 1973, 104). In 1572 and 1574 the tower collapsed, demolishing part of the nave, which was rebuilt in 1581. There were also major alterations in 1719 (Raines 1845, 101). In 1881 the tower collapsed again, once more demolishing part of the nave and the porch on the north side of the church. The porch was rebuilt using the fallen masonry in 1882 and a new clock tower and belfry was erected in 1887, at the same time as the north aisle of the church was refaced (Richards 1973, 104). On the northeast corner of the amphitheatre, formerly stood St John’s House. It was a substantial, mid-eighteenth century brick building two storeys high with a Georgian neo-classical facade. It retained its eighteenth-century form with little or no modification up to June 1958, when it was demolished to prepare for the excavation of the northern part of the Roman amphitheatre (Thompson 1976, 131). These excavations found evidence for a seventeenthcentury building on the site, in the form of a stone inscription dated 1664, although the plan was not recovered (Thompson 1976, 165). This was probably built during the restoration of the area outside the New Gate following extensive destruction during the Civil War. This may have been
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 partly a result of the occupation of St John’s churchyard by Parliamentarian troops on who set up a gun battery there on 20 September 1644 (Carrington ed. 1994, 88). A new office block, granted Planning Permission in 1995, was built on the southwestern extremity of the amphitheatre in 2000. Although the planning application had not initially been controversial and received little opposition, and the new structure was rafted over the Roman archaeology, public reaction to the start of building was intense. A campaign was mounted to try to stop work on the development, which was unsuccessful. More importantly, the controversy led to the formation of the Chester Amphitheatre Trust, a pressure group devoted to pressing for the full excavation of the remainder of the monument. In June 2000, Chester City Council reaffirmed its commitment to seeking the full excavation of the site and instructed its officers to prepare viable plans to achieve this.
This trench was located roughly in the centre of the arena, against the wall dividing the exposed monument from the garden of Dee House to the south. It was intended to be 10 m long (east to west) and 2 m wide, but owing to the location of a concrete planter that proved impossible to shift, the southwestern metre square was not excavated. It was located to sample the Roman axial drain and evidence for the central timber platform.
Description of stratigraphic sequence
The existing surface consisted of a deposit of loose gravel (31) of varying thickness (largely owing to its tendency to pile up against the wall that formed the southern edge of the trench). The gravel deposit became finer and was bound together with grey/pink sand towards its base, as it did elsewhere on the site. Beneath this modern surface was a mid reddish brown very stony sand, deposit (47).
Ill 8: Trench I
Table 1: summary of stratigraphy, Trench I Subgroup number 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 70 Description Gravel arena floor Makeup Modern posthole Modern posthole Modern axial drain Roman axial drain Posthole Posthole Bedrock Foundation trench for dividing wall Date Modern c 1970 1980s? 1980s? Late 1969 Roman Roman? Roman? Natural 1964 Comprises contexts 31 47 48, 49 51, 52 76, 115, 116 84, 85 86, 87 88, 89 77, 78 126, 127
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 Immediately below the gravel and probably (but not certainly) cutting deposit (47)—the relationship was visible in section but not in plan—were two sub-rectangular cut features, (48) and (51). They were virtually identical in form, measured 560×440 mm (context (48)) and 560×450 mm (context (51)), with near vertical sides and were 450 mm deep. Cut (48) was filled by (49), a mid grey silt loam, while the fill of (51), (52), was very similar. The only finds were of later twentieth-century date. Also visible through deposit (47)— although it was unclear if it cut the deposit or if the deposit had been piled around it—was a line of three concrete slabs, (76). All the slabs were 0.86 m wide and approximately 75 mm thick. The southernmost slab butted the concrete wall across the arena and had been trimmed to a trapezium shape (maximum length 0.9 m), as it did not butt the wall at right angles, while the northern slab extended outside the excavation area. The middle slab was 0.92 m long; an attempt was made to raise it, but it was firmly cemented or otherwise wedged into position. The southeastern corner of the northern slab was cracked and missing. All the slabs rested on a concrete feature that was roughly the same width as the slabs (i.e. 0.86 m). As it was not possible to raise the middle or southernmost slabs, the form of the concrete feature beneath them could not be ascertained, but it was assumed to be similar (if not identical) to (124) in Trench II. For details, see below. The feature, (116), was presumed to cut the bedrock, as it could not be demonstrated to have cut (47). The hypothesised concrete feature sealed by slabs (76) was assigned context number (115).
Ill 9: cut (48)
Ill 10: cut (51)
31 52 51 49 48
Ill 11: Trench I matrix
Sealed by (47) was a deposit of sub-angular sandstone rubble, (127), that contained no finds in the short section excavated; it filled a narrow, vertically sided trench, (128). This trench ran alongside the concrete diving wall that formed the southern edge of Trench I. West of feature (116) lay a linear hollow, (84), on an alignment that met the concrete dividing wall almost exactly at right angles. It varied between 1.0 and 1.2 m in width, except towards the southern end, where it had been cut through by (51) and (128), and it was 0.45 m deep. Its fill, (85), was a very stony dark red-brown sand consisting largely of angular to sub-angular
Chester Archaeology sandstone fragments. It contained a polythene bag for ‘Satinex’ greaseproof paper, costing 6d and made by Satinex (Great Britain) Ltd, of Shaw Mills, Hawarden. Two other features were found cut into the bedrock, both to the west of (84). One, (86), lay against the northern baulk of the trench, but appeared to be roughly circular, 0.40 in diameter and cut 0.25 m into the bedrock. It had vertical sides, but the base was irregular, with two rounded depressions at the base. Its fill, (87), was a firm pale reddish brown sandy silt loam. No dating material was recovered from the fill. The second feature was a smaller, sub-square cut, (88), on the western edge of the trench and partly underlying the baulk. It was about 100×110 mm, but as it was not excavated, its depth was not ascertained. Its fill, (89), was a light yellowish brown loamy sand with about 20% linear light grey mottles.
Ill 12: cut (84)
The eastern end of the trench proved very difficult to clean. Ill 13: cut (86) What had initially appeared to be uniform bedrock, given contexts (77) and (78), was overlain by a deposit of sandstone brash that appeared initially to be natural. However, during the closing days of the project it became evident that this brashy material lay in the linear hollows that were identified during the 1960s excavation as trenches in which the postholes for the putative timber platform were set (Thompson 1976, 153). This material was not excavated or recorded in any detail. The bedrock itself consisted of two types of sandstone, assigned separate context numbers. The majority of the bedrock, (78), consisted of typical red Cheshire sandstone (the so-called Chester Pebble Beds), with bedding planes sloping upwards from east to west and from north to south, following the typical alignment that has created the major landforms of the western part of the county. Towards the western end of the trench, however, a band of a more mottled pale yellow to yellowish white bedrock, (77), was exposed. At first, this appeared to be an archaeological deposit, but on cleaning it was found that the material was bedded in the same planes as (78) and was stratified between separate bedding layers of the red sandstone. This material was highly micaceous, with many glittering silver to gold flecks.
The gravel, (31), was probably laid early in the 1970s, when the site was prepared for opening to the public. The site diary (Excavation Diary V, 18.7.1969) records work on the drains at that time, giving a terminus post quem for the laying-out of the site. Evidence from Trench IV suggests that
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 this took place in late 1970 or early 1971. However, constant reworking of the gravel surface by visitors’ footsteps as well as raking during maintenance, means that this deposit—as an archaeological deposit—is still forming. This is an important consideration for the dating of features (48) and (51). The deposit immediately below the gravel, (47), might have formed in several ways. In part, it might have been material that had washed through the gravel following its original deposition, to consolidate as a separate layer beneath it. On the other hand, it might also have been laid in part as a bedding layer or makeup for the gravel. It was not possible to determine which of these alternatives should be preferred or, indeed, if both were correct. The two subrectangular cut features, (48) and (51) were so similar in form that it is reasonable to assume that they were cut at around the same time. Although they were sealed by the gravel, it was not clear at the time of excavation if they had been cut through (47), as they did not become apparent as features until after (47) had been removed and the underlying deposits cleaned. However, it was clear that (51), at least, had been cut after the new facing was put on the wall in the summer of 1964, as it cut through (126), the backfill of the trench cut to take the facing. The finds broadly confirm a later twentieth-century date but do not allow any greater precision. However, the fills of these features were well consolidated and there was no sign of slumping in the gravel above them before excavation began. Moreover, their fills contained no trace of redeposited gravel. This suggests that they are not very recent: certainly not within the past five years, say. A date in the 1970s or 1980s therefore seems most likely. This raises questions about the purpose and context of these cuts. They appear to have been dug as postholes, but there have never been earth-fast posts in this part of the arena. It was pointed out that they corresponded roughly to the location of a giant ‘Scales of Justice’ erected by the Chester Amphitheatre Trust in June 2000, but this merely rested on the arena floor, and the nature of the features’ fills precludes so recent an origin. It is possible that some furtive digging took place on the site during the 1980s as part of the abortive Deva Roman Experience proposals (a suggestion made on site by Tim Strickland), but again, the lack of redeposited gravel in their fills is puzzling. It may be best to regard them as postholes dug for unknown purposes before the site was opened to the public (1970-72), but this is an interpretation that depends entirely on negative considerations. The line of three concrete slabs, (76), continued the alignment of an identical feature in Trench II (see below). In that trench, the collapse of several of the slabs had revealed what lay beneath: a concrete-lined drain. This is evidently the modern main drain across the arena, connecting (by some means) with the pump installed in the chamber to the north of the east entrance. Presumably, the drain comes to an abrupt halt at the concrete dividing wall. Trench (128), running alongside the concrete diving wall was evidently dug to allow the pebble-dashed slabs to be added to its front. The original appearance of the wall can be seen in the published report (Thompson 1976, Plate XXXIII d); the trench dug to allow the builders access was recorded as A64/1 (Excavation Diary III, 20.7.1964-23.9.1964; see Ill 6, below). Linear hollow (84) corresponded in position to the axial drain recorded in Trench 1C (dug in 1960), in Trench A64/1C and in Trench A67/AR/1 (Ill
Ill 14: the axial drain as excavated in 1960
Chester Archaeology 14). From the profiles produced in the 1960s, it can be seen that the edge of the feature has been badly damaged, especially close to the concrete dividing wall. At this point, Hugh Thompson (1976, 153) believed that the drain had been diverted around the outside of a timber platform, for which the postholes were recorded in the trenches mentioned above. Photographs of the excavation show that the feature was completely emptied of its fills in the 1960s; the damage may derive partly from subsequent weathering or from subsequent work (such as the installation of drains late in 1969) in the arena floor. Cut (86) resembled the postholes encountered in 1964 and again in 1967. However, there are no adequate descriptions of these features to enable a close comparison to be made (Excavation Diary III, 25.8.64 and 23.9.64 mentions ‘massive postholes’; Excavation Diary IV 11.8.67 merely says ‘gulleys + p.h.s’). Moreover, none of the original features could be located within the trench, owing to the difficulty of distinguishing natural from redeposited material at the eastern end. This meant that direct comparison was also impossible. Nevertheless, the general size (diameter and depth) of (86) appears to correspond closely with the 1960s features as recorded on the plan and profile. This feature lay to the west of the axial drain, which had apparently been diverted west around the edge putative timber platform in the centre of the arena. If this posthole belongs with those excavated by Hugh Thompson, then the drain cannot have been diverted around it. In that case, the reason for the diversion of the drain must then be questioned. If it belongs with some of the potholes, but not others, then future Ill 15: postholes of the supposed timber excavations to the south platform as excavated in 1964 must resolve the phasing of these features. If it does not belong with those recorded in the 1960s, then we cannot explain (or date) cut (86). Interestingly, the base of the cut had two depressions, as if it had been recut to take a second post after the insertion of the first. This might reinforce suggestions (Matthews 2000, 10) that—if it does belong with the supposed timber platform—the central platform was a temporary structure that could be erected and dismantled as and when necessary. Cut (88) is even more difficult to characterise, as it was not excavated. Nevertheless, in size and shape it is very different from any of the features supposed to belong to the central timber platform and more closely resembles cut (83) in Trench III (see below). Its interpretation is unclear and stratigraphic dating impossible. The difficulties presented by the bedrock at the eastern end of the trench arose because the redeposited brashy material was identical to the natural sandstone brash. However, it became clear that it did indeed occupy the slots recorded in the 1960s. Its origin seems to be the floor of the arena, as cleaned by Hugh Thompson and, later, by the Ministry of Works. Some grading down
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 of the sandstone rockhead seems to have occurred during the preparation of the site for public display; this is the probable origin of this deposit of degraded sandstone. The separate colours seen in the bedrock were observed elsewhere on the site (Trenches II and VII), where they also caused difficulties of interpretation at first. Nevertheless, it rapidly became clear that although (77) appeared to be an archaeological rather than a geological deposit, it is in fact a layer sealed by and sealing otherwise in situ red sandstone, and merely forms a series of bands within an otherwise relatively homogeneous bedded Triassic red sandstone.
This trench was located roughly half way between the dividing wall across the centre of the arena and the northern entrance. Its long axis was aligned west by south to east by north and the trench was initially laid out to measure 5×2 m initially. It was intended to locate the Roman axial drain, a pit that had originally contained a modified column fragment (Thompson 1976, 153) and an area of supposed primary paving. The presence of the drain was indicated before excavation by a depression in the gravel floor of the arena. Later in the project, following advice from English Heritage Monuments in Care, the trench was extended north-northwest and south-southeast along the line of the axial drain.
Description of stratigraphic sequence
Table 2: summary of stratigraphy, Trench II Subgroup number 52 53 54 55 56 69 Description Gravel arena floor Roman pit (originally containing column fragment) Makeup Modern land drains Bedrock Modern axial drain Date Modern Roman Comprises contexts 70 69, 79, 80 71 72, 73 74, 75 123, 124, 125
Late 1969 Natural Late 1969
The existing surface consisted of a deposit of loose gravel (70) of varying thickness, slumping towards the centre of the trench, over the line of the predicted Roman axial drain. The gravel deposit became finer and was bound together with grey/pink sand towards its base, as it did elsewhere on the site. Beneath this modern surface was a mid grey sandy silt loam, deposit (71). This deposit contained flecks of red brick or other ceramic building material and carbonised wood. Immediately upon removal of the gravel surface, a linear series of concrete slabs, (123), were seen running along the long axis of the arena. All the slabs had cracked badly
Ill 16: Trench II
Chester Archaeology towards their centre and the northernmost within the trench had completely collapsed, revealing a concrete-lined void (124) beneath it. This had caused the slumping in the arena surface seen before excavation began. Following discussion with English Heritage, it was decided to extend Trench II to the north and south, along the line of (123) to expose the entire length of cracked slabs. To the north, the character of the slabs changed; after one more slab of the same size as those in the original trench, only smaller (and undamaged) slabs were exposed. To 70 the south, one further damaged slab was found, and the slab beyond it was intact.
Running towards this feature were three linear slots, (72), (73) and (126), all filled with the material immediately underlying the gravel, (71). The slots were steep sided and about 360 mm wide at the top. In the base of the cut, beneath deposit (71), were sections of modern concrete pipe. After rain, it was possible to see that rain water drained along these cuts towards the central concrete feature, (124), which the pipes joined.
Ill 17: Trench II matrix
Ill 18: feature (79) before excavation (contrast enhanced)
A short distance west of the concrete slabs lay a shallow oval feature, (79), cut into the sandstone bedrock. It was 0.85×0.52 m, with its long axis aligned at right angles to the long axis of the amphitheatre, and up to 0.08 m deep. It contained two fills: (80), a firm greyish sandy loam containing small sandstone fragments and some small abraded pieces of ceramic material, and (69), a brownish red sand, the same colour as the sandstone bedrock. The second deposit occupied a linear slot measuring 0.61×0.28 m, in the centre of the feature and was a secondary fill, sealing (80).
The gravel, (70), was the same material as (31), in Trench I, probably laid early in the 1970s; for further details, see above. Beneath it, (71) may have been the bedding material or simply a separating out of the finer elements of the matrix as laid. The slumping of these deposits towards the centre of the trench was one of the reasons for locating it here. It had originally been hoped that this might have resulted from the presence of the Roman axial drain beneath it, but this was not the case, as it had been caused by the collapse of the concrete slabs (123).
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 The slabs formed the cover of a modern concrete drain, laid in the summer of 1969 (see above). The collapse had been caused by pressure from above. Given that the slabs were of reinforced concrete, it seems extremely unlikely that this was the result of the public use of the site. It probably therefore occurred as a result of the movement of heavy machinery across the slabs, something that cannot have happened after the amphitheatre was opened to the public. The extension to Trench II showed that the drain narrows to the north and that the slabs over this narrower drain had not been broken. To the south, there was a further partly collapsed drain and another showing slight cracking but no distortion. Three modern land drains ran into the axial drain along slots (74), (75) and (126). They clearly formed a herringbone pattern across the entire arena floor and were evidently laid in an attempt to improve drainage. A local resident, Mrs Bess Savage, who visited the site a number of times during the project, gave the writer a copy of a plan she had made showing Ill 19: Trench II, west end what she believed to be the Roman drainage system she had observed during the 1960s excavations. As it appears to correspond so closely with the 1969 drainage scheme, it seems a reasonable assumption that this is what she saw and misidentified as Roman. The drains themselves consisted of short lengths of grey concrete pipe, each about 600 mm long (probably manufactured to be two feet long). The drains were backfilled with brashy material derived from the rockhead. Feature (79) corresponds to a shallow pit excavated in 1967, when it was found to contain a reused fragment of column into which an iron bar had been set. It lay in the edge of the sandstone-lined feature identified as a path leading to the central platform (Thompson 1976, 153; Plates XLII a and b; Fig 8). The published plan appears to show part of the column obscured by a triangular stone, but this merely reproduces an accidental pencil stroke in the site notebook. The column fragment was about 0.69 m ‘tall’ (in other words, ‘long’ as it lay in the pit; this corresponds to 28 Roman unciae of 24.67 mm or 2.3 pedes of 296 mm) and 0.33 m in diameter (about 13½ unciae). Curiously, deposit (69) occupied a hollow of the right dimensions for the column fragment, as if the column had been removed and the hollow it occupied within the pit left to fill up naturally. This does not accord with the evidence of the published photograph (Thompson 1976, Plate XLII b), which shows the pit excavated down to natural.
Ill 20: the column pit as excavated in 1967 (north at the top)
Ill 21: the column in situ, mid-July 1968
Chester Archaeology It may perhaps be surmised that the column was replaced in the pit after initial recording, the pit allowed to silt up slowly and the column fragment subsequently removed, leaving a hollow into which material slumped when the makeup for the modern surface was being laid. There is some confirmation of this suggestion in the photographic archive of the 1960s excavation: in a general view of the start of excavation in Trench 68/3, excavated between 11 and 17 July 1968, the column is clearly visible in the background. This suggests that the column was removed from site some time after the middle of July 1968, having been exposed for over a year: this is plenty of time for silt to have accumulated around its base.
This trench was located against the arena wall, west of the Nemeseum, with its long axis running northwest to southeast; it measured 5×2 m. It was sited to sample the peripheral drain and to see if any traces of the late third century paving of the amphitheatre survived in this area.
Description of stratigraphic sequence
The existing surface consisted of a deposit of loose gravel (29) of varying thickness. Although recorded as a single deposit, its character changed with depth in a more complex way than in Trenches I, II, IV and V. The surface was loose, but this became compacted and apparently bonded with clay underneath; below this was a dark grey sandy gravel layer with a base layer of lighter sand. This sequence was not visible everywhere in the trench.
Ill 22: Trench III matrix
Ill 23: concrete slabs (96)
Immediately beneath surface (29), a series of rectangular concrete slabs, (96), was seen at the northwestern end of the trench, parallel to the arena wall. Each slab measured 610×460 mm, with their short edges touching. Several were lifted and found to overlie a concrete feature, (113), the same width as the slabs (460 mm) with a U-shaped trough 95 mm wide at the top and 80 mm deep running along the centre. The depth of the concrete could not be determined; it lay inside a cut, (114), that had removed the Roman peripheral drain known to have run at this point, its centre about 465 mm from the foot of the arena wall. Running diagonally across the trench from a point south of the northwest corner to the southeast corner was a slot of irregular width (between 0.2 and 0.34 m), (54). In the base of the slot lay a series of concrete pipes in sections
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 0.62 m long with an external diameter of 120 mm; one shorter section of 0.52 m lay towards the centre of the trench. The pipes lay in a matrix of rounded to sub-angular gravel of 5-25 mm diameter that occupied the bottom 0.26 m of the cut. Above this was (53), a friable red loamy sand with angular sandstone inclusions up to 70 mm diameter. It contained a sherd of clear glass from the neck and rim of a milk bottle.
Table 3: summary of stratigraphy, Trench III Subgroup number 38 39 40 41 42 Description Gravel arena floor Land drain Posthole Modern perimeter drain Bedrock Date Modern Late 1969 Roman? Late 1969 Natural Comprises contexts 29 53, 54, 55 82, 83 96, 113, 114 68
Ill 24: Trench III, feature (54)
Ill 25: the modern peripheral drain
Half way along the southwestern side of the trench, against the baulk, was a small cut feature, (83). It was about 450×180 mm and about 100 mm deep, with sides sloping down at around 30° to a rounded base. Its fill, (82), was a light brownish yellow sandy loam with about 20% mid grey mottles. About 25% of the deposit was retained for environmental sampling. All the features were cut into a red sandstone, (68). Its upper bedding planes were friable and easily disturbed, although the inclination of the strata was still visible. In some places, a dark silt was visible between the bedding planes.
The gravel, (29), was the same material as (31) in Trench I and (70) in Trench II, probably laid early in the 1970s. It was not evident why the sequence of deposits in this trench was so much more complex than in other trenches in the arena or entrances. The more compacted gravel and clay was not seen elsewhere on the site and the presence of clay might be the result of material falling off the top of the arena wall from the seating bank behind it, where active erosion is still visible. Below this, the dark grey sandy gravel
Chester Archaeology layer more closely resembled the material ascribed to settling in Trenches I and II. The base layer of lighter sand may not have been laid deliberately, but might have been a weathering product from the exposed rock-head between its exposure in 1965 and the completing of the display scheme in 1972. The concrete slabs were part of the 1969 drainage scheme seen in Trenches I and II. Here, as in Trench II, the modern drain had been cut through the Roman drain, destroying it. The Roman drain was not particularly sophisticated, being of a type known as a ‘rumble drain’. It consisted of a rock-cut slot filled with sandstone pieces (Ill 26), but it had been hoped that there might be environmental evidence surviving in it. The modern drain was still working, as water flowed through it following wet weather. The slabs had clearly been manufactured to a standard Imperial size of 24×18 inches. Slot (54) was also part of the drainage scheme, this time belonging to the herringbone pattern of land drains mentioned above. As the pipes were 0.62 m long, they had evidently been manufactured to be two feet in length; their external diameter was 4¾ inches. The small cut feature, (83), may be similar in character to (88) in Trench I, but as this was not excavated, it is impossible to be certain. In view of the profile of (83), it is very unlikely to have been dug as a posthole, while the angle of slope is too shallow for the base of a stakehole. The feature may be natural weathering in the base of the arena, caused by solution activity, or it may be the base of a feature cut from a higher level. As it produced no datable material, it cannot be placed in any phase of activity on the site.
Ill 26: the Roman peripheral drain as excavated in 1965
Ill 27: the late paving found in 1965
The bedrock in Trench III was typical of the bedrock in the arena, although it did not display any of the silvery bedding planes visible in Trenches I and II. The angle of the bedding indicates that this part of the bedrock belongs to a slightly lower geological stratum than in any of the other trenches excavated in 2000.
Trench IV was laid out in the Northern Entrance, to the north of the modern wooden steps and running south along the east wall. This trench was intended to assess the nature of the exposed sandstone rubble eroding from the modern gravel surface and whether the axial drain had survived. It measured 5×2 m across the width of the north entrance, with a 2×2 m extension to the south at its eastern end.
Description of stratigraphic sequence
The surface consisted of a loose deposit of gravel, (30). The thickness varied considerably across the trench and in places, pieces of sandstone were protruding from the underlying deposits. The gravel overlay two deposits whose stratigraphic relationship was unclear, (57) and (67). The former consisted of a compact mid reddish to orange-brown sand containing angular to sub-angular pieces of sandstone up to 130 mm in diameter. Towards the southern end of the trench, (67) consisted of a compact mid red to orangebrown sand containing the sandstone rubble that was visible before excavation. It is possible that both (57) and (67) formed a single deposit and were distinguished only by the degree of compaction, (67) being the more compact of the two.
Table 4: summary of stratigraphy, Trench IV Subgroup number 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 Description Gravel north entrance floor Makeup Modern posthole Modern posthole Modern drain Well Backfill of Trenches A68/14 and A69/1 Roman axial drain Bedrock Date Modern Comprises contexts 30 57, 66, 67 91, 92 93, 94 95, 97 107, 108, 110, 121 105, 106 98, 109, 129 122
c 1970 c 1970 c 1970
Late 1969 Late medieval
Both (57) and (67) contained late twentieth century material, including the wrapper from a packet of ‘Galaxy milk chocolate counters’ with the dual pricing introduced in 1970 for the transition to decimal coinage in February 1971. There were also animal bone fragments, wrappers for biscuits and potato crisps, a Coca-Cola bottle of classic design and earlier pottery. At the eastern end of the northern edge of the trench, (57) overlay (66), a very compact light to mid yellowish brown clay and sandy clay loam. There were flecks of a white material and the deposit was very stony, with rounded and sub-rounded pebbles. Although the deposit was not excavated, there were traces of wood fragments within the matrix; it probably (but not certainly) overlay (105), a deposit below (57) and (67).
Ill 28: Trench IV, south end, showing sandstone blocks
Several features were sealed by (57) and (67). In the southern extension to the trench, (92) was a subrectangular cut with vertical sides, 360×420 mm and up to 90 Ill 29: Feature (92) mm deep. The base of the cut was relatively flat and defined by sandstone rubble that clearly extended beyond it. Its fill, (91), was a dark brownish grey sandy silt loam. To the western end of the trench, (93) was a sub-circular cut about 500 mm in diameter and 250 mm deep. It had sides sloping at about 70° down to a flattish base. Its fill,
Ill 31: Feature (93)
92 97 107 93
Ill 32: Feature (110)
Ill 33: Feature (98) Ill 30: Trench IV matrix
(94), was a dark greyish brown sandy clay loam containing angular to subangular sandstone fragments of 100 to 150 mm diameter and some smooth cobbles. Finds included plastic sheeting, electrical cable, nylon baler twine, modern window glass and other post-medieval finds. North of (93), (110) was the cut of a stone-lined well partly excavated on 1617 July 1969. At the time, water was reached at a depth of six feet (1.83 m): the photographs suggest that this was the depth below the top of the masonry, not from ground level. Probing with a scaffolding pole indicated that a further twelve feet (3.7 m) of soft fill remained to be excavated (Excavation Diary V, 16.7.69), but the total depth of excavation was seven feet (2.1 m), just below the water line. The masonry lining, (107), of the southern third of the well was visible, as was a sandy backfill, (121), behind it. The masonry consisted of sandstone blocks up to 0.5 m long and up to 0.18 m wide. As the inside of the well was not excavated for safety reasons, it was not possible to ascertain the depth of individual blocks. Feature (92) had been cut through (105), a mid brown compact sand containing occasional sandstone pebbles. This overlay (106), a light reddish
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 brown sand that was only partially excavated. It was not clear at the time of excavation if either represented in situ archaeological deposits or if they were parts of the backfill dating from the early 1970s. Also sealed by (57) and (67) was (95), a mid yellowish brown to mid brown sandy loam, bounded by masonry blocks to east and west, (98). These blocks were part of the expected Roman axial drain running along the centre of the Northern Entrance. This deposit sealed (97), a loose pinkish grey gravel surrounding a series of grey concrete tubes. The length of the tubes varied: only two were fully exposed, of which one was 0.68 m long, while the other was 0.56 m long. All were about 0.14 m in diameter. The northern end of each tube was rebated, and this held a projecting piece on the southern end of the next tube, keeping them together. Two courses of masonry survived in (98); what initially appeared to be a third course on the western side turned out to be a chase in the bedrock. The blocks were tooled flat on the sides facing into the centre of the drain and more roughly so on the sides where they touched. The backs, however, were much rougher, with some flat examples while most were completely undressed. The blocks were contained in a cut, (109), which was only visible in a few places, principally to the west. It was about 1.18 m wide and survived to a maximum depth of 0.4 m.
The gravel surface was probably laid at the same time as the gravel in the arena, in the early 1970s, but its character was rather different from that examined in Trenches I, II and III. It did not have the finer sandy material towards its base, which perhaps suggests that, where encountered, this material was not deliberately laid as a base, but instead formed naturally. It would not have formed in the north entrance because of the gradient. There is evidence (in the form of an ‘outwash deposit’) that finer material from the entrance has been washed downhill into the arena from the entrance passage. The material washed into the arena contains a high proportion of sand mixed in with the gravel, similar to the lower gravel deposits elsewhere in the arena. The underlying deposits, (57) and (67), were clearly part of the backfill. Indeed, the precision of dating afforded by the dual priced chocolate wrapper (late 1970/early 1971) perfectly fits the historical context of backfilling before arranging the display. The sole difference between the two deposits— the degree of compaction—suggests that some sort of machine may have been used in places to compact the backfills. This is almost certainly the explanation for the extreme compaction of (66), which underlay (57) and perhaps overlay (105) (although, as it was not excavated, this cannot be proven), and which was certainly of recent date. The larger blocks of stone protruding through the gravel surface were not part of any archaeological deposits. They lay within (57) and (67), which were early 1970s backfill deposits. Part of the reason for locating Trench IV in the north entrance had been to see if the sandstone protruding through the surfaces was part of the Roman archaeology of the site; we can say conclusively that it was not. The features sealed by (57) and (67) were largely of recent date. Cut (92) was very regular in appearance, with straightish, near-vertical sides. As a feature cut through the backfill of the archaeological trench but before the laying of the gravel (there was no trace of gravel in its fill), it can be dated precisely (late 1969 to mid 1972), but its purpose is unclear. It was about the right size to take a post of the same dimensions as those used in the steps down from the western seating bank into the northern entrance. It might belong to an abandoned scheme to provide a set of steps leading to the eastern seating
Chester Archaeology bank, facing the existing set. It is equally possible that a posthole was first dug in the wrong place for the existing steps. Cut (93) is more difficult to explain. It contained very modern material, but again no gravel, so it presumably predates the opening of the site to the public. It does not look like a posthole, though, as the sides are sloping and the base is only roughly flattened. Well (110) survives more or less as recorded in 1969. No attempt was made to excavate its fill, and once identified, the feature was avoided, as the condition of the backfill below the water line was not known. There was a slight possibility of collapse and there was no equipment to undertake well excavation. It might be possible to examine the feature in the future, should it be thought worthwhile as part of an investigation of the postmedieval archaeology of the site, as waterlogged deposits are likely to survive within it.
Ill 34: well (110) looking east, 17 July 1969
The deposits on the western side of the trench, (105) and (106), through which feature (92) had been cut, might not both be backfills. The lower, (106), in particular, appeared to have been cut through by (109), the Roman axial drain, although this was not entirely clear. The site notebooks show work on the entrance continuing between 10 and 16 July, but they are not very detailed and refer to a ‘floor’ in the entrance. This is beneath deposit A69/1/2, a ‘brown sandy soil’ that might Ill 35: the Northern Entrance, 16 July 1969 possibly be identical to (105). There is no definite indication that the floor was removed (the final entry in the notebook, Excavation Diary V, Friday 18 July 1969, merely says “began cleaning up area in the East entrance”). Moreover, a photograph of the Northern Entrance taken on 16 July 1969 (Ill 35) shows that the northern part of the entrance had not been excavated to a level at which the masonry of the axial drain was exposed. This was only a few days before the end of the project, so this part of the entrance may have been left unexcavated. The modern axial drain re-used the Roman drain excavated in 1969. The section drawn as part of the current project suggests that two fills sealing (95) were not recorded in plan. The uppermost consisted of a brown sand; below this was a red/brown sand containing sandstone fragments. Both these deposits partially overlay (98) on the east side, where the masonry survived to a lower height than to the west. The drain itself consisted of sections of
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 grey concrete pipe 0.14 m (5½ inches) in diameter; the sections were of differing lengths, which might indicate that they had been cut down from longer originals. None were of the standard sizes seen in Trenches II and III. The Roman axial drain, (109), survived as two courses of sandstone blocks in a rock-cut linear trench that appeared to be around 1.18 m wide. This would be approximately four Roman pedes. On the west side, the central part of the drainage trench was chased about 80 mm into the bedrock, a feature observed on other Roman drains in Chester. The masonry defined a channel some 370 mm wide; this would be 1¼ pedes. As with the axial drain in the arena, that in the north entrance had been systematically stripped of its fills in the 1960s, so that there was no opportunity to take samples.
Trench V (intended to be 4×2 m across the southern part of the middle of the entrance, with a 1×2 m extension to the south at the eastern end) was located in the Eastern Entrance. This was located to assess the survival of deposits and the nature of the modern step. However, it was not possible to cross the concrete step at the point where the entrance narrows, with apparently secondary masonry, as the wooden steps prevented access to the gravel surface. The extension was not, therefore, excavated.
Description of stratigraphic sequence
The modern surface in this trench consisted of a gravel spread, (32), made up from angular to sub-angular pieces of gravel from 10 to 45 mm in diameter. They were held in a pinkish grey sand. The entire deposit was covered with a greenish algae and, in places, moss. To the east of the trench, the moss became very thick and, in places, it was not possible to see the underlying gravel.
Table 5: summary of stratigraphy, Trench V Subgroup number 57 58 59 Description Gravel east entrance floor Backfill of 1967 Trench A67/1 Date Modern Comprises contexts 32 38, 39, 40, 41, 56, 81, 117 33, 42, 90
Roman to postmedieval?
In situ archaeological deposits
39 38 41
On the removal of the surface (about 100 mm thick), three separate deposits were exposed. At the centre of the northeastern side of the trench, (39) was a friable, light brownish yellow loamy sand containing a few sub-rounded, smooth pebbles of 30 to 40 mm diameter. It was a thin deposit, which trowelled away rapidly on to the underlying deposit, (38). This was a light grey sandy loam containing sandstone fragments. At the southwestern end of the trench, (40) was a mid greyish loamy sand with about 20% mottles of the same colour red as the local sandstone bedrock. It contained flecks of ceramic building material as well as small patches of clay. It abutted the concrete of the step down to the lower part of the entrance. Towards the western side of the trench, (40) sealed (41), a red sand the colour of the local sandstone. This partly overlay and abutted the concrete step.
117 33 42 90
Ill 36: Trench V matrix
Chester Archaeology Also beneath (40), (56) was an extremely loose deposit consisting largely of rubble (comprising bricks, drain pipe, sandstone fragments up to 240 mm diameter, concrete and slate) with numerous voids. This was held in a variable matrix of reddish to greyish to mid greyish brown sandy loam with occasional small clay lumps (up to 40 mm diameter). The bricks included hand made examples as well as factory made glossy red bricks stamped ‘ENFIELD DEERPLAY’; no samples were kept, as they were needed for consolidation during backfilling. Other material in the deposit Ill 37: Trench V at start of excavation included polythene, a large mammal pelvis, a wrapper from a pack of Potato Puffs, wood, aluminium foil, rubber hose pipe, a Bakelite bottle top stamped ‘Tizer-return cap with bottle’, a 1960s glass Fanta bottle and a lid from a jar of ‘rich dark honey’ (subsequently lost). Parts of this deposit were so poorly consolidated that it Ill 38: rubble deposit (56) was dangerous to excavate, and much of the work was done by leaning across the baulk. Even then, the northwestern baulk could not be used as deposit (56) continued beneath it and it suffered a number of partial collapses overnight. Beneath (56), (81) was a light yellowish brown sandy silt loam. These three deposits ((40), (56) and (81)) occupied a hollow, (117), bounded to the southwest by the modern concrete step between the two floor levels in the eastern entrance and to the north by a slope of about 30º in the underlying deposits. This was clearly a cut, belonging to part of Hugh Thompson’s Trench A67/1 (see Ill 39, below). Four of the numerous deposits through which the 1960s trench had been cut were recorded in detail, although none was excavated as they represent in situ archaeological deposits of unknown date. The stratigraphically highest deposit left in situ was (42), a light greenish loamy sand with varying light and dark flecks that contained occasional pieces of sandstone. Slightly lower in the sequence was (33), a light brown friable deposit containing sandstone and flecks of a white substance, possibly mortar, plaster or lime. At the bottom of the cut, (90) was a friable light greenish brown sandy clay loam with rusty coloured flecks.
The presence of moss and algae on the surface of the gravel in this trench is a reflection of the dark and damp nature of this corner of the site. This is because the wall to the south and trees to the east prevent direct sunlight from entering this part of the monument except on summer evenings. The dampness is compounded by the way in which water tends to collect in the arena immediately in front of the East Entrance. That this is not a recent problem is confirmed by photographs of the 1960s excavations, which show a pool of water forming after rain in much the same place as one now gathers. All of the deposits fully excavated in this trench appear to be part of the backfill of Trench A67/1, excavated between 13 July and 14 November 1967. As the 1967 photograph (Ill 39) makes clear, the deposits towards the eastern end of the entrance were not completely removed. Of those excavated in 2000, (39) appeared to be a spread of builder’s sand or a similar material, perhaps spread during consolidation and preparatory work Ill 39: Trench A67/1, showing hollow on the monument before display. A recorded as (117) in 2000 possible context would be the construction of the concrete step immediately to the west. The underlying deposit, (38), appeared to be similar to backfills encountered elsewhere on the site, which had presumably been derived from archaeological deposits excavated during the exposure of the monument. The upper backfills of former Trench A67/1 proper, to the western end of the trench, (40) and (41), were unremarkable. However, (56) was a very poorly consolidated deposit. The numerous voids meant that standing on the rubble caused it shift, posing a risk to the excavators. Many of the modern factorymade bricks had never been used, and the overall impression of the deposit was that it consisted largely of material left after the main works for preparing the site as a public display had been completed, simply tipped into a convenient hole. No attempt had been made to ensure that the material was properly compacted and no soil had been laid between bits of rubble to act as a cushion and prevent it from slipping. The northwestern baulk collapsed twice during the excavation, which raises concerns about the stability of the ground to the northwest of the trench. During backfilling, every effort was made to ensure that a single layer of rubble was covered with soil Ill 40: the eastern entrance before laying any more before excavation in 1967 in the hole. This should
Chester Archaeology minimise the risk on the south side of the entrance, but there is still the possibility that the ground to the north might collapse. Indeed, some slumping was seen in this area during October, following the end of the project. A prolonged wet period, such as that of November 2000, might create further problems here. It has proved very difficult to correlate the in situ archaeological deposits that lay outside cut (117) (Trench A67/1) with those recorded in 1967. The sketch section of the east end of the entrance shows the outer wall with a possible construction trench; the trench cuts through a layer of ‘small rubble’ which in turn seals a yellow-buff sand, below which is a layer of pebbles. Above the ‘small rubble’ is a brown sandy compact soil, above which is another layer of pebbles (labelled ‘?orig[inal] floor’). In the published plan and sections (Thompson 1976, fig 18), mortar deposits are shown, associated with the Roman period steps down from the higher level at the eastern end of the entrance. It is possible that (90) is the same as the ‘turf’ deposit on the published sections.
Trench VI was located at the junction of the outer wall of the stone amphitheatre and the northern wall of ‘Entrance 2’ to assess the nature of support (if any) for the modern road. It was also hoped to see if the outer wall of the amphitheatre survived here, as the published plan is not altogether clear about its status.
Description of stratigraphic sequence
The modern surface was composed of turf, presumably laid for the opening of the site in August 1972. This had been laid on a loose to friable mid brown silt loam, (1), containing sub-angular rounded stones (15-90 mm in diameter). Finds included obviously modern material, such as plant pot and clear window glass.
Table 6: summary of stratigraphy, Trench VI Subgroup number 1 6 10 14 15 20 26 27 Description Turf Topsoil Makeup Concrete markers Makeup 1968 Trench Demolition of houses on St John Street Stone-lined pit Date Modern Comprises contexts Turf 1 2, 8 7 13 17, 44, 112 18 43
c 1970 c 1970 c 1970 c 1970
Ill 41: Trench VI, showing cut (112) and concrete (44)
Below (1) was a deposit of mid brown silt loam, (2), containing clay lumps. Finds included expanded polystyrene, clear window glass, brick, plant pot, drainpipe and cockle shell. This deposit lay to the northwest of a series of concrete slabs, laid to expose their thin (70 mm wide) sides as a linear feature, (7); each slab was between 0.82 and 0.92 m long and 150 mm
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 deep. To the southeast, deposit (8) was a friable mid brown silt loam identical to (2) but separated from it by the concrete. This deposit contained a similar range of modern material, this time including a blue plastic chip fork. Stratigraphically, (2) and (8) sealed the concrete slabs, (7), but physically they butted them. Below the concrete slabs, (13) was a variable mid grey to light brown friable silt loam, which appeared lighter when trowelled than when in the ground. It contained whole bricks, sandstone pieces up to 150 mm in diameter, mortar and slate. There were also small lumps of light brown and yellowish brown clay within the deposit.
Turf 1 2 7 13 17 44 8
Beneath (13), two separate deposits were exposed, (17) to the northeast and (18) to the southwest. As (17) appeared to be the fill of a 112 cut feature, it was excavated first. It consisted of a friable mid greyish brown sandy silt loam 43 18 containing brick, mortar and sandstone. Modern finds included drainpipe fragments, window glass, bottle glass, slag and residual earlier Ill 42: Trench VI matrix material, including a clay pipe stem and a samian rim fragment. It filled a cut feature, (112), whose northwestern corner only was exposed as it continues outside the trench to the south and east. At a depth of about 0.8 m, it became impossible to continue excavation, as the cut had become narrowed owing to the presence of a concrete feature, (44), that contained a drain. This restricted the width of cut (112) to under 0.3 m against the northeastern baulk of the trench. Concrete feature (44) consisted of a sizeable block some 0.70 m across, northwest to southeast, and at least 0.53 m deep. A glazed ceramic pipe sloped down from a point towards the bottom of the exposed southeastern face of the block towards the northwest. The pipe was about 0.1 m in diameter. In the eastern corner of the trench, the edge of cut (112) was defined by a number of coursed stone blocks, (43). At least seven courses were visible, but because the structure lay in the very corner, no more than two blocks in any course were visible. The feature sloped down into the trench. It had clearly formed the limit of cut (112) in this corner, as it appeared not to have been disturbed by the digging of the later feature. Investigation of cut (112) therefore ceased at this point. The material through which it had been cut, (18), was a rubbly mid reddish brown deposit. There were frequent mottles of yellow, red and green material as well as flecks of yellow, red and white material. It appeared to contain numerous fragments of brick,
Ill 43: feature (43)
Chester Archaeology sandstone, small rounded pebbles, coke and cockle shell. As it appeared to be an in situ archaeological deposit, excavation ceased at this point.
The turf surface was probably laid in preparation for opening the site to the public in August 1972. However, it does not act as an archaeological deposit, as formation processes are still at work, most importantly worm action. This accounts for the appearance of very modern materials that probably post-date 1972 (such as a plastic fish fork) in the deposits below the turf. The deposit immediately below, (1), appears to be a bedding deposit containing stones to help drainage and aeration. The material under (1), (2) and (8) formed a single deposit, laid either side of the concrete slabs, (7), to hold them in place. These slabs were laid to mark the outline of the amphitheatre; here, they marked part of the outer wall and a buttress. However, it became clear that the slabs were not in precisely the right place. The buttress is marked on Thompson’s (1976, Fig 3) overall site plan as being part of a suspiciously square-edged area of surviving outer wall. This corresponds to the position of Trench A68/10. Cut (112) almost certainly corresponds to this 1960s Trench; however, the position of the buttress as marked would then have lain partly outside that trench, which is not how it is depicted on the site plan. The simplest explanation is that the concrete markers are not in their correct positions, being shifted about a metre in an anticlockwise direction. Beneath the slabs, (13) was very similar to (2) and (8), which held the slabs in position. All three contexts therefore appear to have been part of a single spread of makeup material used during the landscaping of the site before laying the turf. Cut (112), as already indicated, corresponds in position to Trench A68/10, excavated between 30 July and 6 August 1968. Although the published plan suggests that the buttress and wall were located, there is no mention of this in the site notebooks. Mid-way along the southeastern face of the trench, sandstone rubble was recorded. An extension was then made to the southwest (which evidently caused the site supervisor some confusion, as on 1 August, it is recorded as being to the west, while on 2 August, the word west is crossed out and south substituted). This extension uncovered a ‘patch of recent rubble and trench’, which perhaps refers to the stone feature (43) and the drain set in concrete, (44). On 5 August, several large slabs were found and thought to mark the bottom of a robber trench; by the following day, a cellar was thought to have disturbed the deposits and work was discontinued. The description in the notebooks does not tally with either the published plan or the excavated material. There is no trace of a cellar (unless this means feature (43)) and, if such a cellar existed, why is the outer wall recorded as surviving here? It is difficult to suggest convincing answers. However, a number of possibilities spring to mind: 1. 2. 3. 4. Cut (112) is not really Trench A68/10, but a more recent feature, perhaps associated with drain (44). Deposit (18) represents the backfill of Trench A68/10. Cut (112) is Trench A68/16, located to the northeast of A68/10, although this only revealed a robber trench. Cut (112) is one of the trenches dug in 1957-9 to determine the position of the outer wall (Thompson 1976, 132). Cut (112) is indeed Trench A68/10, but owing to the small area exposed in 2000, it was not possible to identify features found in 1968.
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 It is unlikely that cut (112) was made for the drain encased in concrete (44), as the concrete appears to have moulded itself into the shape of the trench into which it was poured. Given that the pipe did not continue through cut (112) and that its fill, (17) contained numerous fragments of similar pipe, it is likely that concrete (44) is earlier than the cut. As a drain, it will have been associated with one of the properties fronting St John Street south of the junction with Little St John Street, demolished in the 1950s. Feature (43), in the eastern corner of the trench, resembles the stone lining of a medieval or post-medieval pit. The angle of slope suggests that the inside of the pit lay within our Trench VI, but no other sides of the feature were found. This may mean that they were removed during the excavation of (112), which, if it is Trench A68/10, was not recorded at the time. As these trenches around the perimeter of the monument seem to have been excavated rapidly (this one was dug between 30 July and 6 August), it is possible that the lack of references to post-Roman features and stratigraphy does not mean that they were not present. A number of possible explanations for this apparent lack of recording are given above. Whatever the origin of cut (112), it was cut through an evident demolition deposit, (18), that was not investigated. This appears to belong to the properties that stood on St John Street, south of its junction with Little St John Street. Cartographic evidence suggests that they were demolished in the 1930s. The survival of early twentieth-century deposits on this part of the site indicates that there is a strong possibility that a sequence might survive that could include evidence for the amphitheatre, its dereliction and demolition, and the development of the domestic use of the site from the medieval period onwards.
Trench VII lay to the west of the Nemeseum and was intended to assess the nature of the modern seating bank deposits immediately to the rear of the arena wall and to see if any trace of the timber amphitheatre as excavated in 1968 survived in this area.
Description of stratigraphic sequence
The sequence in Trench VII was extremely straightforward. Beneath the turf, (3) in this trench, was a friable mid brown silt loam, (12). It contained pieces of limestone, smooth pebbles up to cobble size (of a variety of stone types) and brick fragments. Finds included post-medieval pottery, wire-reinforced glass, a partly-decayed wooden stake, a fragment of leather and fragments of drain pipe. There was a distinct tendency for the finds to occur in clusters, a phenomenon noted elsewhere on the site (such as (4) in Trench VIII).
Table 7: summary of stratigraphy, Trench VII Subgroup number 3 8 12 17 18 19 21 Description Turf Topsoil Makeup Makeup Beamslot Stain on bedrock Bedrock Date Modern c 1970 c 1970 c 1970 Roman Natural? Natural Comprises contexts Turf 12 16 22 25 23 27, 50
Turf 12 16 22 23 25 27 50
Beneath this, (16) was a friable mid brown sandy silt loam containing lumps of mortar, sandstone pieces from small pebbles up to 500 mm across and brick. Within this deposit was a discrete lens of burnt material, including coke, that sloped down towards the arena at the same angle as the grass surface. This then sealed a very similar sandy silt loam containing pieces of sandstone and brick, (22). There appeared to be fragments of the same post-medieval pottery vessels in (12), (16) and (22), indicating that they form a single deposit. At a depth of about one metre, bedrock, (21), was encountered. This was slightly sooner than expected, but owing to the lack of levels data in the publications and archived 1960s excavation plans, it had not been possible to make an accurate assessment of its level. Two parallel linear features were visible, (23) and (25). The former was a lighter coloured mark 0.8 m long and up to 0.2 m wide. It appeared to be a greenish grey clay, but upon investigation, it proved to be part of the bedrock.
Ill 44: Trench VII matrix
Ill 45: slot (25)
To the east of this ‘feature’ lay a linear slot, (25). It did not have a discrete fill, as (22) had filled it. The slot ran northwest to southeast across the trench, perpendicular to the arena wall to the southeast. It was between 0.2 and 0.5 m wide and about 0.15 m deep. The sides were almost vertical and the base was flat.
The interpretation of the sequence is as straightforward as its description. As in Trench VI, the turf surface was probably laid in preparation for opening the site to the public in August 1972. Similarly, the formation processes still at work account for the appearance of very modern—and certainly post1972—finds (such as a 1983 penny) in (12). Nevertheless, it was clear that (12) originated as part of the material used to backfill the site following its excavation as Trench A68/3 in 1968. This material included significant quantities of nineteenth-century transfer-printed wares and other later post-medieval pottery types. Similarly, (16) and (22), below (12), were undoubtedly the result of backfilling Trench A68/3. The bedrock was exactly as seen in Trenches I to IV, in the arena floor. It consisted of a typical red sandstone with bands of a lighter clayey material interleaved between individual bedding planes, which was the explanation for ‘feature’ (23) and for what at first was assumed to be a small patch of unexcavated fill in slot (25). These colour changes were caused by a series of bands within an otherwise relatively homogeneous bedded Triassic red sandstone.
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 Feature (25), the linear slot, corresponds to one of the radial beams of the grillage identified by Hugh Thompson (1976, 139) as the foundations of a timber precursor to the present stone amphitheatre. Its appearance was very similar to the photographs of the same feature from July 1968. Indeed, the narrowing of the slot visible in 2000 also serves to identify the precise section on the 1968 photograph.
Ill 46: feature (25) as first photographed The survival of the feature in late July 1968 virtually undamaged is very encouraging. It suggests that the degree of preservation of previously excavated features beneath the seating bank is very good to perfect. This means that, should it ever be thought desirable to expose the timber grillage again (for whatever purposes, whether for public display or archaeological research) , it ought to be possible to do so.
Trench VIII was located to the east of the northern entrance and was sited to assess the nature of the seating bank deposits in this area and whether any earlier archaeology might survive. The published plan (Thompson 1978, fig 3) shows only traces of archaeological features in this area and it was not clear if they were seen only in small sondage trenches or if there had been a great deal of post-Roman activity on this part of the site to disturb them.
Description of stratigraphic sequence
Trench VIII also presented a straightforward sequence, although the results were completely unexpected. The surface before excavation began consisted of turf, as with the other trenches on the seating bank. This sealed a deposit, (3), of mid brown silt loam containing smooth rounded pebbles, including quartz. The finds included predominantly twentieth-century material, such as brown bottle-glass, clear window glass and plastics.
Table 8: summary of stratigraphy, Trench VIII Subgroup number 4 9 13 22 23 24 30 Description Turf Topsoil Makeup Makeup Demolition of St John’s House St John’s House construction Pre-construction of St John’s House Date Modern c 1970 c 1970 c 1970 1960×61 c 1750 Post-medieval Comprises contexts Turf 3 4 15 19, 21, 24, 28 20, 35, 36, 37, 45, 46 34
Chester Archaeology This deposit was only 30 to 40 mm thick and sealed (4), a hard to friable, slightly stony light brown to light reddish brown silty clay loam. It was easy to trowel when wet, but much more difficult when dry. A slightly lighter concentration of gravel towards the northeastern corner of the trench turned out to be merely a lens within this deposit. As with a number of other deposits on the site (such as (12) in Trench VII), there was a tendency for finds to occur in definite clusters. Beneath (4), (15) was a friable to firm reddish brown sandy silt loam that contained concrete lumps, brick, rounded cobbles and sandstone, as well as lighter red and yellow mottles. It was not clearly distinguishable from (4). At 0.48 to 0.62 m below the surface and beneath (15), (19) was clearly different. It consisted of a firm mid to dark grey silt loam containing mortar, brick, slate, sandstone and coke. There were numerous coloured flecks, some dark, others light and some apparently consisting of small fragments of red brick. It was a shallow deposit, only some 60 mm thick in the southeastern corner of the trench.
Turf 3 4 15 19 28=21 24 45 20 37 34 46 35 36
Ill 47: Trench VIII matrix
It sealed two deposits, (21) and (28), which were probably identical. The former consisted of a friable light reddish brown sandy loam containing paler flecks, including mortar fragments and some brick. The latter tended towards a light grey to reddish brown colour, but was otherwise identical. Both were sharply distinguishable from (19), above. These deposits then sealed (24), a loose mid to dark grey sandy loam, also containing fragments of brick, mortar and slate. This then sealed (45), a loose dark brown sandy loam containing abundant small sandstone fragments, brick and plaster. Among the finds from this deposit was a small copper alloy coin, SF <14>. This deposit occupied a linear hollow, (37), running roughly southwest to northeast; towards the northeastern edge of the trench, it joined another linear cut, (36), running at right angles to it towards the southeast. This latter cut was filled with (46), a loose dark brown sandy loam that was identical to (45). These two fills both lay stratigraphically above brick structures that had been laid inside the cuts. The former, (45), sealed a substantial structure, (20), that survived to a height of five courses and was 0.47 m thick. It rested on a number of large sandstone blocks, one of which had clear traces of architectural working. About half way along the exposed section, there was a Ill 48: structure (20) junction with a further brick structure running at right angles to the northwest, into the baulk. Another brick structure, (35), lay inside cut (36), but as it was right against the northern baulk of the trench, it was not possible to ascertain its thickness. It
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 ran at right angles to (20) and survived to a height of 0.92 m. The bricks used in these structures measured 240×120 mm and 170×120×80 mm. The two cuts containing the structures, (36) and (37), cut (34), a moderately compact mid to dark brown sandy clay containing abundant brick and stone fragments and some mortar. It was only partly excavated, as a void appeared in it following the removal of the sandstone slabs at the base of structure (20). Probing with a ranging pole revealed that the void was at least 0.3 m deep and had a diameter of approximately a metre. As the true size of the void was not known, excavation was discontinued as being too risky.
As with Trench VII, the interpretation of the sequence is as straightforward as its description. As in the other trenches on the grass seating bank, the turf surface was probably laid in preparation for opening the site to the public in August 1972. Similarly, the formation processes still at work accounts for the appearance of very modern finds in (3), which must have originated as the make-up material used in landscaping the site. Beneath it, (4) and (15) at first appeared to be similar backfill material to (17) in Trench VI and (12) in Trench VII. The clustering of finds may suggest that material collected but subsequently discarded by the 1960s excavators was dumped in discrete collections on their spoil heaps. However, (19), beneath them, was a very different type of deposit that derived from the demolition of a nearby structure. The exposure of that structure, (20) and (35), was completely unexpected, as it had been believed that this entire area was excavated in the 1960s. This means that although (4) and (15) resembled backfill material and had presumably derived from the excavation of archaeological trenches in the 1960s, the trench had not been located here. Presumably the material was spread as part of a making-up exercise before the final landscaping represented by (3). The exposed foundations and walls, (20) and (35), are part of St John’s House. This is towards the southwestern corner of the house. The cuts within which the walls lay represent the foundation trenches, which were surprisingly shallow, given the substantial size of the house. However, the coin from deposit (45), SF <14>, was a Roman sestertius of Nero (AD 54-68). This means that deposits (19), (21), (24) and (28) all belong to the demolition of the house in the summer of 1958, before excavation began in its cellars on 25 April 1960. This explains the presence of substantial quantities of building materials, such as brick, slate and mortar, in these deposits.
Ill 49: the back of St John’s House
The architectural fragment incorporated into the foundations of St John’s House is a puzzle. Although Hugh Thompson published no similar fragments from his excavation, the site sketchbook records an identical piece of moulding from Trench A69/3 (Ill 51, below) and it is alluded to briefly in the report (Thompson 1976, 165). This trench lay a short distance to the southwest of the present Trench VIII, towards the southern end of the north
Chester Archaeology entrance. The notebook describes it as a re-used seventeenth-century cornice; this is problematical as the piece is of a debased Classical style (pers. comm. P J Boughton), which might be expected in the mid to late eighteenth century. This would mean that the piece would not have been re-used but would have to be contemporary with the construction of St John’s House. If this were the case, the provenance of the stones could be St John’s House itself, with these examples being surplus to requirements. However, there is a problem with this explanation. Logically, the stones in the bottom of the foundations must have been in place before construction of the house began. In that case, it will not have been possible to determine that the stones would have been surplus at the time. Moreover, the photographs of St John’s House make it clear that there are no mouldings of this type anywhere on the building. Either they are evidence for a change in the design of the superstructure or they have nothing to do with the house. If that is a solution, is it then possible to determine where they were originally used?
Ill 50: the moulded stone from the foundations of wall (20)
Hugh Thompson clearly believed Ill 51: a sketch of the fragment of that the example he found belonged moulding excavated in 1969, from with the seventeenth-century house the site sketchbook attested on the site. He published a photograph (Thompson 1976, pl. LVII b) showing a date-stone re-used in a drain of St John’s House. It reads ‘R B : 1664 : | P RS : IM :’. It does not seem to be possible to identify any of the initials, although RB was presumably the name of the owner of that house. This is almost a century too early for a moulding with this style and there are no parallels for it on surviving seventeenth-century buildings anywhere in the city. The closest parallels belong with the Roman fortress wall (Le Quesne 1999, Ills 107-115). The main type of moulding associated with the wall is a double cyma recta type, with (from the top down) a fillet, cyma recta, double fillet, cyma recta and fillet (Blagg 1999, 110). This moulding is a simpler variant of the type, with only a single central squared fillet and none at top or bottom; moreover, they are much smaller than any of the mouldings from the fortress wall, which cannot be their original provenance. The most likely explanation—if they be accepted as Roman rather than postmedieval architectural fragments—is that they were found by the builders of St John’s House on the present site. In other words, they are part of the rubble from the amphitheatre. This then raises a number of other questions. Firstly, if they are part of the amphitheatre rubble, why has so little other masonry survived from the derelict structure? Secondly, is it possible that the amphitheatre was more elaborately decorated than has usually been thought? The material through which the foundation trenches had been cut, (34), was evidently a construction deposit containing typical builders’ débris, such as
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 brick and mortar fragments. Some of this material probably also included demolition débris from the previous structure, represented by the 1664 datestone. The void that appeared beneath the foundations and extended beneath (34) appeared to be part of a capped pit or well. The capping seemed to consist of a layer of clay that had partly fallen into the void although, as (34) could not be excavated, this could not be proven.
Trench IX was intended to be to the southeast of Entrance 4, immediately inside the ‘concentric wall’. However, the lack of concrete markings for the ‘concentric wall’ was not taken into account when setting out the trench, as a result of which it lay immediately inside the outer wall, occupying the possible corridor space between the outer and ‘concentric’ walls. It was located to assess the nature of the seating bank deposits and the survival of earlier archaeology.
Description of stratigraphic sequence
Trench IX contained the most complex stratigraphic sequence of any of the trenches excavated on the site. This was due to the presence of well preserved in situ early archaeological deposits and features, mostly belonging to a period that saw the dereliction and partial demolition of the amphitheatre and permission from English Heritage to excavate them. The surface before excavation began consisted of turf, as with the other trenches on the seating bank. This sealed two deposits, (5) and (9), the former to the west of the concrete marker strips, (11), the latter to the east. Both deposits consisted of a mid brown silt loam containing sandstone pieces; finds in (5) included pieces of plastic and a 1998 penny.
Table 9: summary of stratigraphy, Trench IX Subgroup number 2 5 7 11 16 25 28 29 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 Description Turf Concrete markers Topsoil Makeup Modern cut Later robber trench of south wall of Entrance 4 Earlier robber trench of south wall of Entrance 4 Abandonment of amphitheatre Cut feature Abandonment of amphitheatre Midden Abandonment of amphitheatre Robber trench of concentric wall Abandonment of amphitheatre South wall of Entrance 4 Date Modern Comprises contexts Turf 11 5, 9 10 6, 14, 118, 119 60, 61 62, 63 26, 120 100, 104 64 58, 99 101 102, 111 103 65
c 1970 c 1970 c 1970 c 1965
Late Saxon/ Saxo-Norman? Middle/Late Saxon? Middle/Late Saxon? Sub-Roman/ Middle Saxon? Sub-Roman/ Middle Saxon? Sub-Roman/ Middle Saxon? Sub-Roman/ Middle Saxon? Sub-Roman? Sub-Roman? Roman
These deposits sealed a line of concrete slabs, laid to expose their thin (70 mm wide) sides as a linear feature, (11); each slab was 150 mm deep. The northern edge of the trench was located to coincide with the break between slabs, but at the south, one slab extended well outside the trench and the part projecting into the trench was left in situ to avoid disturbing the ground outside it.
Chester Archaeology To the east, these slabs rested on (10), a friable mid reddish brown sandy silt loam containing tile, angular and sub-angular stones and mortar lumps. Part of this deposit could not be excavated as it underlay the southernmost slab that projected beyond the trench. To the south, (5) overlay (6), a friable mid brown to mid reddish brown sandy silt loam containing small stones up to 40 mm in diameter. Towards the base of the layer, pieces of Turf polythene sheeting were found. Although not recognised at the time of excavation, it was the fill of a cut, (119), with vertical sides that extended 5 9 beyond the trench in all directions except to the northeast. The cut was at least 0.5 m deep and had 11 a slightly dished base. Below (6), (14) was a friable orange brown loamy sand containing fragments of sandstone and brick. Finds included 6 10 Roman ceramics, post-medieval ceramics and animal bone. This was also contained within cut 14 (119). Below (14), in the southwestern corner of the trench, a patch of dark material was not recorded at the time of excavation but was clearly 118 visible in section; this was assigned context number (118).
119 60 61 62 63 26 100 104 64 99 58 101 102 111 103
Ill 52: Trench IX matrix
Cut (119) had been cut through (60) and (120), the latter not recognised at the time of excavation. This is a shame, as (60) was the fill of a cut, whereas (120) was a general spread of material. However, (120) was an orange loamy deposit with red clay mottles. It had been excavated as if part of (14), so some of the material labelled as deriving from that context in fact derives from (120). (60) consisted of a loose, slightly gritty light orange brown sand containing abundant sandstone fragments. The only finds were of Roman ceramics. It filled a linear cut, (61), with near vertical sides that was about 0.5 m deep below its truncation by cut (119) to the southwest, and over 0.5 m wide. At the base of the cut were traces of masonry rubble.
Ill 53: cut (61)
Ill 54: cut (63)
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 This had been cut through (62), a friable mid to dark grey brown silty sand containing occasional small sandstone fragments. Once again, the only finds were Roman ceramics and animal bone. Like (60), it was the fill of a cut, (63), with near-vertical sides, at least 0.5 m wide and at least 0.3 m deep. At the base of this cut, large and apparently mostly in situ but slightly displaced masonry blocks, (65), were visible. Although its relationship with (120) could not be ascertained, (63) had certainly cut through (26), which underlay (120). This was a friable mid yellowish brown sandy loam with some grey mottles. Once again, all the material culture from this deposit was of Roman date. Beneath this, at the southeastern corner of the trench, lay (100), the fill of a shallow cut feature. It consisted of a soft, mid orange brown sand containing no finds; the cut, (104), was 0.33 m long and 0.20 m wide and only 70 mm deep. This cut (64), a friable mid reddish brown silty sand containing abundant small pieces of sandstone and occasional larger lumps, up to 195×130 mm. Finds retrieved included Roman ceramics and animal bone. Beneath (64), two separate deposits were found: (58) and (99). The first was originally interpreted as the fill of a cut feature and excavation began on this assumption. However, it rapidly became clear that it was the top of a positive feature. It consisted of a friable dark reddish brown sandy loam containing abundant sandstone fragments up to about 155×120 mm. There was an abundance of finds, including ceramics, glass and metalwork. There were patches of iron pan formation in places, particularly towards the base of the deposit. (99) was a soft grey sandy silt with occasional small stones and abundant flecks of carbonised wood. Its relationship with (58) was not clear, but it is possible that it was either a lens within it or a deposit underlying it. Certainly sealed by (58), though, was (101), a very compact yellow brown clayey sand containing abundant sandstone fragments. Finds included Roman ceramics, metalwork, animal bone, shell, and a medieval sherd that was probably intrusive. This in turn sealed (102), a soft grey brown sandy silt with very occasional sandstone fragments. This lay along the southwestern edge of the trench, exposing no more than 0.18 m of its breadth. It appeared to be the fill of a linear cut feature, (111), running at right angles to (61) and (63). This feature cut (103), a friable mid reddish brown clayey sand containing stones up to 85×35 mm. To the northwest, the masonry blocks (65) had partly slumped over it. Excavation was discontinued at this point as the time allotted for the project had now expired.
As with Trenches VI to VIII, the turf surface was probably laid in preparation for opening the site to the public in August 1972. The formation processes still at work account for the appearance of very modern finds in the topsoil, (5), which must have originated as the make-up material used in landscaping the site. The concrete strips, (11), were laid to mark the outline of the amphitheatre; here, they marked the inner face of the outer wall. Beneath the slabs, (10) was probably part of material excavated from elsewhere on the site later spread out for landscaping. However, this is not entirely clear, and it is to be regretted that its relationship to cut (119) was not recorded during excavation, as this cut appears to be related to the 1960s excavation campaign. Although excavation trench A68/2 did not reach this far to the northeast, it is possible that the preparatory work for excavation involved stripping the overburden by machine before setting out the trenches. At any rate, the presence of polythene sheeting in (6) indicates a recent date. The material contained within the fills of (119) is very mixed and probably includes finds deriving from the spoil removed elsewhere from the site. As
Chester Archaeology well as the ever-present Roman and post-medieval material, context (14) also contained a (possibly Neolithic) bladelet that had not been retrieved by the 1960s excavators, who recorded no lithics whatsoever. (118), at the bottom of the cut appeared very organic and may have originated as a dump of rubbish thrown into the bottom of the hole before backfilling. This probably 1960s activity cut through (120), the date of which was not ascertained as it was not recognised as a deposit separate from (6) until section drawing began on the last day of fieldwork. At the opposite corner of the trench, it cut through (60), the backfill of a vertically sided linear cut, (61). This in turn cut through (62), the backfill of another vertically sided linear cut, (63), on precisely the same alignment. This time, the presence of sandstone masonry towards the base of the cut allowed both features to be identified positively as robber trenches. The masonry being robbed (on two separate occasions) was that of the south wall of Entrance 4 (Thompson 1976, fig 3). This sequence is important for two reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates that robbing need not be a once-and-for-all activity; it may be legitimate to assume that only enough stone was taken at any one time for the purposes immediately to hand. This then demonstrates that the work was not a systematic demolition. The second important feature of this sequence is that, for the first time, we have stratigraphically secure evidence for the robbing of the amphitheatre, enabling suggestions to be made about its date. However, in the present trench, the location of cut (119) means that the only chronological inference we can make about the date of robbing is that it took place before the 1960s, which is hardly helpful. However, there are a number of important considerations that can help to refine the date of this activity. Firstly, this section of the entrance wall lies between the outer wall and the concentric wall. It is therefore unlikely that robbing can have begun before the abandonment of the amphitheatre in the first half of the fourth century. Secondly, although this cannot be pressed too far, as the masonry was buried before the robbing began, it suggests that some considerable time had elapsed between the abandonment of the monument and this last phase of robbing attested here. What is curious is that, according to Hugh Thompson and Nigel Sunter’s reconstruction of the stone amphitheatre, there ought to have been a door in this position, leading in to the corridor between the outer and concentric walls. On the other hand, Nigel Sunter (in Thompson 1976, 230) elsewhere expressed the belief that the corridor was not used for circulation. It is not clear what the implications of this are: was the door subsequently blocked, did it never exist or are we misinterpreting the evidence? Finally, the lack of medieval or later material from the backfill of this trench suggests that robbing took place before the proliferation of material culture late in the Middle Ages. The earlier of the two robbing episodes had not completely removed the masonry of the wall, leaving the squared facing blocks, (65), in position. They subsequently slumped forwards, pushing into deposit (103). Although recorded as stratigraphically above this deposit, there is little doubt that the wall in its pristine state was in position before (103) began to form. Deposit (26) was very uneven at its surface, which may indicate either that it was disturbed by later activity or that it consisted of dumped material. The shallow cut feature that it sealed, (104), was very obscure. It consisted of little more than a scoop in the underlying material that had been filled with a sterile, soft material. The material into which it had been cut, (64), appeared to be a natural accumulation of material, resembling a water-lain deposit with numerous mottles. This suggests that formation began well into the period of the amphitheatre’s dereliction, when the supposed ‘corridor’ lay open to the sky. The numerous sandstone fragments within the deposit confirm the derelict state of the building, assuming that they are tumbled masonry.
1 14 6 10 15 20
2 5 7 11
8 12 17
9 13 22 39 41 47 44
46 54 70 53 55 69 58 64 61 62 63
26 24 30 27 25 28 29 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 18 19 21 42 51 56 68 49 50 48 59 67 40 65
Ill 55: the stratigraphic subgroups
Sealed beneath (64), (58) consisted of a mound of material. The dark colour and the shape suggested that this might have been a midden; it was certainly one of the most productive deposits in terms of material culture per litre of soil in this trench. The development of iron pan and suggestions of podsolisation in places reinforces the suggestion that (54) had been water-lain and that the ‘corridor’ was no longer roofed over. The relationship of (99) to this possible midden was unclear, but the quantity of carbonised material within it suggests that it, too, originated as a dump of rubbish, this time with a large organic component. Beneath the possible midden, the compacted deposit (101) resembled a clay floor surface. This may have been some sort of floor surface, although it cannot have been part of the supposed corridor, as it sealed cut (111), which appears to have been a robber trench for masonry from the concentric wall. If the concentric wall survived as a feature within the amphitheatre until its abandonment, as Hugh Thompson appears to have believed, its robbing cannot have taken place until the later fourth century, at the earliest. The stratigraphic position of this robbing episode in relation to those on the south wall of Entrance 4 must serve to push those forward in time to a date later rather than earlier in the Saxon or medieval period.
Chester Archaeology At the base of the excavated sequence, (103) probably represents the earliest in situ archaeological deposit encountered and partly excavated by this project. Unfortunately, no finds were recovered from the small volume excavated, so it is not possible to assign a terminus post quem to the start of this sequence.
The individual contexts were placed in subgroups for the purpose of analysing individual trenches (Ill 55). Each subgroup brings together all those contexts within a trench that belong to discrete forms of activity (such as all those contexts associated with a particular posthole). These subgroups are tabulated above, in the sections dealing with each trench. For a more general interpretation of the development of the site from the Roman period onwards, these subgroups were then placed into groups on the basis of similarity of interpretation and contemporaneity. In all, twenty-four groups can be defined (Ill 56). Groups  and  represent the modern surfaces of the displayed monument, while  and  are the respective underlying deposits that have developed since the site opened to the public. These represent the most recent element in the stratigraphy, post-dating 1972. They can be brought together as Phase VIII. On the seating-bank area there was evidence for the process of consolidation and display in the form of topsoil (Group ) and makeup deposits, often consisting of previously excavated material put back into excavation trenches (Group ). Other elements, such as the concrete markers intended to prepare for the display (Group ), were more directly part of the monument as visible today, while Group  consisted of the 1969 drainage scheme. These groups form Phase VII. In two places, there was evidence for the 1960s excavation. This consisted of the edge of a trench (Group ) and the works involved in putting the facing on the concrete retaining wall (Group ). This forms Phase VI.
1 3 4 5 8 7 9 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 23 24 21 14 2 6
Groups  and  represent the mid-twentieth century demolitions on the site, of St John’s House and the cottages facing St John Street respectively. The former occurred in the summer of 1958, while the latter occurred in the 1930s. These Groups form Phase V. Groups ,  and  represented post-medieval activity. The first consists of the structural evidence for St John’s House, which can be dated historically to c 1735. Group  consists of well (110) in Trench VI, which was perhaps contemporary with either St John’s House or with the
Ill 56: the stratigraphic groups
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 seventeenth-century property that preceded it. Group  consists of the unexcavated ground surface on which St John’s House was built. These form Phase IV. The only potential high or late-medieval feature on the site, wall (43), forms Group , the sole element of Phase III. Most of the stratigraphy excavated in Trench IX belongs to Groups  to , which represent episodes of robbing and abandonment of the amphitheatre. Their dating is unclear, but belongs in the early to high medieval period. Possibly contemporary with this is Group , posthole (83) in Trench III. At any rate, it is unlikely to be Roman, as it lay inside the arena, or high medieval, as it is too far below the medieval ground surface at this point. These groups belong to Phase II, which can be subdivided into four sub-phases (below, 00) Groups  and  represent the Roman amphitheatre proper. The former is the stone amphitheatre, while the latter is the timber structure. Together, they form Phase I (subdivided into Ib and Ia respectively; theoretically, Phase Ib should be split to take into account to two phases of the stone amphitheatre, but there was no evidence bearing on this in the current project). Finally, Group  was the bedrock found at a number of places across the site. This defines Phase 0, although the prehistoric material from the site has also been assigned to this phase, as it was not associated with any in situ stratigraphy.
Table 10: site phasing Phase VIII VII VI V IV III IId IIc IIb IIa Ib Ia 0 Date 1972-2000 1969-1972 1960-1969 1929-1959 Activity Public open space Consolidation Excavation Demolition St John’s House Domestic colonisation Second robbing phase Abandonment of site First robbing phase Dereliction Stone amphitheatre Timber amphitheatre Prehistory Evidence Excavated data, documents, current land use Excavated data Excavated data, archive, Thompson 1976 Excavated data, documents, Thompson 1976 Excavated data, documents Excavated data, Thompson 1976 Excavated data Excavated data Excavated data Excavated data Excavated data, Thompson 1976 Excavated data, Thompson 1976 Residual finds
c 1735-1929 c 1200-1735
? - c 1200 Late Saxon? Middle Saxon? Sub-Roman? c 90-350
Before AD 75
Evidence for the history of the site
The excavation produced results from a number of distinct periods in the history of the site, ranging from prehistoric activity through to its late twentieth-century use as a public garden.
Phase VIII: public open space (1972-2000)
Owing to the present use of the site as a public open space, evidence for this most recent phase of activity was found in all trenches. Those excavated in the arena and entrances (Trenches I to V) all had gravel surfaces ((29), (30),
Chester Archaeology (31), (32) and (70)), while those on the grassed ‘seating bank’ (Trenches VI to IX) all had turf (which was not assigned a context number). These deposits then rested on a variety of make-up deposits, which varied according to location. In the arena, the make-up tended to consist of a sandy deposit that may have derived largely from the gravel through a process of settling. However, in Trench I, the brashy material at the east end of the trench (not excavated during the 2000 project) had been used to fill in the slots uncovered during the 1960s excavation. On the seating bank and in the entrances, however, the sequence was more complex. In this case of the seating bank, the site had been landscaped following its near-total excavation down to natural inside the concentric wall. Inside the entrances, particularly the East Entrance, attempts had been made to level the site for visitors.
Phase VII: consolidation (1969-72)
There was evidence from Trench IV, in the North Entrance, of activity to prepare the site for display in the form of the obscure postholes (92) and (93). The former, with its near-vertical sides, was about the right size to take a post resembling those used in the steps down from the western seating bank into the northern entrance. Cut (93) probably predates the opening of the site to the public but did not look like a posthole. The excavated deposits in Trench V, in the East Entrance, all related to the backfilling of Trench A67/1, excavated between 13 July and 14 November 1967, to level the site. One of these, (39), was a lens of sand, perhaps spread during consolidation and preparatory work on the monument before display. Beneath it, (38) was more like the backfills encountered elsewhere on the site, which had presumably been derived from archaeological deposits excavated during the exposure of the monument. Beneath this, (56) was a deposit of builder’s rubble containing numerous voids. The overall impression was that it consisted of material left after the main works for preparing the site as a public display had been completed, simply tipped into a convenient hole. On the seating bank, a topsoil deposit ((1), (3), (5) and (9)) formed the base for the turf in all but Trench VII, where it rested directly on backfill. This may be because the trench was located at the break of slope between the level part of the ‘seating bank’ and the part that slopes down to the consolidated arena wall. It is possible that the landscape gardeners decided not to put topsoil on the slope, where it might be prone to denudation. In Trenches VI and IX, the topsoil had been laid around concrete slabs resting on the backfill deposits beneath. These slabs are intended to mark out the position of the outer wall and minor entrances, but not (curiously and confusingly) the concentric wall. However, these slabs are not correctly laid out. In both instances where this could be tested (Trenches VI and IX), it became evident that the slabs are misaligned by about a metre in an anticlockwise direction. The makeup material beneath the topsoil (and, in Trench VII, directly beneath the turf) consisted of redeposited material, much of which had been excavated (either by hand or mechanically) during the 1960s. As a consequence, they were full of finds of mixed date (from possibly Upper Palaeolithic to mid-twentieth century). This accounts for contexts (2), (4), (8), (10), (12), (13), (15), (16) and (22). The tendency for finds to cluster in these deposits may reflect deposition in discrete groups on the original spoil heap, suggesting that they had been collected as archaeological finds and then thrown out.
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 In the North Entrance, deposits (57) and (67) formed the backfill, which could be dated precisely by a dual priced chocolate wrapper to late 1970 or early 1971. Larger blocks of stone lay within these deposits and presumably derived originally from collapsed amphitheatre masonry. A number of other features relating to the display of the site were also recorded, in the arena and the North Entrance. This consists of a drainage scheme designed to prevent the arena floor (which is cut about a metre into the rock-head) from flooding. The scheme replaces and expands an original Roman drainage scheme. Whereas the original scheme consisted solely of an axial drain running from the North Entrance across the arena, to leave through the South Entrance, and a peripheral drain in the arena, the modern system adds a herringbone pattern of land drains leading to the axial drain. Moreover, the axial drain comes to an abrupt end at the wall dividing the public gardens from those of Dee House to the south. By a means that is not clear, this system links into an electric pump installed in an underground chamber to the north of the East Entrance. The two modern features in Trench I, (48) and (51), remain a puzzle. They were almost certainly cut at around the same time, after the new facing was put on the wall in the summer of 1964. They appear to have been dug as postholes and they may have been dug for unknown purposes before the site was opened to the public (1970-72), but this is an interpretation that depends entirely on negative considerations.
Phase VI: excavation (1960-69)
All the trenches produced evidence for the 1960s excavation, either directly (in the form of trench edges) or indirectly (in the form of backfills, truncation horizons and so on, as already mentioned). This is unsurprising, as it was suspected before the project began that the site had been completely stripped of archaeological deposits. This did not in fact prove to be the case, as at least four trenches (V, VI, VIII and IX) contained in situ archaeological deposits and features. Nevertheless, the scale of the 1960s work had left unmistakable traces in all the trenches. In the arena, the evidence consisted largely of a truncation horizon that coincided with the rock-head, demonstrating the completeness of the excavation here. No archaeological deposits survived in this area. However, pit (79), of Roman date, contained evidence for the exposure of this pit and the way in which it had been exposed to the elements after emptying, with the column fragment it had originally contained put back inside it. In the Northern Entrance, it appeared that some archaeological deposits may have been left in situ, which is not surprising as this was the last area to be investigated in 1969. However, the truncation horizon seems to have removed most of the Roman and later deposits in this area (although it is clear from the site notebooks that deposits remain in situ beneath the waterline in well (110)). In the Eastern Entrance, the edge of Trench A67/1 was clearly definable within our Trench V. It corresponded well with the shape of the cut seen on photographs taken at the time of excavation (Ill 00, above). Archaeological deposits of Roman (and possibly later) date survive in this area. In Trench VI, cut (112) corresponds to Trench A68/10, excavated between 30 July and 6 August 1968. The description of what was found given in the site notebooks does not tally with either the published plan or the features uncovered during the present project and it is difficult to suggest an explanation. In Trench IX, cut (119) does not correspond to the edge of an excavation trench, as the edge of Trench A68/2 lay almost two metres to the southwest. The material was very mixed and probably included finds deriving from the spoil removed elsewhere from the site. The most likely explanation
Chester Archaeology is that (119) represents the edge of an area cleared by machine that was larger than the area subsequently chosen for hand excavation. In Trench I, there evidence for activity during the 1960s that was not strictly part of the archaeological process: cut (127), was dug for the pebble-dashed slabs to be added to the front of the wall separating the excavation from the garden of Dee House. This narrow trench was recorded as A64/1 (Excavation Diary III, 20.7.1964-23.9.1964).
Phase V: demolition (1929-1959)
There was some evidence for twentieth-century activity on the site preceding the excavation. In Trench VI, cut (112), which corresponds to Trench A68/10, was cut through a demolition deposit that appears to belong to properties fronting St John Street, which were demolished in the 1950s. In Trench VIII, deposits (19), (21), (24) and (28) all derive from the demolition of St John’s House in June 1958. It is likely that numerous nineteenth and twentieth-century deposits and structures survive elsewhere on the site in areas not targeted during the 1960s.
Phase IV: St John’s House (1735-1929)
The most important (and in many ways most unexpected) post-medieval archaeology consisted of the foundations of part of St John’s House that were found in Trench VIII. The published plan of the site (Thompson 1976, fig 3) does not show the edges of the 1960s trenches. However, as one or two partial features were recorded in this area, it was assumed that this part of the site had been excavated in the 1960s, but with inconclusive results. This proved not to be the case. The foundations were surprisingly shallow (no more than 0.2 m), with sandstone blocks and only one course of bricks apparently buried below mideighteenth century ground level. This may be a misapprehension based on the small sample available for investigation, and any future work on the site ought to seek to confirm or refute this. The foundation trenches had cut what was evidently a construction deposit contemporary with St John’s House. Some of this material probably also included demolition débris from the previous structure on the site. The void that appeared beneath the foundations of the house appeared to be part of a capped pit or well whose fill had slumped after capping. The date of this feature could not be determined as it was not excavated, but a postmedieval or medieval origin seems likely. The well found in the North Entrance had already been partly investigated in 1969, and no further investigation took place in 2000. However, the presence of in situ deposits below the water line means that it might be possible to examine the feature in the future, should it be thought worthwhile.
Phase III: domestic colonisation (c 1200-1735)
The only potential evidence for later medieval or earlier post-medieval activity found during the excavation was the probable stone-lined pit, (43), in Trench VI. The angle of slope suggests that the inside of the pit lay within Trench VI, but no other sides of the feature were found. This may mean that they were removed without record during the excavation of Trench A68/10. Numerous similar pits were found during the 1960s excavation, ranging in date from the early thirteenth century (F1 in Thompson 1976, 164) to the eighteenth century (F22 in Thompson 1976, 154); why this pit was not recognised is unclear.
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 Colonisation of the site by domestic properties seems to have been established by the beginning of the thirteenth century, to judge from the evidence of pit contents excavated in the 1960s. This must give us a terminus ante quem for the majority of the robbing, although limited small-scale robbing would have been possible thereafter.
Phases IIb-IId: abandonment and robbing (Middle Saxon-c 1200?)
One of the major questions posed by the 1960s excavation was the date at which the amphitheatre was robbed of most of its masonry. According to Hugh Thompson (1976, 159), the outer and concentric walls had been extensively robbed and, in places, could be traced only by the location of the robber trenches. A consideration of the size of the outer wall (at least 11.5 m high and some 2.7 m thick at its base) alone means that a considerable quantity of masonry that ought to lie scattered over the site if the amphitheatre had simply fallen down, is just not there. It is therefore reasonable to assume that most of it was carried away from the site, perhaps even stripped systematically from the disused structure, at a date between, say, the end of the fourth century and c 1200. Unfortunately, the 1960s excavation did not seek the answers to this sort of question, as the sole research aim of the project was the excavation of the Roman amphitheatre and elucidation of its construction history. The dereliction and robbing of the structure were not considered, except as annoyances. The discovery of clearly stratified evidence for these phases in the history of the site in Trench IX was therefore especially welcome. In the confined space of Trench IX, the only stratigraphic relationship between the latest phase of robbing (represented by cut (61)) and later activity was with cut (119), the 1960s machine clearance of the site. This was not helpful! However, the lack of post-Roman material from its fill, while not conclusive, suggests a date before the later Middle Ages. This was the latest robber trench on this stretch of Roman walling, as it cut into (63), a similar robber trench on precisely the same alignment. Towards the base of the cut, dressed masonry belonging to the outer face of a wall was identified. This corresponds to the south wall of Entrance 4 of the Roman amphitheatre. A primary episode of robbing was represented by cut (111), at a lower stage in the stratigraphic sequence; this appears to have a robber trench for masonry from the concentric wall. As the concentric wall was necessary as a structural support within the amphitheatre, its robbing cannot have taken place until abandonment in the mid fourth century, at the earliest. This represents Phase IIb. The stratigraphic position of these three robbing episodes suggests that the removal of masonry from the building was a protracted and intermittent process. Dating this process is difficult with the limited evidence available, but a number of scenarios can be suggested. Firstly, the removal of masonry from the ‘concentric wall’ cannot have occurred before the end of the final phase of use of the monument. It had fallen into disuse by the middle of the fourth century, as pottery dating from the first half of the fourth century was amongst the rubbish that began to accumulate in the arena after its final abandonment (Thompson 1976, 183). The stratigraphic position of the two later episodes of robbing suggests that they occurred a considerable time after this, and the water-lain nature of the material into which it had been cut, (64), indicates that this part of the monument, beneath the seating, lay open to the sky. Numerous sandstone fragments within the deposit may confirm the derelict state of the building at this time. It is also clear that the masonry of Entrance 4 was at least partly buried before the second and third phases of robbing began, which suggests that some
Chester Archaeology considerable time had elapsed between the abandonment of the monument and these phases of robbing. Finally, the lack of medieval or later material from the backfill of this trench strongly suggests that robbing took place before the proliferation of material culture from the thirteenth century onwards. Moreover, the numerous domestic pits evident across the site by the early thirteenth century suggest that it had been divided up into burgage plots and colonised shortly after c 1200. This enables us to make some suggestions about the date of stone robbing from the site. At the earliest, such activity would have to be late Roman (after c 350), while at the latest, it ought to have ceased by c 1200. Are there any historical grounds for refining these two extremes? The later of the two episodes of robbing from the south wall of Entrance 4 is unlikely to have occurred as early as the late fourth century, so a sub-Roman date is possible. Later possibilities include a traditional date for the construction of St John’s church in 689, a likely tenth-century building episode in the church, its reconstruction by Leofric Earl of Mercia in 1057, the construction of the new cathedral church c 1100 and the reconstruction of the city walls c 1200. Unfortunately, there is no data from the present project—stratigraphic, artefactual or historical—that would allow a more precise date to be reached.
Phase IIa: dereliction of amphitheatre (sub-Roman?)
Trench IX produced the clearest evidence for the period of the amphitheatre’s dereliction, before systematic large-scale robbing began (although this evidence post-dated the robbing of the concentric wall noted above). The main evidence consisted of the midden (context (58)) that had been deposited in the space between the outer and concentric walls following the robbing of the latter. Although most of the sub-Roman to Middle Saxon activity from Chester consists of deposits that cannot usually be shown to be anything other than natural (Ward et al. 1994, 118), the anthropogenic nature of this midden is clear. Moreover, it formed at a time when large parts of the amphitheatre were still standing. This is shown by the rubble contained within (64), which almost certainly derived from the crumbling ruins of the building, and the stratigraphic position of the robbing of the south wall of Entrance 4, cut through deposits that covered the midden. Whatever the nature of the superstructure at this point (Hugh Thompson seems to have regarded the ‘concentric wall’ as a sleeper wall for timber framing above (Thompson 1976, 163), while Nigel Sunter reconstructs a masonry vault over the corridor (Sunter in Thompson 1976, 233)), it is clear that the roof had been lost long before the formation of these deposits. The possible floor surface on which the midden was dumped cannot have been part of the corridor (irrespective of whether or not it was used for circulation) as it sealed the robber trench of the ‘concentric wall’. This suggests occupation during the sub-Roman or Middle Saxon periods, something that is backed up by unpublished discoveries in the 1960s (below, 000). A lean-to structure straddling the demolished concentric wall and attached to both the outer wall and the south wall of Entrance 4 is perfectly plausible. This project has also raised doubts about the interpretation of the supposed timber platform at the centre of the arena. So long as the axial drain could be interpreted as being diverted around it, it was logical to regard the two features as contemporary. However, the discovery of an additional posthole, (86), to the west of the axial drain, means that the drain cannot have been diverted around it. In that case, the supposed contemporaneity of the two features should be questioned. Unfortunately, although the postholes were first identified in Trench 1C, they were not recorded on the section that was drawn as they were in a part of the trench that suffered a collapse after heavy
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 rain. This means that we do not know from what depth they were cut and therefore whether they belong with the timber amphitheatre, the first stone structure or the refurbished late third century building. They may even be later. Interestingly, the base of cut (86) had two depressions, as if it had been recut to take a second post after the removal of the first. This might reinforce suggestions (Matthews 2000, 10) that—if it does belong with the supposed timber platform—it was a temporary structure that could be erected and dismantled as and when necessary. There are interesting parallels with accounts such as The Martyrdom of Polycarp, in which (Chapter 13 (Staniforth 1968, 160)) the martyr is burned on a pyre that had been constructed in the centre of the arena expressly for his execution. However, it may be better to regard this structure as post-Roman and contemporary with the other evidence from the 1960s excavation of postRoman structures in the arena. Although profiles of these postholes were drawn, no sections were made and the mechanical clearance of arena fills in 1964 meant that there is no record of their stratigraphic position. As they were in part of the arena where the late third-century paving was removed before it was recognised, it is not known, for instance, if these features cut through or were sealed by it. Although the arrangement of postholes is rectilinear, there are two distinct alignments, suggesting that we are dealing with a two-phase structure. The main alignment consists of two trenches and the postholes inside them, together with a row of three postholes not set in a trench. There is one alignment of postholes (including cut (86) in the 2000 season) perpendicular to this alignment. In addition, there are two lines of postholes that are not perpendicular to it, running on a slightly more southerly bearing and one trench on a different alignment. This suggests that, unless the structure were rhomboidal rather than rectangular, two separate structures are represented here. One possibility is that the slots and postholes belong to a post-Roman building rather than a platform associated with the amphitheatre. The construction of timber ‘halls’ on former Roman sites is a well-known phenomenon (one of the best known examples being the hall erected on the site of the north granary in the fort at Birdoswald, on Hadrian’s Wall), while the defensive use of amphitheatres in the sub-Roman period is attested both in Britain and France. We can suggest, tentatively, that the postholes might represent such a timber ‘hall’; their massive nature certainly seems out of place for a simple platform.
Ill 57: the sandstone base of a lean-to structure against the arena wall, south of the East Entrance
Chester Archaeology Further evidence for the late or sub-Roman dereliction phase of the site was found during the 1960s excavations, one hint of which was published (Thompson 1976, pl. XXXVI b) but not commented upon, while the other remains unpublished in the site notebooks. The first consisted of part of the rectilinear stone foundation of a lean-to building against the arena wall, south of the East Entrance. This was found in the east end of Trench 1C at the start of July 1960. The site notebooks (Volume I, 8 August 1960) record that a coin of Tetricus I was found associated with it, but it cannot be earlier than the abandonment of the arena (according to the current models of the site history). The second was also a leanto structure, discovered on 27 August 1965, six feet (1.83 m) east of the North Entrance. It was cut into a dark brown loam (recorded as the lower part of A65/3 (2)). Once again, a coin of Tetricus I was recorded as coming from this deposit (which must be coincidence and nothing more). The Ill 58: a sub-Roman lean-to structure against section drawing makes it the arena wall, east of the North Entrance clear that it was cut into what was later recognised as the secondary sandstone surface of the arena. As with the sandstone structure, its context must post-date the abandonment of the amphitheatre (or, at any rate, of the arena).
Phase I: construction and use of amphitheatre
No in situ deposits were excavated that definitely belong to the period in which the amphitheatre was functioning as such, with the possible exception of (90), in Trench V. However, in all but Trenches III and VI, there was plentiful evidence for the Roman history of the site. The axial drain was traced in Trenches I and IV. In Trench I, cut (84) corresponded in position to the axial drain, but the edge of the feature has been badly damaged, especially close to the concrete dividing wall. The modern axial drain in the North Entrance re-used the Roman drain, (109), which survived as two courses of sandstone blocks in a rock-cut linear trench that appeared to be around 1.18 m wide. This would be approximately four Roman pedes. The masonry defined a channel some 370 mm wide; this would be 1¼ pedes. It was unfortunate that none of the original drain fills had survived, as it was hoped that environmental samples could be retrieved from the feature. In the arena, little had survived the preparation works for displaying the monument. However, in Trench II, (79) corresponded to a pit excavated in 1967, when it contained a reused fragment of column into which an iron bar had been set. It lay in the edge of the sandstone-lined feature identified as a path leading to the central platform (Thompson 1976. 153; Plates XLII a and b; Fig 8), but none of this seems to have survived the installation of the drains. The column fragment was about 0.69 m ‘tall’ (in other words, ‘long’ as it lay in the pit; this corresponds to 28 Roman unciae of 24.67 mm or 2.3 pedes of 296 mm) and 0.33 m in diameter (about 13½ unciae). If the postholes of the supposed ‘central platform’ are Roman, their explanation may be sought in one of the forms of execution attested in early Christian literature. According to a letter from the churches of Vienna and
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 Lyons to the churches of Asia and Phrygia quoted by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History v.1, ‘Blandina was hung up fastened to a stake and exposed, as food to the wild beasts that were let loose against her. Because she appeared as if hanging on a cross and because of her earnest prayers, she inspired the combatants with great zeal.’ This took place in an arena. In a subsequent passage (viii.6), an unnamed Christian is ‘raised on high naked and … his whole body torn with scourges … a gridiron and fire were then produced…’ This took place in Nicomedia in AD 303/4. The possibility that the wooden uprights were not structural but were part of the apparatus of public execution deserves further exploration. In the Northern Entrance, there is the possibility that some in situ archaeological deposits of Roman date, (105) and (106), survive. Both appear to have been cut by the axial drain. This may be part of the ‘floor’ described in the site notebooks (Excavation Diary V, Tuesday 15 July 1969), but neither deposit was examined in detail in 2000. Roman deposits were also seen in Trench V, but apart from a small part of (90)—which produced a bone gaming counter of possible Roman date—none of these were examined. Nevertheless, their survival means that it may be possible to examine some of the outstanding questions posed by the Eastern Entrance. These include the question of whether the narrowing of the chamber with large, irregular masonry blocks is secondary (which is how it appears on the ground, although Hugh Thompson does not mention this). In Trench VII, part of the timber amphitheatre that had been excavated in July 1968 was exposed as feature (25). The survival of the feature in what was a virtually pristine state was very encouraging and contrasted strongly with the condition of the short surviving stretch of axial drain in Trench I. Should it ever be thought desirable to expose the timber grillage again (for whatever purposes, whether for public display or archaeological research), it ought to be possible to do so. The architectural fragment from the foundations of St John’s House in Trench VIII is puzzling. Although Hugh Thompson had found a piece of sandstone with identical moulding in 1969, he did not publish it and the sketch book dismisses it as a seventeenth-century cornice. For reasons given above, this no longer seems a plausible interpretation. The style suggests either later eighteenth century (which the context of the find precludes) or Roman. As at least two fragments were incorporated into contexts of identical date (c 1735), it is highly likely that they derive from the same source. This source ought to be the Roman amphitheatre itself, as it cannot have been the fortress walls, where the main type of moulding is a double cyma recta, with (from the top down) a fillet, cyma recta, double fillet, cyma recta and fillet (Blagg 1999, 110). The moulding from the amphitheatre is a simpler variant of the type, with only a single central squared fillet and none at top or bottom. A Roman date for these pieces and their likely origin as part of the stone amphitheatre raises a number of questions. Firstly, if they are part of the amphitheatre rubble, why has so little other masonry survived from the structure? Possible explanations include the late survival of one or more short stretches of masonry to a height that included a decorative cornice or the enhanced visibility and usefulness of these pieces of flat masonry, which could have been reused many times on the same building plot. Secondly, is it possible that the amphitheatre was more elaborately decorated than has usually been thought? It has been known since the 1930s that the arena wall was coated in plaster that was then painted with a wash to resemble marble (Thompson 1976, 146). There were traces of at least two coats of this plaster, which was not thick enough to hide the pattern of the masonry behind it. This
Chester Archaeology was then sealed by a much later and thicker rendering that obliterated the shape of individual blocks in the arena wall. The effect of this decoration is not discussed by Hugh Thompson, but it must have served to make the arena, at least, appear very imposing. Presumably other parts of the superstructure, including the outside wall, were painted or plastered—as was normal for Roman buildings—and the overall effect would have been very colourful. This is a long way from the utilitarian functions usually ascribed to ‘military amphitheatres’ (a problematical term, below 00); if it were merely the hypothesised legionary training ground, there would be no need to decorate it in a manner so clearly designed to impress spectators.
Phase 0b: prehistoric
The amphitheatre is one of a growing number of sites in Chester to have produced evidence for prehistoric activity, albeit always in a redeposited context. Worryingly, both the definite artefacts from the 2000 excavations were found in backfill deposits, having been overlooked or, worse, discarded by the 1960s excavators. This is an important concern, as we cannot be certain what was the date of the context from which the artefacts were originally recovered. An important piece such as the penknife point would be more significant if we could be certain that it had been found in a Roman deposit. Had it come originally from a nineteenth- or twentieth-century deposit, the chances of it having been brought to the site (or even to Chester) from elsewhere are increased. Nevertheless, these two artefacts fit the known pattern of prehistoric occupation within the city. Neolithic finds are fairly widely scattered, from Handbridge, south of the River Dee, into the northern part of the historic core. Earlier prehistoric (principally Mesolithic) finds come from the southern part of the town, principally on the river terrace that runs from Chester Castle, along Castle Street and St Olave Street towards St John’s, where it has been removed by medieval quarrying. This is a reasonable enough pattern for hunter-gatherer sites and the only surprising feature of the penknife point is its probable early date. What is interesting in connection with this piece is that a large flint flake was found incorporated into a stretch of Roman masonry in August 1908 immediately to the north, in St John Street. Despite a superficial resemblance (particularly in the published photograph) to an Acheulian hand-axe, it is clearly a piece of débitage. Its form and size suggest a Palaeolithic date. Taken together, these pieces suggest an interest in this area by Cheshire’s first inhabitants, presumably because of the resources available at the head of the Dee Estuary. The terrace on which they were found may represent an early post-glacial river bank, which would be very attractive to huntergatherers. Further work should seek better (and perhaps in situ) evidence for this very early phase of activity on the site.
Phase 0a: natural
The bedrock was a typical Chester pebble beds sandstone, with bedding planes dipping towards the east. Interpretation was confused in three trenches (I, II and VII), though, by the presence of layers of a more silvery (and perhaps therefore silicaceous) plane within it, outcropping on the exposed bedrock surface in these locations. The small cut feature in Trench III, (83), may have been natural weathering in the base of the arena, caused by solution activity, or the base of a feature cut from a higher level.
The Documentary Evidence Gerrard
Barnes & Keith J Matthews
Limited documentation exists for the history of the site, most of which related to the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. This covers the period of construction and occupation of the two major houses (St John’s House and Dee House) that existed on the site at the time of the amphitheatre’s discovery in 1929. It has been possible to trace the occupancy of the two houses in some detail; changes in owner may have some relevance to the development of the structures. It is the cartographic evidence that is in many ways most startling. Although it has not previously been recognised, maps demonstrate that the site of the Roman amphitheatre survived as a discrete topographical unit until the destruction wrought on this part of the city by the Civil War of the 1640s. While it has long been recognised that ruined Roman structures continued to be visible well into the High Medieval period (Strickland 1994, 16), the survival of at least the outline of the amphitheatre appears not to have been considered (Strickland (1994, 15) refers only to the line of (Little) St John Street).
The Comberbach family
‘Mr Comberbach’ appears as a label on De Lavaux’s map of 1745 as the owner of the building that came to be called Dee House. The family was closely involved with this particular area of Chester, but it is often impossible to distinguish St John’s Lane/Street from Little St John Street in the records, making interpretation hazardous. Alderman James Comberbach made his will on 21 May 1736 and it was proved on 10 April 1738. He states that he owned two messuages or dwelling houses in St John’s Lane “lately erected and built by me and now or late in the tenancies of William Falconer Esq. and Roger Roden Gardiner”. These were left to Dorothy Comberbach, wife of his nephew James Comberbach. He also refers to “my other messuage or dwelling house in St John’s Lane, where I now co-habit or dwell.” This he left to his nephew James Adams, clerk. James Comberbach, the nephew, appears in the Land Tax Returns for 1764 (Z/CAS 2) as living in St John’s Street, with a house and stables valued at £21 p.a.; he also figures as paying the Window Tax for the same year—£1 11s 6d for nineteen windows. He must have died sometime before Dorothy made her will, as widow, on 18 May 1784. No mention was made of where she was living. The will was subsequently proved on 8 June 1786. Roger Comberbach, the son of the younger James’s elder brother Roger and therefore grand-nephew of the Alderman, made his will on 17 September 1770 (proved 10 April 1771), leaving a messuage to his second wife, Helen, in St John’s Lane “where I now reside”. Helen figures as one of the parties to Indentures of lease and release, dated 15 and 16 February 1790, included in
Chester Archaeology an Abstract of Titles to a messuage, stable, coach house and garden etc, which appears in a series of reprints in Cheshire Sheaf Third Series 31 (1936). She is acting as one of the trustees named in Rogers will for the sale of his real estates. Roger’s father had been heir at law of the Alderman, and Roger junior was heir at law to the three children (all deceased) of James and Dorothy. Other parties to the Indenture were Roger’s children both by his first wife and Helen herself (6933).
The core of Dee House is believed to date from around 1730 (Carrington ed. 1994, 100; DoE 1972, 80); this block, about 12.25 by 7.25 m, occupies the north-central part of the building. It is generally thought to have been built for the Comberbach family. Extensions to the south and southwest had been made by the 1740s. On 22 September 1743, the Assembly received a petition from James Adams stating that ‘he was seized of a messuage in St John’s Lane lately in the possession of James Comberbach, between which and the City walls there was a long piece of ground, lately in the possession of Edward Ley, surgeon by virtue of a lease lately expired.’ He requested ‘a grant to him with liberty to make a door to go upon the walls’ (AB/4/103v). It is not clear where this messuage may have been, and although it is possible that it refers to Dee House, the reference to the City Walls is curious. For the ensuing 100 years, little or no definite and reliable information on Dee House or its occupants has survived. One possibility is that James Adams is the James Adams who was Rector of Bebington from 1739 to 1753 and might therefore possibly not have lived at Dee House but let it out. On the other hand, it is possible that he died and the property been sold or bequeathed. It is possible that Roger Comberbach remained the owner and that this was where he was residing when he made his will in 1770. Cheshire Sheaf First Series 3 (1885) has a series of Items, beginning at 2296, which records ‘the recollections of men and women living in the City in 1817’. Unfortunately, a piece about the Convent (2396) is confused, information being jumbled with details of Forest House. It also contains other inaccuracies, notably in that it places the Academy Ill 59: Dee House, 1997 Boarding School in the Convent. This was in fact in St John’s Rectory, at which time (1840) the Rector of St John’s was living in The Priory. The informant’s remembrance of the more recent past is somewhat better, stating that after the boarding school, the residents were Dr Orred and Dr Cumming, then Rev C B Taylor and Rev Frederick Forde, both Rectors of St Peter’s. This can mostly be confirmed as correct. Dr Orred, a surgeon, is named in the Chester Directory for 1795, with an address ‘at the Newgate’. A note in Cheshire Sheaf Third Series 31, 6913—one of a series detailing an Abstract of Titles to St John’s House—states that ‘this is intended no doubt to apply to his residence at the building now known as the Convent’. No evidence for this certainty is adduced, but in 1790, he figures in the same
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 Abstract, involved in land transactions affecting his property and St John’s House in 1790. He died ‘at his house in Chester’ on 29 June 1826. The reference to Dr Cumming seems to be in error, though, as another of the Title Deeds in this series (6986) places his property southeast of St John’s House. It is not certain when Rev Taylor took up occupation, but he became vicar in 1836. He is certainly living there by 8 January 1839, the date of a severe storm, when the chimneystack was brought down and his nephew narrowly escaped injury. In the 1841 Census, he is recorded as present with a household of eleven, although to confuse matters yet again, the Chester Directory for 1840 names his residence as ‘Dee Side’. In the 1851 Census, it is occupied by the Rev Forde, his household (with visitors) numbering nineteen. Although in neither census is the house given a name, the numbers present presuppose a house of the size comparable to Dee House and as such identifiable with it. The Convent was established shortly thereafter, on 29 January 1854, by the Foundress of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, who had acquired the site in the previous year (Buxton 1993, 22). A new wing comprising chapel, study room and dormitory was opened on 23 October 1867. The Abstract of Titles for St John’s House includes an arrangement, dated 24 September 1870 relative to its boundary wall with Dee House. This recites inter alia that ‘Dee House stood limited to a Jane Kevan by way of mortgage, and subject thereto four named spinsters (presumably officials of the order) [who] were entitled to the same premises in Fee simple.’ Its purpose was to resolve disputes over the boundary wall and the use by the Convent of a footway leading from the southwest boundary of St John’s House. The first Superior was a Madame de Busy; her successor, from 1855 to 1878, was a Madame Stritch; her successor, Mother Aloysia Russel was in post until 1887; Madame Blackett, was appointed before 1892 and continued in office until after 1910. Madame Walsh was Prioress in 1914, and by 1919 had been replaced by Madame Cleary. At some time towards the end of the nineteenth century, a further extension was made to the west of the original core of the building. A flat-roofed building was added to the south in 1929 for the Ursulines who took over the school in 1925 and whose construction led to the discovery of the Roman amphitheatre. This new building, which contained the assembly hall and classrooms above, was extended southwards in 1959 or 1960. Further alterations were made to incorporate various outbuildings to the west and south during the twentieth century.
St John’s Lane/Street
Until the 1871 Census, it is difficult to determine what other houses, if any, belong to that stretch of St John’s Street after its junction with Little St John’s Street. In 1861, Smith Green, Veterinary Surgeon, is listed there, but from 1871 to the 1930s, it is clear that there were three properties (17, 19 and 21). They were occupied as private houses and cease to appear in the Directories by 1934/5, presumably around the time of their demolition.
St John’s House
St John’s House was a substantial, eighteenth-century brick building two storeys high with a Georgian neo-classical facade. Photographs taken before demolition (Thompson 1976, Plates XXVIII a and b) suggest that it retained its eighteenth-century form with little or no modification up to 1958. It was demolished in June 1958 in order to prepare for the excavation of the northern part of the Roman amphitheatre (Thompson 1976, 131). Evidence
Chester Archaeology was found for a seventeenth-century building on the site, in the form of a stone inscription dated 1664, although its plan was not recovered (Thompson 1976, 165). This was probably built during the restoration of the area outside the New Gate following its extensive destruction during the Civil War. This may have been partly a result of the occupation of St John’s churchyard by Parliamentarian troops on who set up a gun battery there on 20 September 1644 (Carrington ed. 1994, 88). Scott (1892) reproduces a plan of St John’s Church “taken from two plans in the British Museum 1589”. Number VII on the plan, Mr. Marbury’s house, is located roughly on the site of St John’s House and could be a precursor to the 1664 building. According to a comment on the Abstract of Titles to St John’s House (Cheshire Sheaf 6906), there is another plan of 1470 in the British Museum, which has an unnamed house on this same site. This may be a misapprehension, as fifteenth-century maps and plans are exceedingly rare, and none has otherwise been recognised for Chester. Mr Warburton’s House (V on the 1589 plan) is said to have been called ‘Bishop’s House’ on the 1470 plan. An Abstract of Titles to a messuage in St John’s Lane i.e. St John’s House, (Cheshire Sheaf Third Series 31 (1936)) begins with an Indenture of Lease and Release of 21 and 22 January 1751 (6906). This was to Thomas Slaughter Esq. of ‘all that messuage etc. situate in or near St John’s Lane near St John’s Church’. The 1782 edition of the Chester Directory confirms that street as Thomas Slaughter’s residence. In his will, dated 11 May 1789, he devised the messuage ‘where he dwelt’ to his daughter Elizabeth, and a number of transactions in 1790 would indicate that he was dead by then.
Ill 60: the front door of St John’s House before demolition in June 1958
One of these documents—(6933)—supports the identification of the messuages, described in Alderman James Comberbach’s will (of 1736) as ‘lately erected’, with St John’s House. It is the indenture of lease and release of 15 and 16 February, involving Helen Comberbach, widow of Roger Comberbach, acting as a trustee for the sale of his real estates and Daniel Orred. This indenture is recited in a later Indenture conveying inter alia ‘a messuage adjoining the churchyard in the holding of Thomas Roden’ - surely a descendant of the Roger Roden named in James Comberbach’s will. Number 6957 in the series records the Indentures of lease and release of 1 and 2 January 1811 between Elizabeth Slaughter and George Brooke. This dealt with ‘all that capital messuage… with coach house, stables, garden, orchard, court yard etc. …and all that cottage in the garden of the said messuage theretofore occupied by the widow Roden lately deceased, all which except the cottage were in the occupation of John Nicholls and his undertenants’.
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 George Brooke seemingly lived in St John’s House from this time until c 1840, his address being consistently named in the Directories of 1828, 1834 and 1840 as Little St John Street. The Census of 1841, however, names Mrs Hannah Brooke as living there. She is described as ‘Independent’ with three children and eleven servants. The Abstract of Titles has George Brooke as party to an Indenture of 12 October 1842, when he is said to be late of Chester but then of Haughton Hall. By this indenture, St John’s House is conveyed to Dr James Edwards, his heirs and assigns for ever (6963). The ‘Recollections of men and women living in the city in 1817’ (Cheshire Sheaf First Series 3 (1885)) states that ‘Mr George Brooke, a Shropshire gentleman resided in the large house near the church and was succeeded by Dr Edwards, a physician son of Rev R W Edwards, Vicar of Aldford’. According to an Indenture of 11 December 1844, Robert Main, Edwards’ father-in-law, had put up the money for the purchase from Brooke. By this Indenture, ownership of the capital messuage, then occupied by James Edwards, and ‘all those messuages, tenements or cottages erected by Robert Main since 12 October 1842 upon other parts of the premises being conveyed’, passed to Thomas Reed. Edwards, however, was permitted to remain in occupation during the joint lives of himself and his wife (6968). In 1855, it was occupied by John J Brez, an accountant with offices in Eastgate Street, in which he had formerly resided. On 28 July 1855 ‘all that capital messuage, dwelling house or mansion, commonly known by the name of St John’s House, together with the courtyard, coach houses, stabling, granary and outbuildings belonging … and all that piece of land (part used as a garden to the said house) situate in Little St John Street.’ were sold to Meadows Frost, resident in Richmond Bank, for £2020. A description with measurements follows (Item 6986). The Indenture, although giving no date for the departure of Edwards from St John’s House, indicates that between then and the sale to Meadows Frost, the house was occupied by Miss Giles and Miss Kerr and for a period also unoccupied. Again, no dates are given. Meadows Frost, described as a merchant in 1864 and as a Justice of the Peace by 1871, stayed there until at least 1881, but after retiring from business went live in Hope (Flints), where he died in 1883. According to a booklet published by the Convent celebrating its Golden Jubilee in 1975, St John’s House was purchased in 1886 and the wall separating the properties taken down. However, it housed a vast range of different occupants from 1892 until its demolition and it is not clear if the Convent disposed of the house and its reduced gardens or if the purchase had simply been of part of the gardens. By 1892, the house had been acquired by the Chester Conservative Club. The history of the house during the early twentieth century was one of subdivision between a variety of businesses. In 1902 and 1906, Hugh Miller and Co., costumiers, were established in the House; by 1910 C E Lugard and Co., electrical engineers, had an office which they occupied until after 1919; also in 1910 a photographer, J H Hammond, was located in the House, but by 1914 he had been replaced by the YMCA and Richard Dahl, a language teacher. In 1919, a fourth business was set up in the name of R W Roberts, a millinery agent. By 1923 the two companies in occupancy were the AngloAmerican Oil Co. Ltd. and the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes; by 1928, they had been joined by George Lenthall & Sons, milliners. In 1933, the latter, together with Cellanders Cable & Construction Co. Ltd. and K C Edwards, accountant, were the tenants. In the next year, Cellanders left and the Chester Archaeological Society purchased St John’s House for £4000 (Thompson 1976, 131). From May 1935 until 1957, Cheshire County Council leased the house from the Society as offices. It was demolished in 1958 to make way for the excavation of the amphitheatre.
Little St John’s Lane/Street
Named as ‘Church Lane’ in John Speed’s map, houses are shown on the north side adjoining St John’s Lane. These appear on Stockdale’s map with two or three also shown at the comer on the south. The 1841 Census lists several houses, but apart from the Alms Houses with their fourteen 75 to 80 year old occupants it is not possible to determine their specific location in the Street with any certainty. The same situation obtains in respect of the 1851 and 1861 Censuses. In 1871 however the houses are numbered and it is possible to elucidate which are on the south and adjacent to St John’s House. To the west there are three, numbered 2,4, & 6 and occupied over the years by e.g. William Hitchin, cabinet maker, and other tradespeople. By 1952 however, the absence of any other buildings listed in the Directories suggests that by then only St John’s House was still standing.
The earliest map of the city to survive is that published by Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg in 1581, based on a survey by William Smith (Boughton 1997, 12). It contains a number of serious errors (such as the merging of Weaver Street with St Nicholas Street), probably reflecting the map’s origin as part of an atlas of world towns, put together by cartographers who had not seen many of the places depicted. Its most notable error concerning this site is that it places St John’s church on an ‘island’ formed by St John’s Street, Little St John’s Street and Souter’s Lane. Its evidence for the site of the amphitheatre is therefore, at best, ambiguous, at worst, wrong. However, with the exception of the misplacing of St John’s church, it appears to show the site much as it existed at the time of Speed’s more accurate map, thirty years later, although the presence of houses along the western side of Souter’s Lane is not confirmed by Speed. It is nevertheless intriguing that the shape of the amphitheatre appears to survive as a discrete topographical unit in the sixteenth century.
Ill 61: Braun & Hogenberg’s map of Chester, c 1580
The best known of the early maps of Chester is that of John Speed. Originally published in 1610 as a vignette in his map of the county, forming a series known as The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, it was reprinted on at least fourteen occasions between 1616 and 1770 (Whitaker 1942, 9). Like Braun’s map of a generation earlier, it depicts the site as an island, bounded by St John’s Street, Little St John’s Street, Souter’s Lane and a lost lane running from opposite the west tower of St John’s church to Souter’s Lane. The entrance to this lane at the eastern end is roughly where the gate into the new courthouse now stands or perhaps a little to its south; the western end is shown as being roughly half way along Souter’s Lane. It is marked by either a single building with two gables (perhaps representing a gate of some sort) or by a pair of buildings to the north and south of the lane respectively.
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 This detail perhaps confirms the otherwise dubious depiction of an ‘island’ in this position by Braun (made all the more disconcerting by his placing of St John’s church firmly at its centre). As such, it is valuable evidence that the site of the former amphitheatre survived as a topographic unit until the time of the Civil War in the 1640s, when considerable destruction took place in this part of the city (Ward 1987, 5). Wenceslaus Hollar’s map of 1656 is similar to Speed’s in many ways, although it lacks some of the detail. There are some changes: the small house to the southwest of St John’s is not shown, and there appear to be fewer properties south of the junction between St John’s Street and Little St John’s Street. How far this reflects the situation on the ground in 1656 is, however, unclear. The main map is a copy of one in Harleian MS 1046 (fol. 132), which dates from c 1623, but which bears the date 1585 (Whitaker 1942, 34).
Ill 62: Speed’s map of 1610
Although Hollar confirms many of Speed’s details, including the complex shape of the churchyard wall of St John’s, it is difficult to explain the lack of changes, unless Hollar, Ill 63: Hollar’s map of 1656 working on the continent, or his source, was reliant on Speed and other surveys. These include the construction of the battery in St John’s churchyard during the Civil War and the breaching of the city wall. It is possible that the loss of the house southwest of St John’s was a result of this activity. How much Hollar plagiarised earlier map makers is unclear, but this was common practice in the seventeenth century (Speed’s well known county maps, for instance, draw heavily on Saxton’s of thirty-three years previously). On balance, it is likely that Hollar is not witness to Civil War changes (Boughton 1997, 12). Alexander de Lavaux’s map of 1747 is a major improvement over all earlier depictions of the city. His depiction of the streets appears to be accurate and in proportion to their relative widths, he shows some individual buildings and he gives a number of (admittedly limited) indications of land use. The lane between St John’s church and Souter’s Lane has disappeared by the time this map was drawn, perhaps because it was roughly on the line now occupied by Dee House. Dating from the 1730s, the house had already been extended to the south, southwest and east. This latter extension lies beneath the site of the nineteenth-century chapel and does not survive. To the south of the property was a much smaller Bishop’s Palace, marked as Bishop Peploe’s. Both properties are shown with extensive formal gardens.
Chester Archaeology A boundary wall between Dee House and the property or properties to the east was already in existence, as were the outbuildings north-west of the house. De Lavaux shows no detail east of Dee House, but uses the same symbol as for other built-up areas of the city, a stipple, perhaps implying more intensive occupation than shown on later maps. Although this ought to mean that the construction of St John’s House and the laying-out of its gardens took place after 1747, the evidence of Alderman James Comberbach’s will suggests otherwise.
Ill 64: de Lavaux’s map of 1747
Stockdale’s map of 1797 is much more detailed than de Lavaux’s in that he shows all buildings as distinct from the yards between them. Major property divisions are also shown, which is useful in determining the boundaries of gardens belonging to larger properties, two of which occupy part of this site. In addition to Dee House, this map shows buildings in the properties to the north and east of the house. Of these, that numbered 30 is St John’s House, shown with an L-shaped garden. There is an outbuilding to the southwest and another to the south. West of St John’s House, a building is shown at the junction of St John’s Street and Little St John’s Street. To the south, 29 is the Bishop’s Palace, considerably enlarged from its depiction on de Lavaux’s map. John Wood’s map of 1833 is very similar to Stockdale’s, almost forty years earlier. Its detail is considerably improved and it shows not just the major property boundaries, but all of them, as well as paths and vegetation. Dee House and its extensions to the south and southwest are shown as three separate properties, which does not appear to be borne out by the historical evidence outlined above. St John’s House is now shown with extensive landscaped gardens to its south; there is a smaller property to the
Ill 65: John Stockdale’s map of 1797
Ill 66: John Wood’s map of 1833
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 south, perhaps a cottage, and beyond this another property consisting of two separate buildings. East of St John’s House, the structure at the junction of St John Street and Little St John Street shown by Stockdale has been replaced by a somewhat smaller building rather to its south. Although not strictly a cartographic source, there is an interesting aerial view of the city painted by John McGahey in 1855 (Boughton 1997, 16). It is a chromolithographic print, so some of the detail is a little obscured by the bleeding of ink into the paper. However, the site of the amphitheatre lies in the foreground, just left of centre, so that details are well shown. The work was produced from a balloon tethered above the eastern suburbs of the city, probably near the junction of Hoole Lane and Boughton. St John’s House is clearly visible, to the right of the still standing north-west tower of St John’s church. The gardens behind it are shown with heavy tree and bush growth, a feature seen on both John Wood’s map of twenty-two years previously and the Ordnance Survey 1:500 map, almost twenty years later. Dee House is partly obscured by trees and the shape does not correspond well with either Wood’s map or with the Ordnance Survey. McGahey’s view is generally very accurate Ill 67: detail from McGahey’s aerial view and reliable, so it seems to of Chester, 1855 show an evolved state of the house, without the chapel to the east. Perhaps the extension to the south-west was lower than the body of the house; on the other hand, a painting by Moses Griffith (died 1819) indicates that the extension rose to the full three storeys (it is reproduced in Boughton 1997, 117). The painting would have been made around the time of the sale of St John’s House to Meadows Frost, as the condition of the vegetation demonstrates that the view was painted at the height of summer. The Ordnance Survey 1:500 map of 1874 is the first extremely accurate survey of the site, showing all boundaries, the subdivisions of buildings into separate properties and minor features such as gas lamps, drain covers and so on. As such, it has never been superseded. It shows that the southern end of St John’s House gardens had been occupied by three greenhouses, the largest of which, at 10.6 by 16.2 metres, was clearly a substantial structure. They were partly excavated in March 1994 (Cleary et al 1994, 19) as part of an evaluation on the site that now forms the car park of the new office building. The two properties to the south had been amalgamated; the cottage in the northern half survives, with several outbuildings including greenhouses, a cistern and presumably a privy. The southern boundary of the site is fixed on its present line, and the Bishop’s Palace appears substantially as it exists today.
Ill 68: the 1874 Ordnance Survey 1:500 map (not to scale)
The 1860s chapel forming the east wing of Dee House is shown on the 1874 map, but the western wing had not yet been built. To the south of the Convent was a garden with a central ornamental mound, while the garden to the north is little changed from Wood’s map. A new outbuilding had also been erected to the southwest of the main house. A terrace of three houses has also been built on Little St John Street. The 1911 Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map shows that the western wing of Dee House had been built by then and that another outbuilding to the west filled in the area between the existing structures. St John’s House had acquired the property to the south, and the three existing greenhouses had been replaced with one on the site of the central, large greenhouse existing in 1874. In addition, an outbuilding
Ill 69: the 1911 Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map (not to scale)
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 had been built in the southeastern corner of the property. For the first time, the western end of St John’s church is shown as ruinous, and the new porch had been constructed. Some alteration has taken place to the façade of the central building facing St John Street, south of the junction with Little St John Street. The 1959 Ordnance Survey 1:1250 map shows the site immediately before the 1960s excavation began. St John’s House has already gone, having been demolished the previous summer, while the line of the abandoned new road together with the yards of the cottages fronting St John Street has been converted to a public garden, known as the ‘Amphitheatre garden’. On the west side of Souter’s Lane, the ‘Roman Gardens’ have appeared, having been established in 1949, either Ill 70: the 1959 Ordnance Survey by Graham Webster, then 1:1250 map (not to scale) curator of the Grosvenor Museum, or Charles Greenwood, the City Engineer, as a contribution to the 1951 Festival of Britain (Matthews & Willshaw 1995, 19). Little St John Street has also been diverted to its present line, following Hugh Thompson’s small scale trenching of 1957 to determine the line of the amphitheatre’s outer wall. By this stage, Dee House had acquired the extension to the south that served as an assembly hall for the school. The short connecting corridor between it and the main block is where the initial discovery of the amphitheatre was made in 1929. The site of the monument is marked with a symbol denoting antiquity (although, curiously, it is placed not over the centre of the monument as a whole but over the centre of the 41% owned at that time by the St John’s House Trust and the City Council). The map analysis illustrates four hundred years’ development on the site, which has shown that the site of the amphitheatre—as a topographic unit— was lost as recently as the middle of the seventeenth century. This is a superficially surprising conclusion, but comparison with continental sites (and perhaps, indeed, the Guildhall Amphitheatre in London (Bateman 1997)) suggests that the usual method of colonisation was one that kept the shape of the building intact.
It was expected that there would be a large quantity of ‘modern’ artefacts found during the course of excavation. It was therefore decided to record and then discard this material on site or immediately after removal from site. A list of these finds is held in the archive. After cleaning, finds were identified to provide initial dating information. All the finds were sorted and are stored by period and material following the system used by the Chester Archaeological Service. The terms used to classify the pottery are those employed in the Chester Fabric Reference Collection. The post-Roman pottery forms have been classified following the Medieval Pottery Research Group guide (MPRG 1998). The ceramics have been quantified by sherd count and weight. This report describes and discusses the range of material found and how it contributes to the potential of the site. Detailed information is recorded in the archive.
Cherts and flints
Keith J Matthews
Eight pieces of worked (or possibly worked) stone were submitted for assessment, which was performed according to the guidelines set out in Andrefsky (1998, 59 ff.). Three (from Trench VIII (4), Trench IX (58) and Trench IX (101)) were not certainly worked, one (SF <12>) was a human product with no indication of secondary working and one (SF <4>) was a definite artefact. Only the last two will be dealt with in detail here.
The worked lithics
SF <12>, from Trench IX (14), is a bladelet 42.5 mm long, 14 mm wide at its widest point and no more than 4 mm thick. It weighs less than 1 g. It is a pale blue to grey colour with some darker grey mottles towards one end, probably towards the distal end of the blade (although as the part with the bulb of percussion is missing, it is not possible to be completely certain of this). The sides are wavy, as are the flake scars on its ventral surface; what was probably the distal end shows signs of snapping, while the proximal end is also missing. These breaks appear to be anthropogenic in origin. Whilst the bladelet, as it stands, does not show signs of secondary working, these additional breaks nevertheless suggest that it has been utilised in the past. SF <4> is a hollow-based point with a maximum length of 52 mm, a maximum width of 27.5 mm and 4 mm at its thickest point. It weighs 2 g. It is highly mottled, varying from dark grey to almost white and, towards the top, there are two patches of corticated material. No polish was noted. The flake scars on the dorsal surface appear slightly splayed, although as only short part of the left scar is visible, this may not be significant. The tool has been made from a blade approximately 30 mm wide, presumably by means of an oblique snap. The left (snapped) side of the point has been shaped by pressure flaking, which has left scars on the ventral face only; the right side has been blunted by pressure flaking that has left scars mostly on the dorsal face but also on the ventral face close to the point. The top has been hollowed in a much rougher fashion than the sides of the point;
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 the blade was thicker here and the bulbar scars on the ventral surface demonstrate that this was the location of the striking platform. The tool closely resembles Clark’s (1934, 59) Mesolithic hollow-based point type F2b (i), hollow flaked from below, asymmetrical with incipient tang. However, these points are a little over half the size of the example under consideration here and, more significantly, the direction of striking is reversed. The striking platforms of the Horsham material are uniformly at the point end rather than at the base, as here. A similar piece is said to have been recovered from Alderley Edge (pers. comm. Mike Nevell), but this remains unpublished. The collection of material from this site is predominantly Mesolithic.
The identification of lithic sources for prehistoric material from Cheshire has been put on a new footing by the publication of a paper by Christine Longworth (2000), which identifies the sources of cherts from the wellknown Mesolithic site at Greasby, Wirral. For this reason, all five pieces of lithic material, worked or otherwise, will be considered here. The pebble from Trench VIII (4) is a heavily corticated grey flint. It has evidently been subjected to extreme frost pitting, as most surfaces show potlid fractures. This type of material appears to derive from the southern Pennines (Longworth 2000, 14), although firm parallels have not yet been found. The piece from Trench IX (58) is probably a variant of the honey coloured flint found throughout the region. Longworth (2000, 15) rightly criticises over-use of the statement ‘from glacial till’ to characterise the source of this material, when there is little properly sourced raw material for comparison. Nevertheless, it is more likely to be a true flint than chert. The final unworked piece, from Trench IX (101), is a black chert, which can be sourced to Gronant, North Wales (Longworth 2000, 12). The two artefacts are of very different raw material from the other lithics. SF <12> is a blue/grey chert of a type also found in North Wales, at Trelogan, Bryn Mawr and Pen yr Henblas (Longworth 2000, 12). SF <4>, on the other hand, is a true flint of higher quality than the unworked pebble. Similar material has been found at Carden Park and Frodsham, although it has not been adequately sourced. Nevertheless, a southern Pennine or West Yorkshire origin is most likely. Consideration of this material shows that in addition to the two certain artefacts, at least two of the unworked pieces must also be regarded as manuports and therefore as evidence for (probably) prehistoric human activity. Even the third unworked piece is not necessarily of local origin. The two pieces from Trench IX are the most important in this regard, as they derive from in situ archaeological deposits (the possible sub-Roman midden) and are not likely to have been brought to the site from far away.
Dating lithics is fraught with difficulty, especially when they are residual and form only a small assemblage. However, the two artefacts are distinctive enough to enable some provisional comments to be made. SF <12> is a narrow blade of a type represented locally during the later Mesolithic (after c 6800 Cal BC) and the earlier Neolithic (before c 3100 Cal BC). It is not possible to narrow down this range conclusively on present evidence, although on balance, an Early Neolithic date (c 4350-3100 Cal BC) may be preferred.
Chester Archaeology SF <4> presents greater opportunities for dating, but the lack of close local parallels is a difficulty. The Horsham Point types detailed by Clark (1934, 39), which this piece was initially thought to resemble, are now known to be a very late Mesolithic tradition. However, the local Late Mesolithic—as represented at Carden Park, 11 km south of Chester—is characterised by an ultra-narrow blade assemblage (typically, blades are less than 6 mm wide and less than 20 mm long). While at Greasby, the use of highquality flint appears to belong to later phases in the use of the site (Longworth 2000, 14), the reverse is true at Carden Park, where flint use characterises the Late Glacial (Late Upper Palaeolithic) occupation. An early date for this Ill 71: SF <4> (1:1) point is also likely, given its size2. Although it is not possible to be certain about the date of this hollow based point without parallels from stratified and well dated contexts, a Late Glacial or Early Mesolithic (i.e. 12,800-6,800 Cal BC) date for this object is not impossible. It appears to belong within the northwest European tradition of so-called ‘penknife points’.
As an assemblage, this material is too diverse to answer specific questions about prehistoric activity on the site. Nevertheless, it does fit into a broader pattern of activity within the city, with earlier sites tending to cluster towards the south, particularly around a river terrace identified to the south of Dee House, while later prehistoric activity seems to be concentrated north of The Cross.
The greatest potential of this material is in adding to the growing evidence for prehistoric activity in Chester. It also raises the possibility that prehistoric features may be found on parts of the site not destroyed by the construction of the Roman amphitheatre late in the first century AD.
A total of 259 fragments weighing 6,768 g was recovered. It was found in all trenches except Trench I. The material is very fragmentary; many of the pieces can not be identified as a particular tile or brick type. The assemblage, however, includes roof tiles (tegulae and imbrices), bricks and flue tile. Only one fragment shows any features: a small part of a signature mark from context (21), SF <57>.
I am grateful to Frances Healy (of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Sinéad McCartan (of the Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland Department of Archaeology & Ethnography) and Anthony Sinclair (University of Liverpool) for commenting on this piece. 70
Table 11: quantification of Roman ceramic building material Trench I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX fragments 4 1 16 3 8 3 72 159 weight (g) 5 77 101 197 302 185 1,609 4,313
The majority of the building material was residual except for fragments from Trench II context (80) and Trench IX contexts (64) and (101). There was also one fragment from context (33), in situ/unexcavated material.
Roman mortar was recovered from Trench IX, contexts (14), (64) and (101) including three pieces of opus signinum.
Five small pieces of painted wall plaster were recovered from Trench IX, context (26), amphitheatre abandonment. Two pieces are painted white and two turquoise. The other piece is degraded and has lost its painted surface.
A small quantity of abraded medieval building material was found, those pieces which can be identified are either floor or roof tile. Their stratigraphic position and/or condition suggest that all the pieces are residual to the contexts in which they were found. A number of decorated floor tiles were recorded during previous excavations at the amphitheatre (Thompson 1976, 219-20, fig. 43). It is possible that they derive from St John’s church or another nearby medieval structure, alternatively they may have been contained in rubbish or redeposited soils on the site.
Table 12: quantification of medieval ceramic building material Trench I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX Total Fragments 1 1 5 2 9 Weight (g) 31 188 286 40 545
A piece of glazed roof tile in a pink/white firing fabric was found in the backfill of Tr. A68/16. Ridge tiles in this type of fabric are common in Chester. They are probably of fourteenth to fifteenth century date and may have been made in the Ewloe area of Flintshire.
A fragment of floor tile or perhaps a small brick was found unstratified in this trench.
Small abraded fragments of medieval floor tile were found in the modern make-up layer (4). Another piece of floor tile was found in the preconstruction deposit (24), it is decorated with a design, Chester stamp no 2, thought to have been used in the fifteenth century (Rutter 1990, 231).
Small pieces of building material were found in context (58) and (64), The post-Roman midden and the natural accumulation over the midden. The piece from (58) is very small and abraded and cannot be identified as to form or date although it is thought not to be Roman. The fragment from (64) is larger but also abraded. It is perhaps from a small brick or possibly a tile but cannot be precisely dated.
A large quantity of this material was found in the topsoil and make-up layers; as might be expected this is mixed in condition consisting of many small and sometimes abraded fragments with larger and better preserved pieces which are generally brick but also include tile. The assemblage has been scanned to retrieve any medieval or early post-medieval material; it was then roughly bagged by approximate form and any fabric differences obvious to the unaided eye and recorded by weight and fragment count. Due to time restrictions and the predominantly late and re-deposited nature of the deposits no attempt has been made at this stage to interpret these fabric differences. Little work has been done in Chester to classify bricks by date, hand formed bricks appear to have been used well into the nineteenth century, it is therefore currently difficult to date individual fragments.
Table 13: quantification of post-medieval ceramic building material Trench I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX Total Fragments 3 5 17 7 92 52 471 122 769 Weight (g) 103 60 595 164 4504 2382 18257 4408 30473
Small pieces of brick were found in contexts (47) and (49) both from modern layers. Two fragments are probably nineteenth or twentieth century in date the other is too small to date.
No building material retrieved.
The only context to produce ceramic building material in this trench was the fill of the modern drainage cut (53). This produced small fragments of brick
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 and possibly tile, some of which are abraded. Three pieces of brick are probably later post-medieval.
A small fragmentary group, mixed in condition, was retrieved from the backfills of the 1960s trenches, modern cut fills and the gravel entrance floor. Many fragments are too small to identify as to form but the assemblage includes pieces of nineteenth or twentieth century brick and tile.
Context (56), the rubble backfill of a 1967 trench, was the only context from which building material was retrieved. The assemblage consists mainly of late post-medieval brick fragments. However, the majority of the bricks from this context were used as backfill before they could be recorded.
Predominantly brick fragments were found in the topsoil and modern makeup layers (1), (2), (8), (13) and in (17) the backfill of Tr. A68/16. The assemblage is a mixture of fragmentary but well preserved pieces as well as abraded fragments. Some pieces have mortar still adhering to the sides; others have mortar covering all surfaces including broken ones. Many of the bricks are clearly post-medieval and probably quite late in the period but not possible to precisely date. The remains (922 g) of one tile (13) are of note: made in a red sandy fabric it is 40mm thick, it has soot on the upper surface and appears to have been near great heat, it is perhaps a hearth tile. The fabric type suggests that it is earlier than most of the assemblage. A small number of pieces of late post-medieval fireclay tiles were also found.
Ceramic building material was found in the topsoil context (12), and the modern make-up layers (16) and (22). It is a mixed assemblage in both content and condition comprising brick fragments, a garden edging tile, stoneware and earthenware tiles and abraded fragments which cannot be identified as to date or form. Those fragments that are datable are nineteenth or twentieth century in date.
Brick fragments were the most numerous type of building material in this trench, but four bricks with measurable dimensions were retrieved. The assemblage was recovered from the topsoil, modern make-up layers, demolition rubble and the fill of a foundation trench for St John’s House. There is no discernible difference in content between the building material in the fill of the foundation trench (45) and that in the overlying layers, it contains very similar types of brick fragments. Bricks in a variety of fabrics were found and some appear to have been hand made. Samples of complete brick from the in situ wall in this trench were not recovered so it has not been possible to determine whether the loose brick fragments were derived from the wall or elsewhere. However given the comparatively high concentration of bricks in this trench it seems reasonable to conclude that their source was St John’s House. Fragments of nineteenth or twentieth century fire clay floor tiles were found in (4) and (15). Two fragments of a nineteenth or twentieth century white ceramic wall tile were also found in the same contexts.
Building material was found in the topsoil and modern make-up layers (5), (6), (9), (10) and (14) with the modern make-up layers (6) and (14) producing most of the trench assemblage. Brick of later post-medieval date are the most numerous but some pieces may be earlier. The assemblage consists of two main groups. Brick and tile fragments, appearing freshly broken with mortar remaining on their edges, suggest that they are part of demolition debris. Whilst pieces of ceramic material which have lost their original surfaces and have mortar on broken surfaces suggest they were incorporated into walls or
Chester Archaeology floors. A small quantity of abraded fragments is also present. As well as brick fragments there are also tiles made from hard highly fired fire clay and stoneware drainpipe fragments.
All periods and undated
A small fragment of worked red sandstone was found in Trench VI (2), it appears to be from a block with facetted sides. Fragments of re-used medieval window were found during the previous excavations and this fragment may be also be medieval (Thompson 1976, 155). A slab of worked red sandstone was found in Trench VIII immediately below the brick foundation wall. The slab is moulded along one edge (see stratigraphic report) and is thought to be Roman. Both pieces of stone require illustration.
Fragments of slate were found in modern make-up, backfill and topsoil contexts in Trenches IV, VI, VII, VIII and IX and in a previously unexcavated layer, (33), in V. All are fragments that have no surviving features to suggest form or date. Most pieces presumably derive from roof slate that was in use in Chester from at least the mid-fourteenth century (Hewitt 1929, 140). Two pieces have the remains of nail holes. A Roman origin for some fragments is also a possibility. The assemblage fills one standard size pottery box (296 × 296 × 99 mm).
Pieces of mortar and wall plaster were found in Trenches V, VI, VII, VIII and IX and fill one standard pottery box. Most of these pieces were found in topsoil and modern make-up layers and appear to be post-medieval. Some fragments by their condition appear to be earlier in date but at this stage it is not possible to date them. A large fragment of solid mortar (1621g) from Trench IX context (58) is either Roman or from early in the post-Roman period.
Fragments of modern concrete were found scattered through the upper layers and backfill deposits in Trenches I, V, VI, VII, and VIII.
Small irregularly shaped pieces of fired clay, probably daub, were found in Trench IX in contexts (26) and (64) associated with the abandonment of the amphitheatre.
Gill Dunn with Margaret Ward
A total of 426 sherds of Roman pottery weighing 3,688 g was recovered from the site, from all trenches except I and III (three sherds weighing 28 g were classified as unstratified and not allocated a trench number). The majority of the assemblage is residual in post-Roman deposits and is therefore not significant for dating purposes. The exceptions to this include one sherd of orange ware from context (80) in Trench II, the fill of pit (79); fine and coarse ware from (64) and (101)—abandonment of amphitheatre—and one sherd of orange ware from (102), robber trench of concentric wall in Trench IX. There is also one sherd of orange ware from context (33), in situ/unexcavated deposits in Trench V.
Table 14: quantification of Roman pottery Trench I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX number of sherds 2 6 27 7 23 102 256 weight (g) 10 161 435 26 355 565 2108
Two sherds of coarse orange ware, one from context (80), the fill of pit (79) and one designated as unstratified. These date to the first/second centuries.
Pottery was recovered from contexts (30), (67), and (91) comprising locallyproduced coarse orange, grey and white-slipped orange wares of the first and second centuries and a handle of a southern Spanish olive oil amphora.
Pottery was recovered from contexts (32), (33), (38) and (56), and includes local coarse orange, grey and white-slipped orange sherds. There is also a rim sherd of a black-burnished ware bowl dating to the late second/early third century (context (56)). Other coarsewares include the rim of a second-century white-slipped orange mortarium, probably of Wilderspool type (context (56)) and three amphorae sherds.
Contexts (13) and (17) produced pottery, comprising local coarse orange and grey wares and sherds of white ware vessels from context (17), the provenance of one being the kilns at Hartshill-Mancetter in Warwickshire and dating from the second to fourth centuries. Two sherds of samian ware were recovered, one of which may have been shaped for re-use as a counter c 9×11 mm diameter (context (13) SF <19>).
Pottery was recovered from contexts (12), (16) and (22). Two sherds of a locally made fine orange mica-dusted ware come from contexts (12) and (23), including the rim of a jar dating to the late first/early second century. Coarsewares include first-century black-on-brown wares, grey and orange wares and amphorae.
Contexts (4), (15), (19), (21) and (45) produced pottery, all coarsewares except for three sherds of fine orange mica-dusted ware and eleven sherds of samian ware. A range of forms is represented by the coarsewares including jars, beakers, lids, mortarium, amphorae and second-century flagons. There is also a small grey ware gaming counter from context (15), SF <2>.
Pottery was recovered from contexts (5), (6), (14), (26), (58), (60), (62), (64), (101) and (102). The majority of the fineware came from this trench and included white eggshell ware, Lyons black colour-coated ware dated AD 4075
Chester Archaeology 70, sherds of red colour-coated vessels, samian ware and orange mica-dusted ware dishes.
Table 15: quantification of Roman pottery according to common name Fabric Samian Fineware Eggshell Black colour coated Red colour coated Orange mica-dusted Coarseware Black-on-brown Grey Orange White-slipped orange Black-burnished White Calcite-gritted Mortaria Amphorae Number of sherds 36 3 1 2 8 11 151 146 34 7 3 1 2 21 weight (g) 180 1 <1 15 40 57 991 1059 201 44 6 143 86 865
Six of the seven trenches produced medieval pottery but compared with the post-medieval; it is a small assemblage, providing only 15% of the postRoman assemblage. The sherds are small and mostly abraded although some single sherds do survive in a good condition. Context (14) contains a group that appears to have survived better than others but the sherds are still relatively small in size. Apart from one sherd in Trench IX, which is probably intrusive, all the pottery is residual to the contexts in which it was found. The assemblage is quite varied in the range of wares represented. It includes examples of most of the medieval wares commonly found in the city: red or grey firing wares made in Cheshire in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, pink/white firing wares probably made close to Ewloe, Flintshire and imported Saintonge wares. A few unglazed body sherds appear to be from cooking pots that are possibly earlier in date than the red/grey Cheshire wares. Two sherds are uncommon in Chester; one is a piece of Ham Green ware, made near Bristol, and the other is possibly a Kingston-type ware from Surrey. No late Saxon or early medieval sherds were identified. Comparison with the previously excavated pottery is difficult as detailed fabric descriptions were not published and also the scale of excavation was very different. However, the range of material appears broadly comparable.
Table 16: quantification of medieval pottery Trench I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX Total Sherd no. 2 1 17 4 20 22 66 Weight (g) 11 4 185 28 202 185 618
Trench I, II and III
No medieval pottery was found in these trenches.
One sherd of pottery was found in (67), the backfill of a 1960s trench. The sherd is an unglazed redware, which is probably medieval and residual in this context. A late medieval/transitional Ewloe-type ware was found in (91) and is also residual.
One sherd of red/grey ware dating from c 1250 was found in (56), the rubble backfill of the 1967 trench; it is residual in this context.
Pottery was found in contexts (13) and (17), the modern make-up and backfill of Tr. A68/16; in both instances the medieval sherds are residual. Local red/grey wares that have the appearance of types common from c 1250 are the most numerous. There are two sherds of fourteenth or fifteenth century pink/white ware and a single piece of Ewloe-type ware that is probably fifteenth or sixteenth century in date. Two imports to the region are a piece of mottled glazed Saintonge ware dating from c 1250 and Ham Green ware. The Ham Green ware is represented by a small fragment (6 g) that has an applied band with a rouletted lattice design. The piece was made near Bristol, possibly in the twelfth century and is relatively uncommon in Chester although fragments are occasionally found along the North Wales coast.
Medieval pottery was found as residual material in the topsoil and modern make-up layers (12), (16) and (22). All the sherds are red/grey wares of thirteenth or fourteenth century date but one sherd possibly from a cooking vessel may be from earlier in the medieval period.
The modern make-up layers (4) and (15), the 1960s demolition rubble (19) and (21) and the pre-construction deposit (24) all produced medieval pottery. In each case the sherds are residual. The sherds represent a mixture of wares, mainly red/grey and pink/white with some sherds of possible cooking pots in indeterminate fabrics. Two small sherds (1 g each) are imports to the region, but their small size hinders precise identification; one appears to be a Saintonge ware and the other possibly Tudor Green-type ware.
Pottery was found in the topsoil (5), the modern make-up layers (6) and (14) and an abandonment deposit (101) below the midden. As in the other trenches the medieval pottery is mixed in date and with the exception of (101) the pottery appears to be residual. A number of sherds are quite well preserved and appear as though freshly broken but these occur in contexts with abraded sherds. Most of the assemblage consists of thirteenth/fourteenth century red/grey wares and fourteenth/fifteenth century pink/white wares with two sherds that appear to be transitional Ewloe-type wares. One sherd is an import to the region, a strap handle fragment is in a creamy white fabric that is very similar to Kingston-type ware. Kingston-type wares were made in Surrey and are common in London from about c 1250 to c 1350. Although later Surrey wares such as Tudor Green-types and post-medieval Border wares occasionally appear in assemblages in Chester and its hinterland the medieval wares are very unusual. Context (101) contained a pink/white ware sherd which is in relatively good condition although small (8 g); it is late medieval or transitional in date.
Post-medieval pottery in varying quantities was retrieved from all the excavated trenches. It is predominantly later post-medieval (i.e. late eighteenth to twentieth centuries) and does not display any outstanding attributes. It is mixed in condition with sherds varying in size from very small (1 g or less) to almost complete vessel profiles with sherds either abraded or freshly broken in appearance. The range of wares is consistent with those found elsewhere in the city and consists of domestic earthenwares probably produced at Buckley, southern Lancashire (historic county) or Staffordshire with factory-produced fine earthenwares and stonewares, which may have been made at any of a variety of production centres in the British Isles. A small number of sherds of earlier post-medieval imported wares were also found. These tend to be small and abraded; again these are types that are not uncommon for this period in Chester.
Table 17: quantification of post-medieval pottery Trench I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX Total Sherd no. 11 1 6 10 12 100 199 70 34 443 Weight (g) 45 39 10 108 98 665 3095 660 321 5041
It is difficult to draw any conclusions on the assemblage in relation to its significance to the site. The pottery was recovered from contexts which are chiefly associated with modern fills, modern make-up layers and backfills of 1960s excavation trenches and therefore cannot be directly related to any domestic activities which may have taken place at the site, although two exceptions might be made. It could perhaps be suggested that the relatively well preserved assemblage from Trench VII (16) may be from a disturbed rubbish pit related to one of the properties which used to back on the site. Fragments of later twentieth century vessels may be débris from the excavations at the site. Very little of the post-medieval pottery previously excavated at the site has been published so it is not possible to make any sort of comparison with that material.
The modern cut fills and make-up layer, contexts (47), (49) and (52), produced pottery of eighteenth, nineteenth and possibly twentieth century date. Those in the earlier date range are fragments of creamware and black glazed ware some of whose production may extend into the nineteenth century. The remainder are either plain or transfer-printed whitewares. One moulded fragment showing a hunting scene with dogs may be from a smear glazed jug.
Only one sherd of pottery was found in this trench in (70) the gravel arena surface. It is from a mug of probably mid-late twentieth century date and has a polychrome print of a rural scene on one side
Context (53), fill of modern drainage cut, produced small fragments of pottery ranging in date from the mid/late eighteenth century to the nineteenth century and one sherd of nineteenth or twentieth date.
Contexts (30), (57), (91), (94) and (97) produced a group of fairly small sherds of pottery several of which are abraded. The back-filled 1960s trench, (57), contained three joining fragments of a nineteenth century pressmoulded slipware dish and a fragment of black glazed ware which is too small to be dated accurately. From the gravel north entrance floor was a fragment of black-glazed ware and an abraded fragment of an unglazed red earthenware. The remaining contexts include pottery of late eighteenth or nineteenth century date and a fragment of a nineteenth or twentieth century whiteware decorated with a mauve transfer print. Fragments that appear to be from flowerpots were also found.
Pottery was found in (56) the rubble backfill of a 1967 trench and from (33) a previously unexcavated area. (56) is a mix of eighteenth to nineteenth or twentieth century domestic pottery. The wares present are black-glazed wares, transfer printed ware, white salt glazed ware and a press-moulded slipware. A single sherd of brown stoneware was found in (33) it is abraded but appears to be of late eighteenth or nineteenth century date.
Context (17), the possible backfill of one of the 1968 excavation trenches, contained 61% of the sherds from this trench (75% by weight). This context group contains what appears to be a representative sample of the types of pottery in use in nineteenth and early twentieth century Chester. Generally the fragments are quite small and it is not possible to identify forms, where forms can be identified they appear to be from household vessels. The principal wares present are nineteenth or twentieth century whitewares. Broadly contemporary with these are bone-chinas and transfer printed wares; black-glazed wares were also found but most of the fragments have no diagnostic features by which to date them accurately although several joining pieces are probably from a seventeenth century vessel. Several pieces of eighteenth to twentieth century earthenware flowerpots were also found. Fragments of earlier post-medieval wares include late seventeenth or early eighteenth century slipwares. A fragment of tin-glazed ware decorated with a mottled mauve and yellow decoration and a possible sixteenth or early seventeenth century black-glazed ware cup fragment. The latter piece is unusual; it appears to be from a cup with fluted sides decorated with stamped circles and leaf-like shapes. The tin-glazed ware fragment is from a jug and is an import from either London or the Low Countries and was in use from the middle of the sixteenth century until the early seventeenth century. The other contexts, which produced post-medieval pottery in this trench were (1), (2), (8), (13) and (18). They all produced a similar range of later postmedieval pottery as found in (17).
The topsoil layer (12) produced a group of predominantly nineteenth or twentieth century domestic pottery. A small number of sherds date to earlier in the post-medieval period. A number of fragments are from the same vessels as sherds found in (16), the modern make-up layer. Common wares are 19th/20th century whitewares some with transfer printed decoration and black-glazed wares with smaller quantities of bone china, factory-made
Chester Archaeology slipwares, stonewares and red earthenware flowerpots. In comparison to the assemblages from the other trenches the assemblage from (16), modern make-up, contains relatively large fragments of vessels some of which join to form complete vessel profiles. Context (22) contained a similar range of material to the other two contexts in the trench but with the addition of two earlier post-medieval wares, a very small fragment of sixteenth century Beauvais earthenware—from a green-glazed dish with combed decoration— and a small fragment of Midlands Purple-type ware.
The modern make-up layer, (4), produced the greater proportion of pottery from this trench. It is mixed in date and comprises wares from the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and possibly the twentieth centuries. These include transfer printed wares, nineteenth- and twentieth-century century whitewares, black glazed wares of various dates, unglazed earthenwares (possibly flower pots), bone china, mottled glazed wares and Midland-yellow type wares. The demolition rubble layers—(19) and (21)—produced a smaller but similar range of material. The pre-construction deposit (24) produced a single sherd of black glazed ware, which it is not possible to date accurately. Two imported wares were recovered from context (21). These are two joining pieces from a sixteenth century Saintonge chafing dish and fragments of Chinese porcelain from a small tea bowl of possible seventeenth or eighteenth century date.
Contexts (5), (6), (9), (10) and (14) produced a very similar pottery assemblage to the other eight trenches, a mixture of predominantly nineteenth with some possible twentieth century sherds and earlier post-medieval wares. A fragment of note in the assemblage is a piece of mid to late seventeenth century tin-glazed ware probably made in London. Tin-glazed wares form a relatively small component of seventeenth century assemblages in Chester.
The clay tobacco pipe assemblage from the excavation is very small compared with the pottery and glass assemblages. Small pieces of stem predominate, many of which are abraded, and few have any diagnostic features. Trenches VIII and IX are the only ones to produce fragments that can be dated. A small number of pieces are burnt and some have blistered surfaces, these pieces have either been burnt during or after use or may possibly be kiln waste. Tobacco pipes were manufactured nearby at the Newgate from at least the late eighteenth century until c 1917.
Contexts (31), (49), (53) and (77) produced seven fragments of clay tobacco pipe stems, these are all slightly abraded, none have any diagnostic features.
An abraded stem fragment was found in (30) and a burnt fragment in (94).
Three stem fragments were found in (56); two of these are abraded.
Seven stem fragments were found in this trench in contexts (13) and (17). The pieces from (17) are abraded and one piece is burnt and is perhaps a waste fragment from production.
Stem fragments were found in (12) and (16). One piece is burnt and is perhaps a waste fragment from production.
An abraded bowl fragment and a heel from a second bowl in (4) have forms dated to the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century; another bowl is moulded in the style of the nineteenth century but is not directly comparable to any published examples. A mix of abraded and unabraded stem fragments were found in contexts (19), (21) and (45) the fragment from (45) is in good condition.
Stem fragments were found in (6) and (14). One of the stems from (6) SF <55> is decorated with a lattice band, in the centre of each diamond is an embossed spot/dot; this pattern is not catalogued by Rutter & Davey (1980) and should be drawn. This type of decoration is usually found on eighteenth century pipes.
A large (1275 g) piece of granite (?), which has one smooth surface covered in scratch marks, appears to have been used as a whetstone; it was found in a modern make-up context, IX (14).
A small assemblage of glass was recovered from Trenches VII, VIII and IX. Both vessel and window glass are represented, the majority being blue/green in colour, the most common colour used during the first to third centuries.
Context (16) SF <1>
A complete translucent blue glass melon bead. Length 20 mm, diameter 35 mm, diameter of perforation 10 mm. The gadroons are relatively evenly spaced but worn away in two areas. Melon beads are fairly common finds in Britain and date from the first to second century.
Two fragments of a ribbed vessel from context (21) and one from an unidentifiable vessel, designated as unstratified.
Glass was recovered from contexts (14), (26), (58), (60) and (64). The assemblage comprises seven body fragments of vessels, one of which is probably from a square bottle and another is part of a rim of a cylindrical or square bottle dating to the first or second century. There are also two fragments of window glass, one of which is an edge fragment.
A roughly similar sized post-medieval glass assemblage was found to the post-medieval pottery in each trench, apart from Trench VIII where the number of glass fragments was more than double the pottery. The assemblage is fragmentary and apart from some complete twentieth century bottles few recognisable vessels survive. The bulk of the assemblage appears to date to the nineteenth or twentieth centuries the only earlier objects are eighteenth century green wine bottle fragments and some fragments which may be seventeenth century. Apart from wine bottles the other recognisable vessels consist of fragments of mineral water bottles, milk bottles, medicine bottles, twentieth century Fanta bottles including one complete, a complete Martell cognac bottle and a complete Coca Cola bottle. The condition is mixed with some glass being in very good condition and a few fragments being badly weathered. The extent of weathering appears partly to be related to the age of the glass but also in some instances to the quality. Some sherds appear worn or abraded. No medieval glass was recovered. Very little vessel glass was published from the amphitheatre excavations so it is not possible to make any comparison with that material.
Table 18: quantification of post-Roman vessel glass Trench I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX Total Fragments 20 5 21 14 111 204 180 64 419 Weight (g) 79 84 79 33 739 2987 1003 278 5282
All the vessel glass was found in contexts relating to the gravel arena floor and modern make-up and fills: (31), (47) and (49). The fragments that can be dated are from nineteenth- or twentieth-century bottles in brown, green or colourless glass. These include mineral water and milk bottles and a fragment of a twentieth-century Fanta bottle. Small fragments from unidentified vessels are also present.
Contexts (29) and (53) produced a similar but smaller group to that in Trench I. Twentieth century milk bottle fragments from the fill of a modern drain cut, (53), and make up most of the assemblage. One fragment of green bottle glass is probably from the eighteenth or nineteenth century.
Vessel glass was found in the north entrance gravel floor (30), the 1960s backfills (57) and (67) and (94) the fill of a modern cut feature. It was not possible to identify the form of most of the pieces; identifiable fragments are a twentieth-century milk bottle from (30) and a Fanta bottle in (67). The remaining fragments are twentieth or possibly nineteenth century in date apart from what appears to be the base of a small eighteenth century phial.
The previously unexcavated layers (33) and (41) contained pieces of nineteenth and twentieth century brown and clear bottle and other vessel glass. The rubble backfill of the 1967 trench (56) contained a complete Fanta bottle and fragments of milk bottle. One piece of bottle glass carries the
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 remains of a lion motif moulded in relief. This motif was used by Laycock’s, a Chester company that produced mineral or soda water from at least 1870. Fragments of green wine bottle in (56) are probably eighteenth century.
The modern make-up layers (1), (2), (8) and (13) contain a mixture of twentieth and some possibly nineteenth century vessel glass. Generally the fragments are too small to identify as to vessel form. Green wine bottle fragments probably date from the eighteenth century. Fragments of a bowl in (8) are moulded on the interior and have a slight iridescent sheen, which appears to be decorative rather than due to weathering, similar fragments were also found in (17); they are likely to be twentieth century. Other fragments of note are from (2), which are from a large thick walled vessel made from a heavily weathered clear green tinged glass. Fragments from the same or similar vessel were also found in (17) in this trench. At this stage it is difficult to accurately date or identify this vessel; it appears to be a large bottle or jar. Context (17) the backfill of Trench A68/16 produced 72% (by fragment count) of the vessel glass assemblage in Trench VI. The assemblage contains a wider range of glass types than the contexts above but again it is very fragmentary. Fragments that can be identified consist of: nineteenth or twentieth century bottles, some with the remains of embossed lettering (perhaps mineral water bottles), fragments of blue medicine bottles, green wine bottles (which may date from the eighteenth century), a moulded bowl similar to the one described from (8) and the large thick base of a vessel similar to that described from (2). Some fragments are in a very good condition and appear to be twentieth century in date.
A large quantity of vessel glass was found in this trench in contexts (12), (16), (22) and amongst unstratified material. Context (16) produced over 50% of the assemblage. The trench assemblage is a mixture of green bottle glass of chiefly eighteenth to early twentieth century date, colourless bottle glass and a variety of drinking vessels. It is mixed in condition with some pieces being very weathered and others in good condition, this appears to be due to the presence of glass of various ages and also quality. There are few fragments of note and it is difficult to closely date many pieces other than as late post-medieval or probably nineteenth or early twentieth century, although some of the green bottle glass may be as early as the mid-late seventeenth century. A small Martell cognac bottle with a metal screw cap is from the mid-twentieth century and is probably contemporary with the 1960s excavations. Several bottle fragments have moulded lettering either on the body or under the base. One brown glass bottle has ‘LIVER…’ just above the base; another from (12) has ‘PL…’ on the body and is perhaps from a milk bottle. The drinking vessels include a facetted-based beaker and a stemmed sherry glass with the base of the bowl and also the stem being facetted. Several fragments of clear vessel glass appear to have engraved polka-dots within a frosted ground. Another vessel is a small ornamental bottle that has a trailed and twisted neck string and a green glass stopper which may have originally been in the form of a small globe and was fixed in the neck of the bottle
Vessel glass was found in the following: the modern make-up layers (4) and (15), the demolition rubble (19) and (21), the topsoil (3) and the fill of St John’s House foundation trench (45). There is some very slight stratification: the latter produced only three fragments of weathered green bottle glass that date from the late seventeenth century. The fragments do not have any features that would date them any more closely. The upper layers contained glass of mixed date, much being nineteenth or twentieth century. The assemblage includes milk bottles, a twentieth century soft drinks bottle, pale blue medicine bottle/s and brown bottle glass.
Chester Archaeology Contexts (4), (15), (19) and (21) all contained fragments of green wine bottle glass, (21) in particular produced a relatively large group, 44 fragments. Most of these are fragmentary and some weathered and it is difficult to date them, other than being from the second half of the seventeenth century or later. The shape of the base and lower body of one bottle in (21) suggests it is eighteenth century. The group is mixed in condition, which may suggest that it represents a broad date span. One vessel that may be of interest is a small square bottle with concave corners made from a pale green glass with a frosted slightly opaque finish. The bottle appears to have been quite attractive and may have contained a toiletry of some type. It is nineteenth or twentieth century in date.
The vessel glass in this trench was found in contexts identified as topsoil and modern make-up layers: (5), (6), (9), (10) and (14). It mainly consists of nineteenth and/or twentieth century bottles and other unidentified vessel fragments. The bottle fragments include milk bottles, mineral water bottles and brown bottles. Some of the milk bottle fragments carry moulded lettering. Weathered fragments of earlier green bottle glass are also present; these are in the range mid-seventeenth to nineteenth century. A small fragment of mirror was found in (6).
Window glass, totalling 161 fragments, was retrieved from the later levels on the site, chiefly associated with topsoil, modern back-fills and backfill from the 1960s trenches. The majority is in good condition with little sign of weathering and appears to be nineteenth or twentieth century in date, with much that is probably the latter. A small number of fragments may be earlier on account of their colour and the extent of weathering. The fragments appear quite varied in thickness, colour and finish and therefore would appear to come from a variety of sources.
One fragment was found in this trench, in context (49) the fill of a modern cut. It is in good condition and probably nineteenth or twentieth century in date.
One fragment of nineteenth or twentieth century glass was found in (94), the fill of a modern cut feature.
One fragment was found in (56), the rubble backfill of a 1967 trench, it is nineteenth or twentieth century in date.
Window glass was found in contexts (1), (2), (8), (13) and (17). This trench produced the largest assemblage of window glass on the site: 85 fragments, the majority of this was from the backfill of Trench A68/16, context (17). Most of the glass is plain but several fragments are present with relief moulding on one surface. Most of the fragments appear to be nineteenth or twentieth century in date.
Twenty-seven fragments of window glass were found in contexts (12), (16) and (22) and two fragments were unstratified. The majority is in good condition and appears to date within the last two hundred years. Two fragments from (12) are reinforced with wire, in the form of chicken-wire. One fragment from (16) appears to be residual and is probably of early postmedieval date, it has grozed edges and weathered surfaces.
Window glass was found in contexts (4), (15) and (21) all are modern makeup layers or demolition rubble. Fragments of frosted opaque glass, relief moulded and plain glass were found, all appear to be nineteenth or twentieth century in date. Two fragments from (21) are more weathered than the rest of the assemblage and it is possible that they are earlier in date.
Window glass was found in (5), (6), (9), (10) and (14), all topsoil or modern make-up deposits. The range of glass is very similar to that in the other trenches consisting of plain and relief moulded glass. It is of nineteenth or twentieth century date. One fragment from (14), which is particularly weathered and pale green in colour, is possibly earlier in date.
Coins and tokens
Seven coins were found; the majority are of very recent date. Trench I (31); SF <5>: a £1 coin dated 1983 Trench III (29); SF <42>: a penny dated 1971. Trench III (29); SF <41>: a penny dated 1990.
Trench VI (17); SF <9>: a copper alloy coin or token which needs Xradiography or cleaning to identify and date. Trench VII (12); SF <16>: a penny dated 1983. Trench VIII (45); SF <14>: a copper alloy coin of Nero, a sestertius of perhaps the AD 60s, further cleaning is needed to confirm this date3. The coin is residual in this context. Trench IX (9); SF <54>: a penny dated 1998.
Trench IX, context (26) produced four nails, including a hobnail, and one fragment of a nail shank. A small flat plate of iron was also found, rectangular in section, measuring c 40 mm by 25 mm. Nine nails/fragments of nails were recovered from Trench IX, context (101).
Two Roman copper-alloy nails were recovered. One from Trench VIII, context (4), modern make-up, has a circular convex decorated head, a circular shaft and flattened tip. Length c 55 mm. SF <59>. Of the second example, from Trench IX context (101), only the flat ?circular head and part of the shaft survives, SF <58>.
Identification provided by Dan Robinson, Grosvenor Museum 85
Four fragments of lead were recovered from Roman contexts - three fragments, possibly offcuts from Trench IX context (26), amphitheatre abandonment, and one from Trench IX context (101), abandonment deposit below the midden.
The ironwork from the excavation consists predominantly of nails and various fittings, which are possibly related to later post-medieval drainpipes and other building accessories. The nails consist of those with square and round shanks and are in various states of corrosion with the more recent types being well preserved. Most of the assemblage is derived from modern makeup, backfill and topsoil deposits. A small number of items are associated with the post-Roman midden these are covered by corrosion products and will require x-radiography to identify them, although it is possible some are nails. The objects requiring X-radiography are: VII (12) SF <31> IX (14) SF <33> V (41) SF <36> - blade IX (58) SF <39> IX (58) SF <60> IX (64) SF <20> IX (64) SF <40> IX (64) SF <61> - nine indeterminate fragments
A range of copper alloy fragments and objects were retrieved most appear to be relatively modern, e.g. a cat’s eye. A small number of fragments are in poor condition and it is possible they medieval or early post-medieval; Xradiography is needed to identify these items: VIII (21) SF <11> ?button VIII (19) SF <50> curved sheet fragment, part of a dome headed stud or mount. V (56) SF <44 > ‘L’ shaped strip. IX (58) SF <46> flat strip fragment. Two links from an ‘S’ link chain were found in VIII (15), SF <10>; it is not possible to date them precisely.
Eight objects or fragments were retrieved from post-Roman contexts. Four of these are brick ties and are from V (56), the rubble backfill of the 1967 trench, they are probably twentieth century in date. A short length of narrow tubing was found in VIII in (15) and a waste fragment in (4). SF <35> is a quarter segment cut from a lead disc radius 14 mm; it is possibly a medieval or early post-medieval weight. A roughly oval shaped perforated sheet of lead, 80 mm long with a short ‘tail’ was found in the post-Roman midden IX (58). The piece requires cleaning to see if it has any surface features.
Counter SF <48> (90)
Circular counter 20 mm in diameter and decorated on the obverse with concentric grooves set obliquely into the surface. There are three grooves of a similar depth and a broad outer groove. Bone counters are made on a lathe and this example retains the indentation of the lathe centre on the obverse. There are two ‘worn’ or bevelled areas on the reverse.
Two pieces of wood were retrieved, each from post-medieval contexts but a date cannot be assigned to either piece.
A very degraded fragment (approx. 45×33 mm) with no remains of a worked surface was found in (30).
A slightly curved fragment of wood, 135×20 mm, with a narrow band of corroded metal (iron) nailed to one side. The wood is reddish/brown in colour and appears to have been mineralised. The piece requires X-radiography.
Two objects are of uncertain date and are included here as they occur in postmedieval deposits.
Trench IX (6) SF <53>
Fragments of a disc shaped bone counter or button. The fragment is weathered and only a small part of the perimeter survives so it is difficult to precisely identify. Bone counters were used over a long period of time so it is not possible to suggest a date.
Trench VII (16) SF <3>
A longitudinally sawn sheet/blade of bone or antler, roughly rectangular in shape. One long side has a straight cut edge and the opposite is serrated. The piece is broken across its width (25 mm) and across one corner. The surviving short edge is cut straight. The points of the serration appear to have been individually saw cut and at ×20 magnification, the tips are shiny as though from wear. The piece is in very good condition; the surfaces are smooth and appear polished. It is made from hard dense bone or perhaps antler. The surface polish may be due to use. The function is unclear and in the time allowed no parallel has been found; it may have been used for trimming or cutting a relatively soft substance. A date cannot currently be ascribed. Illustration is required.
Various objects and fragments of later post-medieval and modern manmade materials were found during the excavations. A number of these were discarded and are listed in Appendix 8. Those retained are listed below.
A plastic button, pale pink in colour and slightly worn in appearance was found in the gravel of the arena floor (31), it is probably from the second half of the twentieth century.
Trench III Trench IV
A small fragment of plastic was found in (53). A buff coloured counter, SF <22>, was found in (67) the backfill of a 1960s trench; it appears to be made of a type of plastic, probably twentieth century in date.
The backfill of Tr. A68/16, context (17), contained part of a moulded tray or box-like object. It is made from a black pitch like substance reinforced with white fibrous inclusions. Twentieth or nineteenth century in date.
Four fragments of orange translucent plastic are probably from the cover of a car or bicycle lamp or perhaps a reflector; they were found in the topsoil (9).
Gill Dunn & Julie Edwards
Given the residuality of the Roman finds, there is little further work to be carried out. However, any future work on the present collection of samian ware for publication purposes should include close comparison with the 1976 report. It is likely that similar (and possibly the same) vessels have been published already from the site. This task may be lengthier than usual, since some of the more stratigraphically significant decorated bowls were lost before illustration and details of these vessels will need to be checked with their parallel references as published. Other than the drawing and Xradiography requirements already stated no further work on the post-Roman material is envisaged at this stage, although the assemblage may need to be re-assessed in the light of any further work at the site.
The majority of the Roman pottery, 83% by sherd count and 66% by weight is locally-made coarseware vessels dating to the first and second centuries. Only a small percentage of traded wares are present, such as white wares from Warwickshire and black-burnished ware from Dorset. Imported wares are represented by samian, amphorae and colour-coated vessels. All the pottery dates to the first and second centuries except for a late second/early third-century black-burnished ware bowl from context (56), the rubble backfill of the 1967 trench, and a possible fourth-century calcitegritted vessel from context (14), the modern make-up. The fabrics and forms (e.g. jars, bowls, beakers and flagons etc.) are typical of those found on excavations in Chester. Almost all of the samian ware was single scraps. The proportion of South Gaulish samian was overwhelming, with only three sherds of Central Gaulish manufacture (two of them Trajanic and the third datable vaguely in the Hadrianic-Antonine period). Later material would certainly have been expected particularly from contexts such as the abandonment contexts considered to be sub-Roman or Saxon. This would certainly be the case on other sites in Chester. However, samian ware recovered from the amphitheatre site appears not to follow the norm for Chester: the samian listed in Thompson’s (1976) report was also overwhelmingly early, there being apparently only one vessel of later date (c AD 125-150). It is difficult to comment on the medieval and post-medieval assemblages from the site; most of the earlier finds are residual in the contexts and the
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 later appear to be in modern or redeposited contexts and therefore are either residual or not stratigraphically or functionally in context. The excavations have clearly demonstrated that a large quantity and variety of predominantly post-medieval artefacts are present on the site. However, earlier material does still survive both as residual material and in stratified deposits.
The Industrial Remains
Julie E C Edwards
A small piece of hematite of tabular form was found in V (56), the rubble backfill of a 1967 trench. The piece is roughly triangular in shape (max. length 20 mm, 11 mm thick) and has the remains of what appears to be mortar around the edges suggesting it had been set into something.
A large piece of galena weighing 2800 g was found in IX (14), a modern make-up layer (identification provided by S Woolfall, Grosvenor Museum). Galena is an ore from which lead is obtained. The nearest source to Chester is the Clwydian range of hills where lead mining and processing was carried out from the Roman period, with large scale production taking place in the later post-medieval period. There is apparently no evidence for ore smelting in Chester. The occurrence of this rock on the site is difficult to explain; it may have been transported for hitherto unknown smelting in Chester or had perhaps found its way into ballast. There were two post-medieval leadworks in Chester; neither is close to the site.
Small quantities of slag (total 950 g), spent fuel, vitrified stone and ceramic material as well as unidentified vitrified fragments were found in the upper layers of most of the trenches. As these are mainly modern make-up and backfill deposits the slag may be part of the general debris found in such urban deposits rather than indicative of any industrial process that may have been carried out on the site. However, it is possible that some of the slag and vitrified ceramic material on the site may be derived from the clay tobacco pipe kiln(s) that were sited just outside the Newgate, where production commenced sometime in the late eighteenth century and continued until c 1917. One piece of note (weighing 373 g) from (56), the rubble backfill of a 1967 trench, appears to be from a furnace or hearth bottom; it is roughly tabular and the lower surface consists of a burnt ceramic material. A small quantity was found stratified in Trench IX in contexts associated with the abandonment of the amphitheatre and the early post-Roman period; 241 g of slag were retrieved from contexts (58), (64) and (101).
The Environmental Remains
This is a small assemblage, of which hand collected and dry sieved bones of domestic cattle, sheep/goat and pig make up the bulk. Small numbers of other mammal bones (mole, fox, rabbit and hare), fish and birds (including chicken and goose) are also present. Marine shells (from mussel, cockle and oyster), and a few fragments of crustacean (crab claws) were also recovered on site. Small numbers of cereal grains and other seeds were recovered from Roman and sub-Roman contexts through flotation.
Hand-collected and site sieved material
The assemblage was recovered through a combination of hand collection and dry sieving. Since a minimum of 33% of each context was dry sieved (with a 9 mm mesh), one might expect that something approaching this proportion of the smaller anatomical elements and of the smaller fauna should have been retrieved. Some fish and rodent bones were probably missed due to the choice of mesh size, but it is thought that the use of a smaller mesh would have made it necessary (because of clogging meshes) to process a smaller percentage of the spoil. It might be argued that the use of a finer mesh was unnecessary given that the majority of the contexts had been disturbed and redeposited in the recent past.
Post excavation methods
Identifications of the following mammal bones were attempted: calcaneum humerus parietal astragalus radius squamosal navicular ulna premaxilla metatarsal metacarpal maxilla phalanges 1-3 pelvis mandible femur loose teeth tibia scapula Identifications of the following bird bones were attempted: coracoid radius femur scapula ulna tibiotarsus humerus carpometacarpus tarsometatarsus Identifications were carried out with the aid of modern reference material at Chester Archaeology and at Sheffield University Department of Archaeology and Prehistory. Sheep and goat were differentiated with the aid of Boessneck (1969) and Lister (1996) was referred to for deer species. Records were made of context, species, element, side, proximal and distal fusion, fragmentation, preservation, butchery, and sex. Fragment numbers and weights were calculated for each context and phase. A small amount of metrical data has been collected.
Chester Archaeology Ribs, vertebrae and limb bone shaft fragments with few morphological features were identified to the level of large, medium/large, or medium mammal (or simply to the level of bird or fish). Fragments were recorded and counted regardless of size. Thus a small fragment of proximal radius and a complete femur both count as single records. Details of the proportion of each bone, whether proximal or distal, end only, end and shaft, shaft fragment or cylinder can be found in the archive. Calculations of minimum numbers of individuals have not been undertaken for this stage of the work, but would be completed for larger groups of well-stratified bones. Fragments of mollusc and crustacean have been counted, weighed and, where possible, identified to the level of genus or species. Since many of the bone and shell yielding contexts are known to have been excavated and redeposited in recent times, all such contexts have been grouped in the modern phase.
The bulk of the material came from the modern phase (see Basic Quantification below). Unidentified mammal bone fragments make up the largest number of fragments from this phase but unidentified large mammal bones dominate according to weight. Of the identified bones cattle are most numerous, followed by sheep/goat and pig. Three identifications (a first phalanx and two proximal radii) are of sheep (Ovis aries) rather than sheep/goat (Ovis/Capra). One red deer (Cervus elaphus) first phalanx was identified (or, more precisely, fallow deer was excluded as a possibility), through reference to Lister (1996). The specimen from this site has the proximally facing area of bone described and although slightly damaged, there is a clearly undamaged “mild pit”.
Table 19: Trench VIII animal remains Identification Bivalvia Oyster (Ostrea edulis) Cockle (Cerastoderma sp.) Mussel (Mytilus sp.) Amphibia Frog/Toad (Rana/Bufo) Aves Chicken (Gallus) Chicken/Pheasant (Gallus/Phasianus) Unidentified bird Mammalia Mole (Talpa) Dog (Canis) Pig (Sus) Red deer (Cervus) Cattle/Red deer Cattle (Bos) ?Cattle Sheep/Goat (Ovis/Capra) ?Sheep/Goat ?House mouse (Muridae) Hare (Lepus) Rabbit (Oryctolagus) Large mammal Medium mammal Unidentified mammal Fragments 22 4 1 1 7 1 6 1 1 14 1 6 10 1 3 2 1 1 1 53 53 57 Weight (g) 44 3 <1 <1 7 <1 10 <1 16 59 16 148 112 9 12 1 <1 2 1 474 90 90
Table 20: Trench IX animal remains Identification Gastropoda (unid.) Bivalvia Oyster (Ostrea edulis) Cockle (Cerastoderma sp.) Mussel (Mytilus cf. Edulis) Aves Chicken (Gallus) Unidentified bird Mammalia Fox (Vulpes) Pig (Sus) Cattle (Bos) ?Cattle Sheep/Goat (Ovis/Capra) ?Sheep/Goat Sheep (Ovis) Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) Large mammal Medium/Large mammal Medium mammal Unidentified mammal Table 21: modern phase totals Identification Gastropoda (unid.) Bivalvia Oyster (Ostrea sp.) Cockle (Cerastoderma sp.) Mussel (Mytilus sp.) Crustacea Crab (?Cancer pagurus) Pisces Cod (Gadus moruha) Amphibia Frog/Toad (Rana/Bufo) Aves Goose (Anser/Branta) Chicken (Gallus) Chicken/Pheasant (Gallus/Phasianus) Turkey/Peafowl (Meleagris/Pavo) Unidentified bird Mammalia Mole (Talpa) Human (Homo) Dog (Canis) Horse/Donkey/Mule (Equus) Pig (Sus) ?Pig Red deer (Cervus) Cattle/Red deer Cattle (Bos) ?Cattle Sheep/Goat (Ovis/Capra) ?Sheep/Goat Sheep (Ovis) ?House mouse (Muridae) Hare (Lepus) Hare/Rabbit Rabbit (Oryctolagus) Large mammal Medium/Large mammal Medium mammal Fragments 1 60 252 24 4 2 1 2 9 1 3 36 1 1 1 1 26 2 1 4 47 5 40 4 2 1 3 1 4 116 5 102 Weights (g) 3 133 211 15 9 3 <1 5 10 <1 17 21 <1 6 16 8 192 6 16 148 876 122 290 9 19 1 3 <1 2 1122 44 211 Fragments 1 15 1 68 7 2 1 21 42 1 9 1 2 1 47 5 30 179 Weight (g) 3 8
36 16 6 5 226 743 35 75 4 24 20 492 44 102 435
Unidentified mammal Table 22: Roman to post-medieval totals Identification Mammalia Cattle Unidentified Mammal Table 23: Middle/Late Saxon phase totals Identification Bivalvia Oyster (Ostrea) Mussel (Mytilus) Aves Chicken Mammalia Fox (Vulpes) Pig Cattle Sheep/Goat Large mammal Medium mammal Unidentified mammal Fragments 6 19 1 1 1 20 4 3 2 3 Weight (g) 3 7 3 5 10 192 18 33 3 6 Fragments 1 3 Weight (g) 28 9 328 435
Table 24: Sub-Roman/Middle Saxon phase totals Identification Bivalvia Oyster (Ostrea sp.) Cockle (Cerastoderma sp.) Mussel (Mytilus sp.) Aves Chicken Mammalia Pig Cattle Sheep/Goat Sheep Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) Large mammal Medium mammal Unidentified mammal Table 25: Sub-Roman phase totals Identification Mammalia Cattle Table 26: Roman phase totals Identification Unidentified mammal Fragments 1 Weight (g) <1 Fragments 1 Weight (g) 10 Fragments 2 1 28 4 13 13 2 1 1 27 7 68 Weight (g) 2 <1 15 11 131 298 8 8 20 309 45 180
The recovered assemblage is small and much of it was disturbed and redeposited in modern times (see Table 21). It is possible that the modern bone (and shell) group might include material originating from any period from the Roman (or Prehistoric?) to Modern. Few conclusions relevant to a particular phase can thus be drawn. Neither can one draw many conclusions on the basis of trench comparisons since the majority of the excavated contexts will undoubtedly have been moved from their original situation in plan. Thus, bones from disturbed contexts in Trench VI might have come originally from the area of Trench I or Trench VII, or from almost any other
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 area of the site. What seems least likely however is that they came originally from the trench in which we found them. The exceptions to this are some of the contexts in Trenches VIII and IX (and a few sampled contexts from other trenches). Here we can safely draw more conclusions since some of these deposits were undisturbed by the excavations earlier in the last century. It must be a possibility that the rabbit, fox and mole bones recovered are intrusive in what is basically an assemblage deposited by humans. Possible factors that might help to identify such intrusive bones include a notably different colour or other differences in preservation, a lack of butchery marks and even the presence of a complete or largely complete skeleton. However, carcass colour differences might well reflect differential treatment before deposition or perhaps bone structure differences (and the wide range of taphonomic biases) between species. Furthermore, butchery marks need by no means be present wherever butchery has taken place. Finally, the presence of a complete skeleton might be the result of an animal having died whilst underground, but it might also plausibly be taken to reflect the dumping or burial of a complete carcass. All of the possible burrowing intrusives (apart from the fox pelvis from context (26)) came from the modern or disturbed contexts and so any chance that one might retrieve a partial or complete skeleton was lost when the context was first excavated. Taking these factors into consideration, and in the absence of conclusive butchery evidence, it is unclear whether these animals are intrusive or not. There is a newborn sheep/goat (Ovis/Capra) ulna in Trench IX (26) (MiddleLate Saxon). Is this our first indication of the proximity of such flocks to the urban centre in this period? This is something we will aim to assess in future work. The amphitheatre specimen was slightly larger than newborn Soay sheep (Sheffield no. 0639). There is a cod (Gadus morhua) posterior abdominal vertebra (and another partial vertebra) from Trench VII (22). The largest of the modern reference specimens that this specimen was compared to (Sheffield no. 0444) had an overall length of 79 cm. The specimen from (22) was larger than this, and is presumably most likely to have come from a trawled cod. There is an obvious possibility that exotic fauna might be recovered from the amphitheatre deposits. However, thus far, the bulk of the identifications are of domesticates and none of the fauna identified is unusual in Chester. Thus, it is probably unlikely that large numbers of exotics might ever be recovered from the site. However, the recovery of a single exotic mammal or bird would be of great interest. It should be noted that this is a small sample and whilst the prevalence of domesticates might well reflect the population as a whole, this does not mean that there are no exotics present. Amongst those bones that were identified to the level of bird there are two large tarsometatarsus bones and it seems possible that these are from an exotic species or at least one that is seen infrequently. There is a carpometacarpus and a tarsometatarsus from (4) and another tarsometatarsus from (67), all of which bear a resemblance to specimens of turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in the Sheffield collection. However, some features (notably the relatively greater degree of widening at the proximal articulation of the tarsometatarsus) were more similar to those seen in peafowl (Pavo cristatus). At the other end of this bone the relatively large size of the distal foramen more closely matched turkey. Further modern reference specimens need to be checked since we have yet to find a close morphological match. Only one human bone was recovered and so (according to this small sample of the site) it seems unlikely that a large assemblage is available for recovery in the future. The fact that human bones were recovered from the arena floor in previous excavations does however raise the possibility that some may have been redeposited in the landscaped banks. One might expect that skull and long bones (the large and obvious bones) might have been recognised
Chester Archaeology and retrieved during previous excavations, and indeed these are the parts to be found in the finds boxes. It may be the case that the bones yet to be retrieved from disturbed parts of the site will be the smaller rather less obviously human bones such as the navicular cuboid (from Trench V (56)) recovered during these excavations.
Wet sieved samples
It is unfortunate that there were no good opportunities to sample drain fills. This is due to the fact that previous excavators had been highly efficient in cleaning these fills away (for instance in the case of the surviving Roman axial drain in the north entrance). Modern land drains had replaced other features in the arena, such as the arena gutter and the axial drain. Samples were taken from a small number of deposits that were seen to be undisturbed and to underlie the levels of previous excavations. Subsequently, it was discovered that two of these “contexts” were in fact natural colour variations in the bedrock ((50) and (75)). Some of the sampled contexts were from small features (Roman posthole fill (82) being the smallest) and the size of the samples is correspondingly small. In each case the entire samples were processed by flotation and the resulting flots were collected in 1.18 mm, 600 µ and 300 µ brass sieves. Residues and flots were scanned by eye and with the aid of a low power microscope.
Table 27: wet sieved samples Sample size 250 ml 500 ml 8l Period Pre-Roman/natural Pre-Roman/natural Roman Recovered material none none 10 mainly poorly preserved charred cereal grains (Hordeum, Triticum aestivocompactum, Triticum and ?Avena sp.). Also 9 fragments unid. bone all <13 mm in length None 1 well preserved charred oat (Avena sp.) grain, 1 uncharred blackberry seed (Rubus fructicosus), 1 uncharred elder seed Sambucus nigra and 1 grain ?Triticum sp. Bone fragments; one of c 39 mm but mainly <20 mm, some burnt <10 mm. Also 8 fragments of fish spines, all <10 mm. c 20 fragments mussel shell (Mytilus edulis), 2 fragments of charred hazelnut-shell (Corylus avellana) 11 fragments of (Mytilus sp.) with joins - one valve probably represented. Other bivalve ?Ostrea (x 2) fragments. Small bone fragments (< 10) including ?rodent metapodial
In the samples from Trenches I and II (contexts (80) and (87)), there are some small fragments of flexible and certainly recent root. Both of these trenches were relatively shallow and so the presence of modern or recent root matter is to be expected. It is also a possibility that the uncharred material from these samples might be of recent origin and potentially the activities of worms are responsible for its presence. This is raised as a possibility but is not proven. In the same samples however, there are small amounts of charred grain. Whilst there may be some doubt as to the exact date(s) of this material, we
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 can be confident that it is not of recent origin. The same obviously applies to the charred hazelnut from Trench IX. Thus, a number of the trenches from the site have yielded botanical remains and it has been demonstrated that the recovery of such remains is possible from sub-Roman and Roman contexts.
Hand collected and dry sieved assemblage
As discussed above, the majority of the faunal assemblage was retrieved from disturbed deposits and probably originates from a wide date range. This seriously limits the potential of the material, since the value of metrical, ageing, butchery, species ratios and all other data are all seriously compromised. Any future excavations should focus on the detailed recording of well-stratified and preferably securely dated contexts. There should be extensive sampling of such contexts and all bulk samples would be wet sieved in the manner undertaken for this project. If it were decided that dry sieving on site was appropriate for contexts of lower priority (contexts with some evidence for residuality, for instance) this would be undertaken using a 5 mm mesh size to maximise the retrieval of fish, small mammals, other small fauna and loose teeth. Remains from heavily disturbed or redeposited contexts would be examined for the presence of exotics, but the time spent on recording such contexts would be kept to a minimum. Although there is little bone from the earlier phases, this is a product of the fact that little in situ archaeology was excavated. Thus, one cannot assume that the earlier phases will produce little bone. Indeed, the previously undisturbed contexts in Trench IX appeared quite productive (see Table 19, above) and preservation was generally good in sub-Roman/Middle Saxon contexts (58), (62), (64) and (101). Thus, it seems that there is good potential for the recovery of faunal data from the undisturbed contexts on this site. Some fish and bird bone fragments remain unidentified. These include a few well- preserved bird bones for which identification to species should certainly be possible through consultations of modern reference collections.
Wet sieved samples
Whilst it is not possible to construct a detailed environmental picture of the amphitheatre from the small assemblage, the present work has shown that there is the potential to recover remains that, in larger quantities, could be used to achieve this. Given the small size of the samples, the amounts and range of biota recovered are encouraging.
The archaeological stratigraphic excavation and survey ascertained the presence, date and character of archaeological remains that were not specifically targeted in the 1960s. In addition, some light was shed on outstanding questions from the earlier investigation, as well as demonstrating that the potential exists to answer and pose a number of further questions. Analysis of all the data recovered has allowed some preliminary conclusions to be drawn about the nature and date of the stratigraphy excavated, as reported above and commented upon here. The project archive has been prepared and deposited with Chester Archaeology, where it can be consulted for the purpose of serious academic research. In the long term, the entire archive will be transferred to the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, for curation and storage.
The excavation process
The investigation was run as a community-based project. This meant that it was entirely volunteer-based, with two staff members of Chester Archaeology providing professional direction and on-site supervision4. Students from Chester College of Higher Education and West Cheshire College took part and most of the remaining excavators were members of the Chester Archaeological Society or interested local people. Finds processing during and after the fieldwork phase of the project was also undertaken by volunteers, supervised by a third staff member from Chester Archaeology5. The community benefits of this type of project are enormous. At a time when the local press was running regular stories about the amphitheatre and the office development on its southwestern extremity, public interest was very high. In addition to the numerous stories and letters casting Chester City Council and English Heritage in the role of villains, reporting of the excavation provided balance and enabled the Council and English Heritage to demonstrate their commitment to the site in a very practical and visible way. The public interest worked as a two-edged sword. Whilst it was gratifying to see the numbers of newsletters that were taken from the display stand every day, questioning by the public was a major distraction. The author’s time was taken up more with dealing with queries than with supervising the volunteers. This was worrying insofar as many of the volunteers had little (or no) experience of excavation and needed almost constant attention. In a few instances, this resulted in the over-digging of certain contexts or inadequate recording of deposits in situ. It is difficult to see how the excavation could have been conducted without experiencing this source of interruption. The project was designed from the outset to be high profile; it was based in one of Chester’s best known archaeological sites; it is one of very few public open spaces in the city; it is immediately beside the Inner Ring Road; English Heritage rightly insisted that the trenches should not obstruct visitors’ use and enjoyment of the site;
Keith Matthews and Ian Smith; Peter Carrington deputised for Keith Matthews during his absence. 5 Alison Jones. 98
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 the local press had given the impression that it was the exposed part of the monument that was due to be built on; at least one tour bus announced that the archaeological trenches were part of the foundations for a new superstore; in short, it was inevitable that the public would pay the archaeologists more than usual attention. Moreover, because of political sensitivity over the issue of Dee House and the new office block, it was decided that one representative (the writer) be delegated to deal with all potentially sensitive questions. Nevertheless, important lessons were learned about community based excavation projects. Firstly, the ratio of experienced archaeologists (acting as supervisors) to frequently inexperienced volunteers needs to be higher than the 1:10 allowed by the project. More time also needs to be devoted to written recording, as this task fell entirely to the supervisory staff, who were generally occupied with other tasks; although volunteers generally undertook their own planning and section drawing, more time could have been spent overseeing this work. Overall, important lessons about community based work were learned. The supervision is clearly a major problem, but at the same time, it was possible to undertake high-quality work with volunteers whose experience was very varied.
The excavated remains
Important archaeological features and deposits were found to survive in situ below the gravel surfacing of the arena and entrances, and the seating bank, ranging from Roman to twentieth century in date. This is the first time that any deposits of post-medieval date have been recorded systematically during investigations on this site, and it is the first attempt to set all the post-Roman archaeology in its complete stratigraphic context. This allows a much more refined and complex model to be developed of the site’s history from prehistory to the present. Very few archaeological features were found to have survived beneath the modern gravel surface of the arena, so the question of their protection— raised by the Project Design (Appendix 3, below)—is not a major issue. Moreover, as virtually no Roman features survive beneath the gravel, there is no serious potential for displaying them. However, the modern ‘seating bank’ between the Roman arena wall and the fence to Little St John Street consists partly of material excavated from the site during the 1960s and of in situ archaeological deposits with enormous potential. The backfill deposits are principally towards the arena wall, as Trenches A68/2 to A68/5 had targeted the remains of the strapping of the timber amphitheatre and removed most of the evidence for the Roman seating bank. On the other hand, a decision was made not to excavate most of that part of the monument lying between the ‘concentric wall’ and the outer wall, as they were though to have been extensively robbed. The survival of deposits throughout the ‘seating bank’ area means that there is data that could provide evidence for modifications to the design of the stone amphitheatre (Matthews 2000, Question 4) and about the superstructures of the minor entrances (Question 5). There may also be evidence for the use of the amphitheatre and changes to that use through time (Questions 11, 12, 13 and 14), particularly in relation to the Eastern entrance and the minor entrances. In the arena, there may be surviving evidence for the superstructure of the ‘central platform’ (Question 9), which could reinforce the hypothesis that the amphitheatre was used as a place of execution (Question 16). On the other hand, the potential status of the postholes as part of the sub-Roman use of the site (Question 25) has also been raised by the project.
Chester Archaeology One of the most significant discoveries is that evidence survives for the nature of occupation in the amphitheatre ruins and subsequently on the site after the Roman period (Question 24). This extends to evidence for the use of the amphitheatre buildings in the sub-Roman and Saxon periods (Question 25). There may be evidence for the dates of stone robbing that could link it to the phases of construction of St John’s Church (Question 27) or other nearby structures, such as the City Wall. There is evidence that shows how long the ruins and the arena may have been visible (Questions 28 & 29). Overall, sufficient evidence survives to reconstruct a large part of the post-Roman history of the site (Question 26).
The Roman archaeology of the site
Amphitheatres in the Roman world
Amphitheatres are one of the most distinctive Roman monuments throughout the empire. As such, they form an important contribution to our understanding and appreciation of the Roman past and the cultural history of Europe, the Near East and North Africa. They appear to have been invented in the first century BC (the earliest known is associated with the Sullan colony at Pompeii, of c 80 BC), and the architecture of the earliest examples suggests wooden prototypes. The builders of the Pompeian amphitheatre termed it spectacula (Hammond & Scullard 1970, 55). Pliny the Elder (Historia Naturalis xxxvi.113) believed that the form derived from a mobile ‘double theatre’ invented by Curio for Julius Caesar’s funeral games in honour of his father, in 50 BC. The construction pivoted on an axis that allowed two adjacent theatres used for separate shows during the morning to be turned to face each other during the afternoon. The first amphitheatre at Rome was built by Statilius Taurus in 29 BC (Canu 2000) During the first century AD, they became part of the typical urban infrastructure, particularly in the western and northern provinces. Special impetus to their building seems to be associated with the Flavian emperors (Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, who ruled from AD 69-96), who were responsible for some large and unusual monuments modelled on the Colosseum (the medieval name of the Amphitheatrum Flauianum), dedicated in June AD 80. This is the largest amphitheatre, measuring 188×156 m, with an arena of 77×46.5 m (Giobert n.d.). Amphitheatres were places where spectacula-spectacles-were held, although other buildings (such as theatres) could also be used for the same purposes. Indeed, in Britain, towns possess either an amphitheatre or a theatre, never both. Originally, spectacula seem to have been held in the Roman Forum, and the design of amphitheatres is an attempt to improve the view of the entertainment. Spectacula included such well-known treats as gladiatorial shows (munera), in which professionals trained to dress as barbarians and carry barbarian arms, fought to the death in an attempt to instil virtus (the qualities that made a good Roman a good Roman) in the spectator. Spectacula also included public executions. Spectacula were always given under the presidency of the local political leaders. In Rome, this would be the Emperor or someone delegated to represent him. Private individuals or representatives of public bodies could also apply for permission to stage events in the Emperor’s name. At Chester, this could be either the civilian magistrates (duoviri or decuriones) or the legionary commander, although it was possible to delegate the official presence to others. The morning shows were given over to exhibitions of exotic animals given by domatores or magistri (animal trainers), which did not necessarily end with the animals being killed: they were much like circus tricks and Martial
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 (Epigrammaton i.16 etc.) refers to lions trained to catch hares without hurting them. These circus-type shows were followed by fights by bestiarii or Thessalos equites (‘Thessalian’ horsemen) with wild animals and ending with a venatio, or false hunt. Sometimes the opening presentation took the form of a mythical scene (as described, for instance, by Martial in De spectaculis xxi, referring to the opening ceremony of the Colosseum, or Cassius Dio lxxiii.20, referring to the end of Commodus’s reign). The bestiarii did not necessarily fight the wild animals, but might be employed to goad or herd them; they were also known as matutini (‘morning men’) because of the timing of their activities. Venationes became popular in Rome during the second century BC. Exotic species, including lions, panthers, hippopotamuses, Gallic lynxes, rhinoceroses, giraffes, tigers, polar bears and crocodiles were transported across the empire from areas outside it, while more familiar species, such as bulls and bears, were also used. Animals killed in the arena were eaten as delicacies, according to Tertullian (Apologeticum ix), even after they had eaten humans (Noy 2000). Towards midday, there was a break in the spectacula so that the spectators could eat. Nevertheless, the activities continued, with what was known as the meridianum spectaculum (‘midday spectacle’), a systematic execution of capital punishment popularised by Claudius I (Suetonius Diuus Claudius xxxiv), who was criticised for staying to watch. Seneca (ad Lucilium vii.3-4) describes the horror of this part of the day in a well-known passage: quicquid ante pugnatum est misericordia fuit; nunc omissis nugis mera homicidia sunt. nihil habent quo tegantur; ad ictum totis corporibus expositi numquam frustra manum mittunt… interfectores interfecturis iubent obiici et uictorem in aliam detinet caedem; exitus pugnantium mors est. (‘Whatever was fought before this was merciful; now, stripped of pleasantries, they were unadulterated murders. They had nothing by which they could be protected; exposed to the blow over their whole bodies, they never fought in vain… they (the spectators) order those who have just killed to be thrown to those who will kill them and that the victor be held back for another slaughter; the exit from fighting is death’). According to the Historia Augusta, punishments were not always capital: bankrupts were flogged and released (Noy 2000). In the afternoon, the shows were given by gladiators either on foot or on horseback. The first gladiatorial munera in public games were held at Cerealia in 42 BC (Noy 2000). Those who took part as performers were often criminals condemned to death or prisoners-of-war; in AD 47, Claudius sponsored a show that was to remain famous for many years, in which British prisoners-of-war were massacred. It is also known that Titus disposed of a number of Jewish prisoners in the arenas at Berytus, Caesarea Palaestina and a number of Syrian towns, while Constantine I executed defeated Bructeri in this way. However, these shows were not the most popular, as audiences seem to have preferred seeing gladiators well trained in the use of specialised arms. These trained performers might again be those condemned to death or prisoners-of-war (Cicero (Tusculani ii.17) describes them as aut perditi homines aut barbari (condemned men or barbarians)); they might also be barbarian slaves bought by a lanista (the owner of a training school), freed slaves or free-born men and women, often from very poor backgrounds. Legally, their position was the same as a prostitute’s. There was a constant search for variety: Domitian put on a show pitting women against dwarves (Noy 2000), although Septimius Severus banned the use of Amazones (female gladiators) in AD 200 (Grout 2000). Those who submitted voluntarily to a lanista and who won an exceptional victory or who completed a successful career as a gladiator, after three years, gained their freedom or a pardon; those who were sent to the munera sine missione, though, had no chance of freedom. From the first century on, gladiators were considered a status symbol that any wealthy man should own, much like a racehorse (Cassius Dio lix.10).
Chester Archaeology There were three types of foot gladiator: retiarii, parmularii and scutarii. The first type were armed with a trident and net and were protected only by a galerus, a leather or metal garment that partly covered their left side. Parmularii were equipped with a small shield; one type of parmularius, the Thr(a)ex, had a round or almost square shield, greaves, scimitar and sometimes leather arm and leg bands. The prouocator (attacking gladiator) was a parmularius. The final group, scutarii, were distinguished by their larger rectangular shields and had three main subdivisions: (h)oplomachi (originally called Samnites), myrmillones (mirmillones; originally called Galli) and secutores. The first were characterised by their heavy arms, wide leather belt, large rectangular shield, elaborate helmet, a greave on the left leg only and a protective sleeve on the right arm; the name derives from Greek ‘οπλωµαχοι, ‘gladiators’. Myrmillones were also heavily armed, but wore a helmet with a crest in the form of a fish and had protection only on their left leg and right arm. Secutores were ‘chasers’ whose only protection beyond their shield was a helmet with visor; they were usually pitted against retiarii. A fourth group, the dimachaeri, armed only with a cutlass in each hand, is poorly attested. Should the opponent of a ‘star’ gladiator be wounded too early for the hero to claim an honourable victory, suppositicii or tertiarii were the replacements brought on to satisfy the audience. These gladiators were also brought on to replace the dead in the munera sine remissione, where all combatants were to be killed. There were more exotic types, too. Essedarii (and the female equivalent, essedariae) became popular following Caesar’s British expeditions in 55 and 54 BC and again following Claudius’s British campaigns in AD 43. They fought in the ‘British manner’, riding horse-drawn chariots, and their name derives from *essedo-, a British Celtic word meaning ‘war chariot’. Equites (‘knights’) fought simply on horseback; velites threw a spear attached to a leather thong for quick retrieval; scissores and dimachaeri had two swords; sagitarii fought with a bow and arrow; laquarii had a lasso; andabatae wore helmets that prevented them from seeing out and fought ‘blind’. Constantine supposedly banned games in the amphitheatre in 326, but this seems to have been ineffective. Honorius then closed the ludi (gladiatorial schools) in 399, but combats were only banned in 404 (Grout 2000). Saint Augustine paints a vivid (and unpleasant) picture of the bloodthirstiness of the games (below, Appendix 6), but interestingly, his concern is more for the moral welfare of the spectators and their abandonment of virtue for blood lust than for the lives of the combatants. Nevertheless, many sites continued to be used for venationes, the Colosseum being restored some time after 442, in 470, c 508 and in 523 (Hammond & Scullard 1970, 267).
The history of Chester’s amphitheatre
The conclusions about the developmental history of Chester’s amphitheatre were not directly modified by the results of this project. They are included here merely as a summary. However, this orthodox version begs a number of questions and almost certainly will need to be revised once further data becomes available. The 1960s excavations established, for the first time, that the known stone amphitheatre had been preceded by a timber structure. The dating of this structure was indirect and depended on the dates of two pits (F13 and F14 in Thompson 1976) as well as of the material deposited within the cavea (the area beneath the seating) of the stone amphitheatre. This is characterised as ‘Flavian-Trajanic’ and datable to the period AD 90×110 (Thompson 1976, 164) and would provide a terminus post quem for the stone structure. The timber structure ought, therefore, to be earlier. Hugh Thompson logically suggested that it was constructed during the occupancy of the legionary fortress by Legio II Adiutrix, between AD c 76 and c 84.
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 The timber amphitheatre, Phase Ia here, would have measured about 75×67 m. However, little is understood of its superstructure (although Nigel Sunter attempted reconstructions for Hugh Thompson (1976, 222 ff.)). The seating area was less than half the width of that belonging to the stone amphitheatre and rested on a timber grillage of sillbeams laid radially joined by inner and outer concentric sillbeams. Although there seem to be no precise parallels for this technique in other timber amphitheatres (such as Vindonissa and Carnuntum), there are sound structural reasons for its use (Sunter in Thompson 1976, 223). This would allow eight rows of seats, giving an overall capacity of around 2500 spectators (Thompson 1976, 142). The relatively large area of the arena in relation to the seating is a striking feature of the timber structure, which might allow speculation that its main function was related to activity within the arena rather than on the provision of entertainment to crowds of people. However, Thompson (1976, 144) points out that to provide seating of the same width as the later stone amphitheatre would mean that the outer row of seating would need to be at least 11 m high, which is too high for a purely timber structure. It is perhaps more likely that the timber structure was intended to be a short-lived element of the new fortress and that no conclusions about its function can safely be inferred from its design. The timber structure was replaced, probably towards the end of the first century (Thompson 1976, 164), by a stone amphitheatre—Phase Ib in this project—that is sufficiently well preserved to allow detailed reconstruction of its architectural features. The work of construction was perhaps contemporary with the rebuilding of many of the legionary buildings and the fortress defences in stone c 100. The stone amphitheatre measures 95.6×86.4 m (Thompson 1976, 181) or 97.0×87.8 m (Sunter in Thompson 1976, 232) externally, covering an area of 6266 m2 (measured using GIS, not calculated); its arena is 57.8×48.7 metres with an area of 2230 m2, accounting for some 35.5% of the monument. Its long axis is aligned roughly on that of the Roman fortress. There were main entrances on the long and short axes (the portae pompae and portae posticae respectively) and two minor entrances (vomitoria) between each of these. The major entrance to the east produced evidence for a tribunal (or box for dignitaries) above it. Although insufficient architectural detail survived to allow an accurate reconstruction of its form, it appears to have been relatively elaborate, with cylindrical stone columns to support a roof structure. However, the narrowing towards the arena can be seen as a secondary feature in the consolidated masonry as it is of completely different type from anywhere else in the monument and there is a straight join between it and the primary masonry. This was not noticed during the 1960s excavation as the masonry was left in situ for consolidation. The date is unclear: does it belong with the late third-century refurbishment, or is it later still? The arena wall was between 0.6 and 1.1 m thick and can be calculated to have stood at least 2.6 m above the arena floor, as it would have had to bridge the main entrances. The seating is thought to have risen from a gangway behind the top of this wall. The arrangements of staircases in the minor entrances suggested that the praecinctio (main ‘corridor’ between seating rows) ran halfway up the seating bank. Allowing for a rake of about 30 degrees to the seating, the outer wall would have stood to a height of at least 11.5 metres above Roman street level (as shown in Nigel Sunter’s reconstruction, Thompson 1976, 236 fig. 53). However, the rake ought to have increased above the praecinctio, suggesting that the building was even taller. The outer wall of the amphitheatre was 2.7 m thick, with buttresses every 3.6 m or so. It is thought that these were not functional, as the outer wall was
Chester Archaeology massive enough not to need further support. It is possible that they held the posts from which the awning (velarium) over the seating was hung (Sunter in Thompson 1976, 231), although in the British climate, this type of awning appears superfluous as its main function was to protect spectators from the sun. It is also possible that they flanked arched openings, as in continental examples, that were designed to make the structure both lighter and more stable. Inside the wall was a corridor 2.1 m wide linking the twelve entrances, although it is not clear that it was actually used as such. The inner concentric wall was 2.1 m thick. This is an unusual feature in Britain, and at Verulamium, a similar wall is explained as the outer wall of an earlier, smaller theatre. This is possible at Chester and needs to be checked. Unlike the other amphitheatres known in Britain, whether military or civilian, Chester’s also appears to have been unique in not possessing an earthen bank to support the seating, a feature that needs further exploration. In particular, the nature of the presumably timber-framed support for the seats between the arena wall and the praecinctio needs to be elucidated. The amphitheatre seems to have been largely abandoned by the middle of the second century (Thompson 1976, 182). A thin layer of débris that accumulated over the gravel floor of the arena contained finds of mid second to late third century date (Newstead & Droop 1932, 19). In the late 270s (or possibly later), the arena was paved with sandstone flags (Thompson 1976, 151) and the amphitheatre enjoyed its longest continuous period of use, which was also to be its last. The nature of this use is unclear, especially if the sandstone really is a formal paving, as this prevents the arena from being used for venationes or combats. Might it have been a base to provide drainage for a layer of sand above? Pottery dating from the first half of the fourth century was amongst the rubbish that began to accumulate in the arena after its final abandonment (Thompson 1976, 183), perhaps around the middle of the century. This date accords with the pattern of coin loss, which suggests that the status of Chester changed dramatically in the 360s (Shotter 2000, 45). The post-Roman archaeology of the site, beginning with definite late- or sub-Roman structures not relevant to the amphitheatre as an institution, is summarised below.
Amphitheatres and the military
Only two legionary amphitheatres have been identified in Britain, Chester and Caerleon, although the late third- or fourth-century amphitheatre at Richborough may belong to a phase of the site when it was occupied by Legio II Augusta (Cunliffe 1968, 248). However, up to nineteen true amphitheatres are known in all in the province (Bateman 1997, 74 and a newly discovered possible site at Carlisle). Apparently uniquely among British amphitheatres, Chester’s was of Golvin’s (1988, ii) Group 2, amphithéâtres à structure creuse (amphitheatres of hollow construction) (Thompson 1976, 148), so there is no reason to suppose that it necessarily left a substantial earthwork ruin. On the other hand, an assessment of the levels in the car park of Dee House and the stratigraphy beneath it (Cleary et al. 1994, 20), suggested that a hump corresponding to the position of a seating bank can be detected in the post-medieval deposits. This may, of course, be a ‘bank’ composed of rubble from the collapsed outer walls of the structure; at any rate, its evident presence is significant as no such feature appears to have been present in the northern half. It has become received opinion in Britain that amphitheatres associated with military sites did not serve the same function as urban amphitheatres: these military monuments have a larger arena proportionate to the seating than true civilian amphitheatres. Roman archaeologists in Britain have preferred to use
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 the term ludus (Collingwood & Richmond 1969, 117), although this is now thought to denote a gladiatorial training school (Bomgardner 1993, 378). The term ‘military amphitheatre’ has been thought preferable by some (Golvin 1988, 154), but we do not know what (if any) distinction was made between the types in Latin terminology. Military amphitheatres are often thought to have been multi-purpose structures that functioned as training-grounds, drill areas, parade grounds, assembly areas, entertainment structures and so on (Bomgardner 1993, 381). The large size of the arena is believed to demonstrate that the emphasis was on the activities that took place there rather than on audience observation. Moreover, at Caerleon, the minor entrances also led into the arena, although there is no trace of this in the arena wall at Chester. Nevertheless, recent writers such as Golvin (1988) have questioned the extent to which military amphitheatres might have been used for training and even whether they are correctly regarded as distinct from civilian types. Golvin (1988, 156) regards the military amphitheatre as problematical. He disputes that it can be distinguished from the civilian in purely structural terms, stating that the relatively large size of the arena ‘n’est nullement spécifique des amphithéâtres militaires (‘is in no way specific to military amphitheatres’). David Bomgardner (1993, 381) disagrees and his provisional cluster analysis of amphitheatres places Chester in a group that makes the legionary amphitheatres at Xanten and Lambaesis its closest parallels, with that at Vindonissa another near neighbour (1993, 389). This places the Chester amphitheatre very firmly in a western European legionary tradition. Moreover, whereas both Chester’s and Caerleon’s amphitheatres possess outer masonry walls, none of the British civilian examples do, with the exception of the curious structure at Caerwent (Wacher 1974, 386), which may not be an amphitheatre at all. Bomgardner’s (1993, 388) solution to this apparent contradiction lies in his cluster analysis. He identifies three types of amphitheatre: a small group of highly unusual monuments characterised by unusual shape or geometry, a medium sized group of very large amphitheatres (such as the Colosseum in Rome) and a large group of amphitheatres found in both civic and military contexts. This latter, he suggests, is of military origin; even the civic amphitheatres in his model would have been built using military expertise. If this were the case—and it remains to be demonstrated—it nevertheless leaves open the question of why the military would have been involved in civil engineering projects. The rigid distinctions in the modern world between military and civilian may be inappropriate in a Roman context. It is possible that engineers trained by the military might work for civic authorities under contract or after discharge.
The function of Chester’s amphitheatre
The function of the amphitheatre can only be inferred, but there are two pieces of evidence relevant to Chester. One consists of a third-century roundel (Ill 72; RIB 2427.26) of unknown provenance, but now in Paris, which depicts a group of soldiers under the banners of Legiones XX Valeria Victrix (as well as soldiers of II Augusta) watching a venatio (staged beast hunt), with a lion, stag, two dogs, a hare and two peacocks. The shape of the roundel may have been used to suggest the shape of an arena (although, obviously, the roundel is, by definition, circular). It provides evidence that soldiers might expect to watch a typical amphitheatre entertainment: it has no bearing on their participation or otherwise.
Ill 72: a roundel (in Paris) depicting Legiones XX & II watching a venatio Photograph (from Frere & Tomlin 1991) and drawing (after Brushfield 1885)
The second piece of evidence is the slate relief of a retiarius (a gladiator who specialised in fighting with a net and trident) from Newgate Street, Chester (Ill 73). Ralph Jackson (1983, 95) suggests that it may originally have adorned the tomb of a man who had staged a gladiatorial show. Its findspot inside the fortress may preclude this interpretation, though, as it lay either inside the fortress or the canabae legionis, an impossible position for such a monument; it is possible that it was found in a secondary context, having originally been part of a tomb in, say, Handbridge. On the other hand, its location within the very southeastern corner of the enclosure (or perhaps even immediately outside it) and close to the amphitheatre suggests a connection.
Ill 73: a slate bas relief of a retiarius from Newgate Street, Chester (photograph and drawing after Jackson 1983)
The similar location of London amphitheatre between the Cripplegate fort and the town (as noted in Bateman 1997, 78) might suggest a common ideal in siting amphitheatres. The relationship between the fortress and civilian settlement at Chester is rarely considered in other than parasitic terms, with the army as host. However, it is worth exploring the possibility that the point of contact was exploited by both the military and civilian administrations as a place for the transmission of ideologies.
The post-Roman archaeology of the site
This is a subject that requires a great deal more investigation, as the 1960s excavation removed most of the evidence across the site. Only a few cut features were recorded, principally in the arena, and these were divorced from their stratigraphic context, as only the bases had survived the machining-down of what was regarded as ‘overburden’. Discussion here must therefore focus on those areas for which evidence has been recorded.
Identification of early medieval deposits in Chester is always hampered by the lack of a distinctive widespread material culture. However, it was argued above on stratigraphic grounds that some of the deposits and features in Trench IX ought to belong in the early medieval period, as they are clearly post-Roman but lack high medieval material culture. There are a priori reasons for suspecting that the amphitheatre was the site of activity in the sub-Roman and Middle Saxon periods. These include parallels with sites elsewhere (such as Cirencester and Arles) and the traditional foundation date for St John’s church of AD 689. Nevertheless, the small quantity of reported Saxon material in any of the excavations is curious, as the location has been thought to be significant (Ward et al. 1994, 119). However, a rapid scan of Hugh Thompson’s archive reveals that at least two probable early medieval structures were excavated and a case can be made for reassigning the postholes of the ‘central platform’ to this period (above, 00). Moreover, the clay floor-like deposit in Trench IX may be evidence for ‘squatter’ type occupation of the derelict amphitheatre. The stratigraphic position of these features and the lack of datable artefacts in association with them (apart from residual material) strongly indicates an early medieval date. A further possible feature of unknown significance was recorded in the northfacing section of Hugh Thompson’s Trench 1 (A60/1C). Following slight infilling of the arena, a layer of sandstone cobbles was recorded. Stratigraphically, it is slightly later than the partial collapse of the arena wall (at an unknown date) and much earlier than evident post-medieval activity. Its date is probably therefore early medieval or high medieval; at any rate, logic suggests that it is earlier than the subdivision of the site into burgage plots for domestic colonisation c 1200. It appears to consist of a level surface, about 1.5 m above the level of the Roman arena and up to a metre below the contemporary ground surface over the ruined structure. Its function is completely obscure, but if it covered the entire hollow left in the former arena, it suggests a public function rather than domestic.
Although medieval features were recorded throughout the 1960s excavation, they were mostly truncated by the machinery used to clear the post-Roman deposits. As a result, their stratigraphic relationships are uncertain and it is not possible to link them with evidence for contemporary habitation. None of the stratigraphy revealed in 2000 appeared to be of medieval date—with the exception of the possibly medieval stone-lined pit (43) in Trench VI—and all medieval finds were residual in later contexts. However, the survival of earlier twentieth-century stratigraphy in Trench VI suggests that medieval deposits and features may also survive in this area. This is close to the original street frontage and could provide evidence for the presumed medieval colonisation of the former amphitheatre site.
Trench VIII contained part of the foundations of St John’s House and an earlier backfilled feature of unclear form. It is likely that extensive postmedieval stratigraphy survives on this part of the site. It could help clarify the occupation sequence before the construction of St John’s House. It is also likely that post-medieval deposits survive in trench VI.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries
Most of the evidence for the twentieth century consists of a truncation horizon representing the 1960s excavation. Apart from the presence of St John’s House until 1958, much of the site seems to have been largely derelict
Chester Archaeology following the abandonment of the road scheme in the 1930s. There may be some trace of the Amphitheatre Gardens in the southwestern corner of the monument, while demolition deposits for the cottages fronting St John Street were seen to have survived in Trench VI.
The conservation of buried or partly buried remains
Little damage appears to have been done to most of the buried remains, with several important exceptions. Denudation of the gravel surface in the Northern Entrance has exposed part of the stone lining of the axial drain, which needs protection, although many of the stones originally seen protruding through the gravel surface are incorporated within the backfill deposits and do not represent in situ archaeological remains. Although the arena was badly damaged by the preparation works for display (including levelling the exposed bedrock), a few cut features survive, which may be vulnerable to degradation, although there is no evidence for this at present. The main threat is of erosion, either as a result of visitors’ footsteps, or through weathering. That it has not occurred during the almost thirty years since the site opened to the public demonstrates either that the current gravel surface is adequate protection or that erosion has not yet reached a level where it is detectable. The gravel in the Eastern Entrance is very thin and sits directly on top of in situ archaeological deposits in places, exposing them to potential degradation, although again there is no evidence for this at present. However, this does giver serious cause for concern, as does the unconsolidated nature of the rubble used to fill Trench A67/1.
Improved interpretation and presentation
A number of suggestions can be made for enhancing the nature of the displayed remains, although this is not the main purpose of this report. However, the excavation demonstrated that the concrete slabs marking out the position of the outer wall and minor entrances is misaligned by about a metre in an anticlockwise direction. Although this is not significant for the casual visitor, it is nevertheless an inaccurate representation of the buried remains. More serious is the limited visibility and interpretive usefulness of the concrete markers. This could easily be enhanced by, for instance, filling the area between them with sandstone chips or bricks, to indicate the position of solid masonry. It would also help to show the position of the concentric wall, as it is shown on the plan reproduced on the display panel and a number of visitors to the excavation commented on being confused by its absence on the ground. The lack of markers for this wall also misled us into locating Trench IX in the wrong place. The quality and quantity of signage is no longer adequate; much of it requires a level of knowledge not possessed by the average visitor. The triangular display panel by the entrance to the site is an interesting and attractive piece of 1970s design, but the panels are badly faded and in places, their content is dated (and occasionally plain wrong). More information about the later development of the site would help set it in its context within the historic fabric of Chester. The labelling of the architectural fragments by the modern entrance and inside the East Entrance is far too laconic and the label inside the Nemeseum assumes that visitor will know exactly what a Nemeseum was. This type of labelling is no longer seen as appropriate in museums and is not suitable for one of the city’s best known archaeological monuments.
Potential of the data collected for further study
Much of the data recovered by this project derived from very recent contexts (mostly dating c 1969-72) and the finds were largely residual. This seriously limits their potential to generate further work. However, there are a number of possible avenues for research. Firstly, and most importantly, the midden in Trench IX produced a quantity of carbonised material. Given the uncertainty of dating this feature, a radiocarbon assay would give a useful terminus post quem for formation. The source of this carbonised material is not known, and if it derived from structural timbers within the derelict amphitheatre, it could generate a date some centuries too early. However, it is recommended that a radiocarbon date be obtained from a sample that was kept for this purpose. Secondly, the flint point from Trench VII is an important addition to the corpus of prehistoric material from Chester. As no local parallels for the type have previously been reported, it is important the some research be undertaken into the form. Finally, it should be noted that the results of this project are provisional, as the exercise was in the nature of an evaluation designed to assess what, if anything, survived on the northern 41% of the monument. The project has shown that sufficient stratigraphy survives in a number of places to answer some of the research questions (Matthews 2000; below, Appendix 2) and that the data we possess at present will need reinterpretation in the light of any future work that might take place on the site.
Tr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 VI VI VIII VIII IX IX VI VI IX IX IX VII VI IX VIII VII VI VI VIII VIII VIII VII VII VIII VII IX VII VIII III IV I Description Topsoil Modern make-up Topsoil Modern make-up Topsoil Fill of modern (1960s?) cut Concrete marker slabs Modern make-up Topsoil Modern make-up Concrete marker slabs Topsoil Modern make-up Fill of modern (1960s?) cut Modern make-up over St John’s House Modern make-up Backfill of Tr. A68/16? Demolition rubble (1950s?) Demolition rubble (1960×61) Foundations of St John’s House Demolition rubble (1960×61) Modern make-up Linear stain in bedrock Pre-construction deposit (?early C18) Timber amphitheatre beamslot Amphitheatre abandonment? Bedrock Demolition rubble (1960×61)? Gravel arena floor Gravel north entrance floor Gravel arena floor Part of Below Turf 1 Turf 3 Turf 11 2, 8 1 Turf 11 5, 9 Turf 7 6, 10 4 12 13 112 15 45 19 16 22 21, 28 22 63, 120 25 19 + + + Above 2, 8 7 4 15 11 14 13 7 11 14 6, 10 16 17, 18 60 19 22 44 21 = 28 37 24, 46, 46 23, 25 45 27 100 50 24, 45, 53, 82, 57, 67, 106 47, 48, 76, 85, 89 33, 39, 56, 90 36 34 34 117 38 117
52, 87, 40,
32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
V V VIII VIII VIII VIII V V V
Gravel east entrance floor Unexcavated in situ archaeology Pre-construction (?early C18) St John’s House foundations Foundation cut for St John’s House Foundation cut for St John’s House Backfill of 1967 trench Builder’s sand (c 1970?) Make-up deposit
+ 117 36, 37 46 35 20 39 32 32
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 V V VI VI VIII VIII I I I VII I I III III III V IV IX IX IX IX IX IX IX IX IV IV III II II II II II II II Unexcavated in situ archaeology Unexcavated in situ archaeology Wall of stone-lined pit? Concrete drain surround Fill of St John’s House foundation trench Fill of St John’s House foundation trench Modern make-up Sub-square cut (modern) Fill of modern cut Part of bedrock? Sub-square cut (modern) Fill of modern cut Fill of modern drainage cut Cut for modern land drain (c 1969) Gravel fill of modern drainage cut Rubble backfill of 1967 trench Backfill of 1960s trench Post-Roman midden NOT USED Fill of later robber trench Later robber trench Fill of earlier robber trench Earlier robber trench Natural accumulation over midden South wall of amphitheatre Entrance 4 Compacted make-up? Backfill of 1960s trench Bedrock “Shadow” of Roman column fragment Gravel arena surface Modern make-up Cut for modern land drain Cut for modern land drain Bedrock Sandstone brash 117 117 112 17 24 21, 28 31, 48, 51 49 31 27 52 31 29 55 53 32 30 64 61 63 14, 119 60 61 62 104 64 57 30 54, 83, 114 70 + 70 71 71 75 71, 72, 73, 79, 125, 126 31 84, 86, 116, 128 84, 86 80 69 56 29 82 85 47 87 47 89 47 117 112 20 35 85, 87, 89, 127 47 49 47 51 55 68 54 81 66, 94, 95, 108, 121 101 61 62 63 26 58, 65, 99 103 91, 95 80 69, 71 72, 73, 123, 126 74 75 74
112 37 36
76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90
I I I II II V III III I I I I I I V
Modern axial drain cover slabs Sandstone brash Bedrock Pit for column fragment Fill of Roman pit Backfill of 1967 trench? Fill of posthole? Posthole? Roman axial drain Modern backfill of Roman axial drain Posthole Fill of posthole Posthole? Fill of posthole? In situ archaeology?
115 78 74 79 117 83 68 78 84 77 86 77 88 -
79 117 83
84 86 88
91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 IV IV IV IV IV III IV IV IX IX IX IX IX IX IV IV IV IV IV IV IX VI III III I I V IX IX IX IV IV II II II II I I IV Fill of modern cut feature Modern posthole? Modern posthole? Fill of modern cut feature Backfill of modern drain Concrete roof slabs of modern drain Gravel in base of modern drain Stone lining of Roman axial drain Part of midden? Fill of shallow cut Abandonment deposit below midden Fill of robber trench of concentric wall? Abandonment deposit? Shallow cut feature Backfill of 1960s trench? Backfill of 1960s trench? Sandstone lining of well Backfill of partly-excavated well Roman axial drain reused as land drain Well partly excavated in 1969 Robber trench of concentric wall Cut of Trench A68/16 Concrete drain Cut of modern drain Concrete axial drain Cut of modern axial drain 1967 Trench Dark material (organic?) Modern cut (1960s?) Abandonment deposit? Fill around sandstone lining of well Bedrock Concrete drain cover slabs Concrete drain lining Cut for modern axial drain Cut for modern land drain Fill of trench for facing of dividing wall Trench for putting facing on dividing wall Construction backfill of Roman axial drain 92 67 91 94 57 57, 67 29 95 97, 129 64 26 58 101 111 100 92 105 108 57 98 107 102 44 96 113 76 115 38, 40, 81 14 118 119 57 93, 109, 110 71 123 124 71 47 127 109 106 92 105 93 97 98 109 104 102 111 64 106 129 110 107 122 122 103 18, 43 114 68 116 77 33, 41, 42, 90 119 60, 120 26 107 124 125 75 75 128 77 98
93 109 114 109 109 58
7 11 17 25 36 37 38 43 44 48 51 Tr. VI IX VI VII VIII VIII V VI VI I I Description Concrete marker slabs Concrete marker slabs Backfill of Tr. A68/16? Timber amphitheatre beamslot Foundation cut for St John’s House Foundation cut for St John’s House Backfill of 1967 trench Wall of stone-lined pit? Concrete drain surround Sub-square cut (modern) Sub-square cut (modern) Contains 2, 8 6, 10 13 22 35, 46 20, 45 39 17 17 49 52 Cuts 13 14 43, 44 27 34 34 77 77
54 58 61 63 65 72 73 79 83 84 86 88 92 93 96 99 104 109 110 111 III IX IX IX IX II II II III I I I IV IV III IX IX IV IV IX Cut for modern land drain (c 1969) Post-Roman midden Later robber trench Earlier robber trench South wall of amphitheatre Entrance 4 Cut for modern land drain Cut for modern land drain Pit for column fragment Posthole? Roman axial drain Posthole Posthole? Modern posthole? Modern posthole? Concrete roof slabs of modern drain Part of midden? Shallow cut feature Roman axial drain Well Robber trench of concentric wall? 53, 55 60 62 68 101 62 26
69, 80 82 85 87 89 91 94 29 64 100 95, 97, 98 107, 108 102
74 75 74 68 78 77 77 105 64 -
Tr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 VI IX VII VIII IX VI IX VII VIII VI IX VII VIII VI VI IX VII VII VII VI VII VIII VIII VIII IX VI VI IX IX VIII Description Turf Turf Turf Turf Concrete markers Topsoil Topsoil Topsoil Topsoil Makeup Makeup Makeup Makeup Concrete markers Makeup Modern cut Makeup Beamslot Stain on bedrock 1968 Trench Bedrock Makeup Demolition of St John’s House, 1960/61 St John’s House construction Later robber trench of south wall of Entrance 4 Demolition of houses on St John Street Stone-lined pit Earlier robber trench of south wall of Entrance 4 Abandonment of amphitheatre Pre-construction of St John’s House Date Comprises contexts Turf Turf Turf Turf 11 1 5, 9 12 3 2, 8 10 16 4 7 13 6, 14, 118, 119 22 25 23 17, 44, 112 27, 50 15 19, 21, 24, 28 20, 35, 36, 37, 45, 46 60, 61 18 43 62, 63 26, 120 34
31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 IX IX IX IX IX IX IX III III III III III I I I I I I I I I II II II II II V V Cut feature Abandonment of amphitheatre Midden Abandonment of amphitheatre Robber trench of concentric wall Abandonment of amphitheatre South wall of Entrance 4 Gravel arena floor Land drain Posthole Modern perimeter drain Bedrock Gravel arena floor Makeup Modern posthole Modern posthole Modern axial drain Roman axial drain Posthole Posthole Bedrock Gravel arena floor Roman pit (originally containing column fragment) Makeup Modern land drains Bedrock Gravel east entrance floor Backfill of 1967 Trench A67/1 100, 104 64 58, 99 101 102, 111 103 65 29 53, 54, 55 82, 83 96, 113, 114 68 31 47 48, 49 51, 52 76, 115, 116 84, 85 86, 87 88, 89 77, 78 70 69, 79, 80 71 72, 73, 126 74, 75 32 38, 39, 40, 56, 81, 117 33, 41, 42, 90 30 57, 66, 67 91, 92 93, 94 95, 97 107, 108, 110, 121 105, 106 98, 109 122 123, 124, 125 126, 127
IV IV IV IV IV IV IV IV IV II I
In situ (and unexcavated) archaeological deposits Gravel north entrance floor Makeup Modern posthole Modern posthole Modern drain Well
Backfill of Trenches A68/14 and A69/1 Roman axial drain Bedrock Modern axial drain Foundation trench for wall facing
Description 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Modern turf Modern gravel Concrete marker strips Topsoil Makeup deposits Modern postholes? Modern postholes Modern drainage scheme Pebbledash wall facing Hugh Thompson’s excavation trenches Date 2000 2000 c 1972 c 1972 c 1972 1980s Comprises subgroups 1, 2, 3, 4 38, 43, 52, 57, 4, 5 6, 7, 8, 9 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 22, 44, 54, 45, 46 62, 63 39, 41, 47, 55, 70 16, 20, 53, 58,
1969 1964 1957-69
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Demolition of St John’s House Demolition of properties on St John Street St John’s House Post-medieval well Pre-construction of St John’s House Stone-lined pit Robbing of south wall of Entrance 4 Post-abandonment occupation Robbing of concentric wall Abandonment Posthole Stone amphitheatre Timber amphitheatre Bedrock 1958 1930s c 1735 C 18 C 18 Medieval C 10-12? C 5-10? C 5-7? C 4-5? ? C2-4 Late C 1 23 26 24 65 30 27 25, 29, 35 36 40 37, 67 18 19, 86
28 31, 32, 33, 34
48, 49, 50, 59,
21, 42, 51, 68,
2: summary of research questions (Matthews 2000, 18)
Question 1 What was the nature of Roman period occupation in the immediate environs of the amphitheatre? How typical is the amphitheatre of other major Roman structures in Chester? How typical is Chester’s amphitheatre of amphitheatres in general? Level of significance6 Local Research mechanisms Excavation
Local National/ International
What is the evidence for modifications to the design of the stone amphitheatre? What evidence is there for the superstructure of the entrances? Are there parallels for internal Nemesea in other amphitheatres? Could the Nemeseum have functioned as a carcer (a room for keeping wild beasts awaiting release into the arena?) Do other amphitheatres have evidence for central platforms? What is the evidence for the superstructure of the platform? Is there any evidence for the function of the platform? What evidence is there for the function of the amphitheatre?
Desk-based research Desk-based research, survey and excavation Survey and excavation Archive reassessment and excavation Desk-based research Archive reassessment Desk-based research Archive reassessment and excavation Archive reassessment Archive reassessment, desk-based research and excavation Archive reassessment, survey and excavation
International Local/ International
Were there changes in the function of the amphitheatre through time?
This represents an attempt to assess the academic relevance of the research question to issues about Chester as a place (‘local’), Britannia as a province (‘national’) or the Roman Empire as a whole (‘international’). 115
13 14 How strong is the evidence that the amphitheatre was primarily for military use? Is there any evidence that soldiers and civilians interacted in the audience? International National Desk-based research Archive reassessment, desk-based research and excavation Desk-based research Archive reassessment, desk-based research and excavation Archive reassessment and excavation Archive reassessment and excavation Archive reassessment and excavation Archive reassessment and excavation Archive reassessment and desk-based research Excavation Desk-based research and excavation Excavation Excavation
How might the amphitheatre have been used and viewed as a symbol of Roman imperialism? Is there any evidence that the amphitheatre was a place of execution?
International Local/ International
What was the later Roman use of the amphitheatre? What are the dates of modifications to the design of the stone amphitheatre? What is the date of the timber amphitheatre?
Local/ National Local
What is the date of the reconstruction of the amphitheatre in stone? Are the dates of rebuilding in the amphitheatre related to the history of occupation at Chester or do they reflect wider trends? What was the nature of post-Roman occupation around the amphitheatre? Was there any connection between the amphitheatre and the postulated Middle Saxon settlement east of the later city? What was the nature of occupation in and around the amphitheatre in the post-Roman period? Is there any indication that the amphitheatre ruins were used during the sub-Roman and Saxon periods? What is the post-Roman history of the amphitheatre? Do the dates of masonry robbing from the amphitheatre correspond to construction dates for St John’s church?
How long were the ruins visible?
How long was the arena visible?
What were the decisions that produced the current display? 7
Desk-based research and excavation Archive reassessment, desk-based research and excavation Desk-based research and excavation Desk-based research and excavation Desk-based research
This question relates to the very recent history of the monument and not directly to its archaeology. As such, it is of a qualitatively different order to the other research questions. 116
3: the approved Project Design Fieldwork at the Roman Amphitheatre, Chester
Site Code: CHE/AMP ‘00 Project Design, June 2000
The consolidated remains of Chester’s Roman amphitheatre were opened to the public in August 1972 as a monument in the care of the Department of the Environment (and latterly English Heritage). This followed a major excavation on the site, which has been fully published (Thompson 1976) and which is widely regarded as one of the typical amphitheatre investigations. A recent rapid appraisal of the excavation archives has revealed that there is a great deal more information to be had from the site. Some re-interpretation of the 1960s excavations is possible owing to the survival of detailed notebooks and previously unreported finds (e.g. human remains); the existence of consolidated structural remains would also allow for a detailed re-analysis of the masonry. However, it is not known if any in situ archaeology survives beneath the displayed monument, either under the gravel of the arena floor or beneath the grass of the seating bank.
The arena floor and northern entrance
Although previous excavations sought to remove the arena floor deposits and surfaces, and to uncover the variety of features cut into the sandstone subsoil/bedrock of the arena floor and northern entrance, we do not know how rigorously this was carried out. Features investigated included a central stonelined drain, post pits of a central platform, other post settings, and Medieval pits. Any arena floor deposits and associated negative features which still survive could be of outstanding archaeological value. For example, previous excavation methodology for both the floor and the fillings of features did not involve sieving of deposits, systematic retrieval of vertebrate remains (although the archive includes both faunal and human bone from the arena floor, which was not referred to in the published report), or environmental sampling. The present modern gravel cover appears to lie directly over the sub-soil/archaeological horizon and is very shallow in places, exposing this horizon to potential damage.
The seating bank
The seating bank is of considerable interest. There is good evidence that, unlike most other known Roman amphitheatres in Britain, Chester’s was not provided with an earthen seating bank, the seating being placed, by contrast, on scaffolding. The bank that now exists is therefore a creation of the early 1970s. Observation by the City Archaeologist of a trench cut into the seating bank in 1999 revealed that, in that area at least, the deposits making up the bank contain large quantities of archaeological material (pottery, animal bone and so on). It is likely that these deposits were derived from the spoil heaps of the 1960s excavations. Excavation (including sieving) of these deposits might yield further archaeological information from finds that were not retrieved during the 1960s, either through a discard policy (for instance, there seems to have been no systematic collection of faunal remains) or owing to the removal by machine of the post-Roman deposits.
Aims and objectives
The proposed project is limited in scale and is closely focused on specific questions. Proposals for further investigation may arise from it in due course. Improved knowledge about the extent and nature of the archaeological remains would be valuable for the future management of the site, in terms of: 1. Research potential (e.g. fine tuning of the research methodologies relating to the specific questions posed in the Research Agenda (Matthews 2000)). Conservation of buried or partly buried remains. Improved on-site interpretation and presentation.
The key question addressed by this project is: What is the surviving extent, nature and condition of the buried remains on the exposed portion of the amphitheatre? Specific questions this project is intended to address are: • • • • • Do any key archaeological features or deposits survive in situ below the gravel surfacing or the seating bank? Do these features and deposits have any archaeological potential (for instance, does any environmental evidence survive in the drain fill)? Does the present gravel arena surface provide sufficient protection to any surviving archaeological features? What potential is there for displaying any features currently covered by the gravel? What is the nature and extent of the ‘modern’ seating bank, and does it have any archaeological potential?
The professional objectives of the project are: • To undertake archaeological work through survey, stratigraphic excavation and such other techniques as are deemed appropriate and applying the highest professional standards of recording to ascertain the presence, date and character of the archaeological remains; To recover high-quality information to fulfil the academic objectives above; To undertake appropriate analysis of all the data recovered and publish the results in a suitable medium; To prepare and deposit the project archive.
• • •
Closing off areas of investigation (without unduly hampering public access onto and around the site). Provision of public information boards.
Arena floor and major entrances 1. Laying out of five linear trenches. i. ii. Trench I (10×2 m) against concrete dividing wall, in centre of arena, to sample timber platform and diverted axial drain. Trench II (5×2 m) half way between concrete dividing wall and northern entrance, to sample axial drain and assess survival of ‘original’ paving. Trench III (5×2 m), against northwestern sector of the arena wall, to sample outer drain and survival of secondary paving. Trench IV (5×2 m + 2×2 m extension to the south at the eastern end) across northern entrance, to north of modern wooden steps and running south along east wall to assess nature of exposed sandstone rubble eroding from modern gravel surface and survival of axial drain. Trench V (4×2 m + 1×2 m extension to the south at the eastern end) in eastern entrance, across the modern concrete step at the point where the entrance narrows with apparently secondary masonry to assess survival of deposits and nature of modern step.
Clearance of gravel cover by hand down to the top of archaeology, cleaning and recording of the exposed archaeological horizon. (Subject to approval of English Heritage) Further investigation of exposed features, including excavation and sampling programme as appropriate.
Seating bank 1. Laying out of four square trenches. i. Trench VI (2×2 m) above the junction of the outer wall and the northern wall of ‘Entrance 2’ to assess nature of support (if any) for modern road. Trench VII (2×2 m) southwest of Nemeseum to assess nature of seating bank deposits immediately rear of the arena wall. Trench VIII (2×2 m) east of the northern entrance, to assess the nature of seating bank deposits in this area and the survival of earlier archaeology. Trench IX (2×2 m) southeast of Entrance 4, immediately inside the ‘concentric wall’ to assess the nature of the seating bank deposits and the survival of earlier archaeology.
Removal of turf cover and excavation by hand of modern deposits encountered, including 100% sieving of soil deposits for complete finds retrieval. Any in situ earlier archaeological remains to be cleaned and recorded but not excavated. (Subject to approval of English Heritage) Further investigation of exposed features, including excavation and sampling programme.
Chester Archaeology Excavation and finds recovery A survey grid shall be established to which all drawings of the site shall be related. The grid shall be related to significant durable features on the largest readily available current map of the area, and shall be plotted on a copy of that map The heights above OD of the corners of the grid shall be recorded. Spoil heaps shall be sited a safe but convenient distance from the excavation. All archaeological deposits shall be excavated by hand in their stratigraphic order, using appropriate tools for the efficient removal of the deposit, the examination of its character and the recovery of artefactual and environmental material within it. All artefactual, industrial, human and animal remains from archaeologically significant deposits will be collected by stratigraphic unit, as will those from control samples. This will normally be done by hand. The discovery of any artefacts made from precious metals will be reported immediately to the City Archaeologist, English Heritage and the appropriate authorities in accordance with the laws relating to Treasure Trove. Such artefacts will immediately be removed to a secure location such as Chester Archaeology’s finds storage facility or the Grosvenor Museum. Any articulated human remains encountered will be left in situ. Home Office regulations will be complied with if the removal of such remains is necessary. The environmental sampling strategy will be agreed with the specialist after in situ inspection of the deposits concerned. However, as a minimum, bulk samples of 10-30 litres shall be collected from all undisturbed waterlogged, charred and other highly organic deposits and from other contexts where plant remains are suspected or the soil micromorphology is judged to be of interest. The reliability of the hand-collection of finds from other deposits should be checked (especially where the nature of the deposits significantly reduces their visibility), e.g. by dry or wet-sieving 20% of sealed deposits through a 5 mm sieve and by the use of a metal detector on spoil tips. The implementation of such checks is necessarily a matter for the excavators’ judgement. On-site recording All trenches shall be designated by upper case roman numerals. Contexts shall be designated by arabic numerals using a single context recording system. A pro forma shall be completed immediately for each context excavated, recording its character, position, relationships, method of excavation, any sampling techniques applied (including amount (litres) and percentage sieved), any finds retrieved but disposed of on site, and initial comments on the date-range and significance of finds (‘spot dates’). A matrix shall be maintained showing the relationships of all contexts excavated. This shall be updated daily and annotated to show preliminary phasing and dating in the light of ‘spot dating’. Plans and sections shall be drawn, at scales of 1/20 and 1/10 respectively, showing the extent and thickness of all deposits. These drawings shall be related to the site grid and show height above OD. All significant deposits and features shall be recorded photographically in black and white prints and colour transparencies using a 35 mm film format.
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 All finds shall be appropriately packaged and labelled for removal from site. This shall be done at least on a daily basis. All artefacts of obvious individual importance (e.g. coins, other recognisable metal objects except nails and dress pins (unless found in meaningful groups), and ceramic stamps) shall be numbered. These numbers shall be recorded in a register. All organic and other samples shall likewise be numbered and recorded in a register. Preliminary comments on the character, date and significance of finds shall be supplied to the site director by specialists as required to inform the excavation process. Reinstatement The trenches will be backfilled, compacted and turf reinstated as appropriate. Any surplus spoil will be disposed of off site. Relevant national standards IFA 1994 Draft standard and guidance for archaeological excavations UKIC 1983 Guidelines no 2: Packaging and storage of freshly excavated artefacts from archaeological sites Watkinson, D & Neal, V eds 1998 First aid for finds. Ed 3. Hertford: Rescue & London: UKIC
A fully illustrated report on the results will be prepared. It will include: • • • • • • • • • • • • • A non-technical summary. A table of contents. Acknowledgements, including a list of all those involved in the project. A statement of the aims of the project. A statement of the methodology of the project. A full description of the archaeological remains identified. Plans, including site location and sections at appropriate scales. Preliminary reports on artefacts, ecofacts and palaeoenvironmental remains. An interpretation of the results. An identification of any research implications arising from the project. An index to the archive. A bibliography of sources consulted. Appendices, including a copy of the agreed Project Design and concordances of stratigraphic information.
Copies of the report will be forwarded within 4 months of the completion of the site work to English Heritage, the Cheshire Sites and Monuments Record and the National Monuments Record. A separate discussion paper setting out any recommendations for further targeted investigation, site conservation measures and interpretation options
Chester Archaeology will be presented to English Heritage. The Council’s draft Research Agenda will be modified to take account of the results.
The project archive will consist of all original records, artefacts, ecofacts, palaeoenvironmental samples and all documentation relating to the project. Copies of the Projects Designs and relevant correspondence will also be included. The archive will comply with the requirements of the agreed repository, which is anticipated to be The Grosvenor Museum. The archive will be ready for deposition within a year of the completion of the project.
The results of the work will be summarised and the CBA North-West Project Summary form completed. Full publication would be the subject of separate discussions with English Heritage.
Confidentiality, publicity and access
The project is being carried out on a non-commercial basis, so issues of confidentiality are not a concern. The site is a public open space owned by the nation and in the care of Chester City Council. The excavation phase of the project will therefore be viewable by the public. Information boards and handouts will be made available, and regular site tours will be arranged.
Chester City Council will retain full copyright of any commissioned reports, project design documents and other documents under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988) with all rights reserved.
Health and Safety
Chester Archaeology operates in accordance with the health and safety procedures set out in: • • • • • The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and related legislation. The Standing Conference of Archaeological Unit Managers’ Health and Safety Manual (2nd edition, 1999). CBA Handbook 6: Safety in Archaeological Fieldwork (1989). The Construction, Design and Management Regulations (1994). Chester Archaeology’s Health and Safety Manual.
A Risk Assessment will be prepared before beginning the fieldwork. All necessary protective clothing and equipment will be used, although as plant machinery etc. will not be used, safety helmets will not normally be worn although these will be available. All staff will be issued with Weill’s Disease cards. Hazards identified during excavation (such as hypodermic syringes, chemicals and asbestos) will be dealt with appropriately and removed from
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 the site. Post-excavation staff will similarly dispose of any similar materials that are identified during post-excavation procedures. If required, any excavation below 1.2 m from the current ground level will be undertaken only with shoring (erected by qualified personnel) or by stepping the sides of the trench for a minimum of 0.5 m. A First Aid kit and Accident Book will be kept on site and in the finds processing facility at all times.
The project will be monitored by English Heritage.
Chester Archaeology will manage the project in accordance with the Chester Archaeology Quality Management system.
Resources and programming
Resources will be provided by the City Council and Chester Archaeological Society. Staff Project Manager: M. Morris, City Archaeologist Site Director: K Matthews, Senior Archaeologist Finds Manager Ian Smith BA MSc In-house Specialists: A. Jones and G. Dunn (Roman finds), J. Edwards (PostRoman finds), Ian Smith (ecofacts and palaeoenvironmental remains) Site staff will be drawn from Chester Archaeological Society field team. Other volunteers and students may also participate under appropriate supervision.
The proposed work will last for four weeks, from Monday 31 July 2000 to Friday 25 August 2000, including all site laying out and reinstatement.
Matthews, K J 2000 Chester amphitheatre research agenda. Chester Archaeology (internal unpublished report) Thompson, F H 1976 Excavation of the Roman amphitheatre at Chester. Archaeologia 105, 127-239 KM/MM 25-4-00/31-5-00
4: Hugh Thompson’s trench numbering scheme
1957/I 1957/II 1957/III 1957/IV On suspected amphitheatre On suspected amphitheatre On suspected amphitheatre On suspected amphitheatre perimeter of perimeter of perimeter of perimeter of
1959/A 1959/B 1959/C 1959/D 1959/E 1959/F St John’s House cellar SJH 1 SJH 2 SJH 3 SJH 4 SJH 5 SJH 6 Trench 1 (1W, 1C & 1E) Trench 2 Trench 3 Trench 4 Trench 5 Trench 6 Trench 7 A64/1 (64/1W, 64/1C & 64/1E) A65/1 A65/2 A65/3 A66/1 A66/2 A66/3 A67/1 A67/2 A67/3 A67/4 A67/AR/1 A67/AR/2 A67/AR/3 A67/AR/4 A67/AR/5 A68/1 A68/2 A68/3 A68/4 A68/5 A68/6 A68/7 A68/8 A68/9 A68/10 A68/11 A68/12 A68/13 A68/14 A68/15 A68/16 A69/1 A69/2
25.4.60-25.5.60 26.5.60-27.6.60 19.7.60-7.12.60 19.7.60-7.12.60 17.11.60-8.2.61 15.12.60-9.2.61 30.1.61-9.2.61 21.6.60-16.11.60 13.7.61-26.7.61 26.7.61-8.8.61 3.8.61-1.9.61 4.9.61-19.9.61 18.9.61-2.10.61 2.10.61-19.10.61 20.7.64-23.64 19.7.65-13.8.65 2.8.65-23.8.65 16.8.65-31.8.65 11.7.66-27.7.66 19.7.66-7.10.66 10.8.66-7.10.66 13.7.67-14.11.67 20.7.67-14.11.67 26.7.67-14.11.67 1.8.67-14.11.67 13.7.67-22.9.67 13.7.67-22.9.67 13.7.67-22.9.67 13.7.67-22.9.67 13.7.67-22.9.67 8.7.68-9.7.68 8.7.68-17.7.68 11.7.68-19.7.68 18.7.68-24.7.68 22.7.68-31.7.68 29.7.68-1.8.68 29.7.68-1.8.68 30.7.68-6.8.68 30.7.68-7.8.68 30.7.68-6.8.68 31.7.68-8.8.68 2.8.68-19.9.68 7.8.68-19.9.68 8.8.68-19.9.68 9.8.68-13.8.68 14.8.68-16.8.68 23.6.69-17.7.69 23.6.69-16.7.69
Off SE corner of cellar
Line of convent wall Arena wall, west of site From arena wall to outer wall, west of site Arena wall, northwest of site Arena wall, east of north entrance From arena wall to outer wall, northeast of site Arena wall, north of east entrance North face of concrete retaining wall West section of arena wall Northwest section of arena wall North section of arena wall Northeast section of arena wall East section of arena wall
Southwest quadrant of east entrance Southeast quadrant of east entrance Northwest quadrant of east entrance Northeast quadrant of east entrance Southernmost strip of arena Between AR/1 and AR/3 Central strip of arena Between AR/3 and AR/5 Northernmost strip of arena Small trench, northeast sector Seating bank between east entrance and vomitorium 4 Seating bank around Nemeseum Seating bank between vomitorium 4 and St John’s House cellar Seating bank south of vomitorium 2 Small trench north of A68/1 Small trench northwest of St John’s House cellar Small trench east of north entrance, outer wall Small trench west of north entrance, outer wall Small trench, outer wall, northwest of Nemeseum Small trench, outer wall, northeast of A68/6 Western wall of north entrance Outer edge of north entrance Western half of north entrance Small trench west of A68/9 Small trench between A68/10 and A68/15 East half of north entrance Outer wall of north entrance, east side
A69/3 23.6.69-16.7.69 East wall of north entrance
5: Latin terms used in relation to amphitheatres
Term Definition Female gladiators An amphitheatre Gladiators whose helmets prevented them from seeing The place of combat in an amphitheatre; a combat in the arena; the combatants in the arena A free men who volunteered to become a gladiator A vacant space between the seats in an amphitheatre Gladiators who fought wild beasts A richly decorated seat of honour, with room for two people, although only one sat on it A den for wild animals; a prison The part of a theatre in which spectators sat; the spectators’ seats The public banquet given to gladiators the day before a show A slaughterer; one employed in the arena to give the coup de grâce to a wounded man or animal A wedge-shaped block of seats defined by praecinctiones and scalae Gladiators who fought with two swords Animal trainers The producer of the games Gladiators who fought on horseback Gladiators who fought in war chariots, like the Britons The drain running around the circus (peripheral drain) A troupe of gladiators A class of gladiator later known as myrmillones, who wore a fish crest on their helmets A row of seats Gladiators who fought with an especially large shield Manager of a troupe of gladiators Gladiators who fought with a lasso A place of exercise or practice; a school for elementary instruction; gladiatorial training school, sometimes in the form of an amphitheatre. Combat between wild beasts and gladiators ‘Warm-up’ gladiators who fought with wooden weapons The first bank of seating above the podium The second bank of seating above the Source Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Lewis 1879, 221 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Thompson 1976, 128; Lewis 1879, 290 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Lewis 1879, 411 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Noy 2000 Grout 2000 Grout 2000 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Canu 2000 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Canu 2000 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 128 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Thompson 1976, 127 Thompson 1976, 127 Canu 2000 Grout 2000
amazones amphitheatrum andabatae arena/harena auctoratus balteus bestiarii bisellium carcer cauea cena libera confector cunei dimachaeri domatores editor equites essedarii euripus familia gladiatoria galli gradus hoplomachi lanista laquearii ludus
ludus bestiarius lusorii maenianum primum/ima maenianum secundum maenianum summum matutini meridianum spectaculum
The topmost bank of seating Performers with animals (literally ‘morning men’) The mid-day execution of criminals
munera munus gladiatorium myrmillones naumachia nemeseum parmularii podium porta libitinensis porta sanauiuaria porta triumphalis portae pompae portae posticae
Games, shows, spectacles, entertainment or exhibition (particularly of gladiators) given in an amphitheatre; an amphitheatre A gladiatorial show Gladiators who wore a fish crest on their helmets A mock sea-fight, involving the flooding of the arena; a place where mock sea-fights were exhibited A shrine dedicated to Nemesis, the patron goddess of justice Gladiators who fought with small shields The projecting parapet or balcony next to the arena, on which bisellia were placed The porta postica through which corpses were removed; literally, relating to the goddess of corpses The gate through which gladiators shown mercy left the arena The gate through which the victorious gladiators left the arena The main entrances at either end of the long axis, communicating with the arena (related to pompa, ritual procession) The minor entrances at either end of the short axis, which opened into rooms beneath the podium and into the arena; literally, backdoor A broad landing or lobby around the amphitheatre, or between each tier of seats Gladiators trained to taunt their opponents A cushioned seat in a tribunal A gladiator who fought with a net and trident A symbolic wooden sword presented to a gladiator on retirement Gladiators who fought with a bow and arrow The main form of gladiator under the Republic A flight of steps running radially through the cavea and dividing it into cunei Gladiators who were trained to slice pieces off their opponents Gladiators who fought with large shields Gladiators whose speciality was to chase Thompson 1976, 127 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Thompson 1976, 128 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Thompson 1976, 128 Grout 2000 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 128 Thompson 1976, 128 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 128 Grout 2000 Grout 2000 Grout 2000 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Grout 2000 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Lewis 1879, 1745 Grout 2000 Canu 2000 Thompson 1976, 128 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 127 Grout 2000 Thompson 1976, 128
praecinctio prouocatores puluinar retiarius rudis sagitarii samnites scalae scissores scutarii secutores spectacula spoliarium suppositicii thessalos equites tribunal uelarium uelites uenatio uenatores uomitoria
Sights, or shows, stage-plays, spectacles given in an amphitheatre; an amphitheatre The room where clothes were stripped from slain gladiators Fighters held in reserve ‘Thessalian’ horsemen; performers in the
Box for senior officials placed on the podium at either end of the short axis The awning stretched over the cavea from behind the maenianum summum Gladiators who fought with a spear attached to a leather thong for quick retrieval A mock animal-hunt; a beast fight Specialists in uentaiones Entrances to the cavea, usually by means of openings in the outer wall, leading to internal staircases
6: Classical texts dealing with amphitheatres
M Tullius Cicero
sed quid hos quibus olympiorum uictoria consulatus ille antiquus uidetur? gladiatores, aut perditi homines aut barbari, quas plagas perferunt! quo modo illi, qui bene instituti sunt, accipere plagam malunt quam turpiter uitare! quam saepe apparet nihil eos malle quam uel domino satis facere uel populo! mittunt etiam uulneribus confecti ad dominos qui quaerant quid uelint; si satis eis factum sit, se uelle decumbere. quis mediocris gladiator ingemuit, quis uultum mutauit umquam? quis non modo stetit, uerum etiam decubuit turpiter? quis, cum decubuisset, ferrum recipere iussus collum contraxit? tantum exercitatio, meditatio, consuetudo ualet. ergo hoc poterit samnis, spurcus homo, uita illa dignus locoque, uir natus ad gloriam ullam partem animi tam mollem habebit, quam non meditatione et ratione conroboret? crudele gladiatorum spectaculum et inhumanum non nullis uideri solet, et haud scio an ita sit, ut nunc fit. cum uero sontes ferro depugnabant, auribus fortasse multae, oculis quidem nulla poterat esse fortior contra dolorem et mortem disciplina. [Tusculanarum disputationum ii.41]
romae m octobris anno dcxcix m cicero s d m mario
…reliquae sunt uenationes binae per dies quinque, magnificae, nemo negat; sed quae potest homini esse polito delectatio, cum aut homo imbecillus a ualentissima bestia laniatur aut praeclara bestia uenabulo transuerberatur? quae tamen, si uidenda sunt, saepe uidisti; neque nos, qui haec spectamus, quicquam noui uidimus. extremus elephantorum dies fuit. in quo admiratio magna uulgi atque turbae, delectatio nulla exstitit; quin etiam misericordia quaedam consecutast atque opinio eiusmodi, esse quandam illi beluae cum genere humano societatem. [Epistuli ad familiares vii.1, 3]
L Annaeus Seneca
seneca lucilio salutem
quid tibi uitandum praecipue existimes quaeris? turbam. nondum illi tuto committeris. ego certe confitebor imbecillitatem meam: numquam mores quos extuli refero; aliquid ex eo quod composui turbatur, aliquid ex iis quae fugaui redit. quod aegris euenit quos longa imbecillitas usque eo affecit ut nusquam sine offensa proferantur, hoc accidit nobis quorum animi ex longo morbo reficiuntur. inimica est multorum conuersatio: nemo non aliquod nobis uitium aut commendat aut imprimit aut nescientibus allinit. utique quo maior est populus cui miscemur, hoc periculi plus est. nihil uero tam damnosum bonis moribus quam in aliquo spectaculo desidere; tunc enim per uoluptatem facilius uitia subrepunt. quid me existimas dicere? auarior redeo, ambitiosior, luxuriosior? immo uero crudelior et inhumanior, quia inter homines fuit. casu in meridianum spectaculum incidi, lusus exspectans et sales et aliquid laxamenti quo hominum oculi ab humano cruore acquiescant. contra est: quidquid ante pugnatum est misericordia fuit; nunc omissis nugis mera homicidia sunt. nihil habent quo tegantur; ad ictum totis corporibus ex positi numquam frustra manum mittunt. hoc plerique ordinariis paribus et postulaticiis praeferunt. quidni praeferant? non galea, non scuto repellitur ferrum. quo munimenta? quo artes? omnia ista mortis morae sunt. mane leonibus et ursis homines, meridie spectatoribus suis obiciuntur. interfectores interfecturis iubent obici et uictorem in aliam detinent caedem; exitus pugnantium mors est. ferro et igne res geritur. haec fiunt dum uacat harena. ‘sed latrocinium fecit aliquis, occidit hominem.’ quid ergo? quia occidit, ille meruit ut hoc pateretur: tu quid meruisti miser ut hoc spectes? ‘occide, uerbera, ure! quare tam timide incurrit in ferrum? quare parum audacter
Chester Archaeology occidit? quare parum libenter moritur? plagis agatur in uulnera, mutuos ictus nudis et obuiis pectoribus excipiant.’ intermissum est spectaculum: ‘interim iugulentur homines, ne nihil agatur’. age, ne hoc quidem intellegitis, mala exempla in eos redundare qui faciunt? agite dis immortalibus gratias quod eum docetis esse crudelem qui non potest discere. subducendus populo est tener animus et parum tenax recti: facile transitur ad plures. socrati et catoni et laelio excutere morem suum dissimilis multitudo potuisset: adeo nemo nostrum, qui cum maxime concinnamus ingenium, ferre impetum uitiorum tam magno comitatu uenientium potest. unum exemplum luxuriae aut auaritiae multum mali facit: conuictor delicatus paulatim eneruat et mollit, uicinus diues cupiditatem irritat, malignus comes quamuis candido et simplici rubiginem suam affricuit: quid tu accidere his moribus credis in quos publice factus est impetus? necesse est aut imiteris aut oderis. utrumque autem deuitandum est: neue similis malis fias, quia multi sunt, neue inimicus multis, quia dissimiles sunt. recede in te ipse quantum potes; cum his uersare qui te meliorem facturi sunt, illos admitte quos tu potes facere meliores. mutuo ista fiunt, et homines dum docent discunt. non est quod te gloria publicandi ingenii producat in medium, ut recitare istis uelis aut disputare; quod facere te uellem, si haberes isti populo idoneam mercem: nemo est qui intellegere te possit. aliquis fortasse, unus aut alter incidet, et hic ipse formandus tibi erit instituendusque ad intellectum tui. ‘cui ergo ista didici?’ non est quod timeas ne operam perdideris, si tibi didicisti. sed ne soli mihi hodie didicerim, communicabo tecum quae occurrunt mihi egregie dicta circa eundem fere sensum tria, ex quibus unum haec epistula in debitum soluet, duo in antecessum accipe. democritus ait, ‘unus mihi pro populo est, et populus pro uno.’ bene et ille, quisquis fuit—ambigitur enim de auctore—cum quaereretur ab illo quo tanta diligentia artis spectaret ad paucissimos peruenturae, ‘satis sunt’ inquit ‘mihi pauci, satis est unus, satis est nullus.’ egregie hoc tertium epicurus, cum uni ex consortibus studiorum suorum scriberet: ‘haec’ inquit ‘ego non multis, sed tibi; satis enim magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus.’ ista, mi lucili, condenda in animum sunt, ut contemnas uoluptatem ex plurium assensione uenientem. multi te laudant: ecquid habes cur placeas tibi, si is es quem intellegant multi? introrsus bona tua spectent. uale. [Epistularium moralium ad Lucilium i.7]
M Valerius Martialis de spectaculis [fragments]
barbara pyramidum sileat miracula memphis, assyrius iactet nec babylona labor; nec triuiae templo molles laudentur Iones, dissimulet delon cornibus ara frequens aere nec uacuo pendentia mausolea laudibus inmodicis cares in astra ferant. omnis caesareo cedit labor amphitheatro, unum pro cunctis fama loquetur opus.
hic ubi sidereus propius uidet astra colossus et crescunt media pegmata celsa uia, inuidiosa feri radiabant atria regis unaque iam tota stabat in urbe domus; hic ubi conspicui uenerabilis amphitheatri erigitur moles, stagna neronis erant; hic ubi miramur uelocia munera thermas, abstulerat miseris tecta superbus ager; claudia diffusas ubi porticus explicat umbras, deliciae populi, quae fuerant domini.
quae tam seposita est, quae gens tam barbara, caesar, ex qua spectator non sit in urbe tua? uenit ab orpheo cultor rhodopeius haemo, uenit et epolo sarmata pastus equo, et qui prima bibit deprensi flumina Nili, et quem supremae tethyos unda ferit; festinauit arabs, festinauere sabaei, et cilices nimbis hic maduere suis. crinibus in nodum tortis uenere sygambri, atque aliter tortis crinibus aethiopes. uox diuersa sonat populorum, tum tamen una est, cum uerus patriae diceris esse pater.
turba grauis paci placidaeque inimica quieti, quae semper miseras sollicitabat opes, traducta est <getulis> nec cepit harena nocentis: et delator habet quod dabat exilium. exulat ausonia profugus delator ab urbe: haec licet inpensis principis adnumeres.
iunctam pasiphaen dictaeo credit tauro: uidimus, accepit fabula prisca fidem. nec se miretur, caesar, longaeua uetustas: quidquid fama canit, praestat harena tibi.
belliger inuictis quod mars tibi seruit in armis, non satis est, caesar, seruit et ipsa uenus. VIb prostratum uasta nemees in ualle leonem nobile et herculeum fama canebat opus. prisca fides taceat: nam post tua munera, caesar, hoc iam femineo marte fatemur agi.
qualiter in scythica religatus rupe prometheus adsiduam nimio pectore pauit auem, nuda caledonia sic uiscera praebuit urso non falsa pendens in cruce laureolus. uiuebant laceri membris stillantibus artus inque omni nusquam corpore corpus erat. denique supplicium dignum tulit: ille parentis uel domini iugulum foderat ense nocens, templa uel arcano demens spoliauerat auro, subdiderat saeuas uel tibi, roma, faces. uicerat antiquae sceleratus crimina famae, in quo, quae fuerat fabula, poena fuit.
daedale, lucano cum sic lacereris ab urso, quam cuperes pinnas nunc habuisse tuas!
praestitit exhibitus tota tibi, caesar, harena quae non promisit proelia rhinoceros. o quam terribilis exarsit pronus in iras! quantus erat taurus, cui pila taurus erat!
laeserat ingrato leo perfidus ore magistrum, ausus tam notas contemerare manus, sed dignas tanto persoluit crimine poenas, et qui non tulerat uerbera, tela tulit. quos decet esse hominum tali sub principe mores, qui iubet ingenium mitius esse feris!
praeceps sanguinea dum se rotat ursus harena, inplicitam uisco perdidit ille fugam. splendida iam tecto cessent uenabula ferro, nec uolet excussa lancea torta manu; deprendat uacuo uenator in aere praedam, si captare feras aucupis arte placet.
inter caesareae discrimina saeua dianae fixisset grauidam cum leuis hasta suem, exiluit partus miserae de uulnere matris. o lucina ferox, hoc peperisse fuit? pluribus illa mori uoluisset saucia telis, omnibus ut natis triste pateret iter. quis negat esse satum materno funere bacchum? sic genitum numen credite: nata fera est.
icta graui telo confossaque uulnere mater sus pariter uitam perdidit atque dedit. o quam certa fuit librato dextera ferro! hanc ego lucinae credo fuisse manum. experta est numen moriens utriusque dianae, quaque soluta parens quaque perempta fera est.
sus fera iam grauior maturi pignori uentris emisit fetum, uolnere facta parens; nec iacuit partus, sed matre cadente cucurrit. o quantum est subitis casibus ingenium!
summa tuae, meleagre, fuit quae gloria famae, quantast carpophori portio, fusus aper! ille et praecipiti uenabula condidit urso, primus in arctoi qui fuit arce poli, strauit et ignota spectandum mole leonem, herculeas potuit qui decuisse manus, et uolucrem longo porrexit uulnere pardum. praemia cum tandem ferret, adhuc poterat.
raptus abit media quod ad aethera taurus harena, non fuit hoc artis, sed pietatis opus. XVIb uexerat europen fraterna per aequora taurus: at nunc alciden taurus in astra tulit. caesaris atque iouis confer nunc, fama, iuuencos: par onus ut tulerint, altius iste tulit.
quod pius et supplex elephas te, caesar, adorat hic modo qui tauro tam metuendus erat, non facit hoc iussus, nulloque docente magistro,
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 crede mihi, nostrum sentit et ille deum.
lambere securi dextram consueta magistri tigris, ab hyrcano gloria rara iugo, saeua ferum rabido lacerauit dente leonem: res noua, non ullis cognita temporibus. ausa est tale nihil, siluis dum uixit in altis: postquam inter nos est, plus feritatis habet.
qui modo per totam flammis stimulatus harenam sustulerat raptas taurus in astra pilas. occubuit tandem cornuto adore petitus, dum facilem tolli sic elephanta putat.
cum peteret pars haec myrinum, pars illa triumphum, promisit pariter caesar utraque manu. non potuit melius litem finire iocosam. o dulce inuicti principis ingenium!
quidquid in orpheo rhodope spectasse theatro dicitur, exhibuit, caesar, harena tibi. repserunt scopuli mirandaque silua cucurrit, quale fuisse nemus creditur hesperidum. adfuit inmixtum pecori genus omne ferarum et supra uatem multa pependit auis, ipse sed ingrato iacuit laceratus ab urso. haec tantum res est facta παρ’‘ιστορίαν. XXIb orphea quod subito tellus emisit hiatu ursam elisuram, uenit ab eurydice.
sollicitant pauidi dum rhinocerota magistri seque diu magnae colligit ira ferae, desperabantur promissi proelia martis; sed tandem rediit cognitus ante furor. namque grauem cornu gemino sic extulit ursum, iactat ut inpositas taurus in astra pilas:
norica tam certo uenabula dirigit ictu fortis adhuc teneri dextera carpophori. ille tulit geminos facili ceruice iuuencos, illi cessit atrox bubalus atque uison: hunc leo cum fugeret, praeceps in tela cucurrit. i nunc et lentas corripe, turba, moras!
si quis ades longis serus spectator ab oris, cui lux prima sacri muneris ista fuit, ne te decipiat ratibus naualis enyo et par unda fretis, hic modo terra fuit. non credis? specta, dum lassant aequora martem: parua mora est, dices ‘hic modo pontus erat.’
quod nocturna tibi, leandre, pepercerit unda desine mirari: caesaris unda fuit.
Chester Archaeology XXVb cum peteret dulces audax leandros amores et fessus tumidis iam premeretur aquis, sic miser instantes adfatus dicitur undas: ‘parcite dum propero, mergite cum redeo.’
lusit nereidum docilis chorus aequore toto et uario faciles ordine pinxit aquas. fuscina dente minax recto fuit, ancora curuo: credidimus remum credidimusque ratem, et gratum nautis sidus fulgere laconum lataque perspicuo uela tumere sinu. quis tantas liquidis artes inuenit in undis? aut docuit lusus hos thetis aut didicit.
saecula carpophorum, caesar, si prisca tulissent, non porthaoniam barbara terra feram, non marathon taurum, nemee frondosa leonem, arcas maenalium non timuisset aprum. hoc armante manus hydrae mors una fuisset, huic percussa foret tota chimaera semel. igniferos possit sine colchide iungere tauros, possit utramque feram uincere pasiphaes. si uetus aequorei reuocetur fabula monstri, hesionen soluet solus et andromedan. herculeae laudis numeretur gloria: plus est bis denas pariter perdomuisse feras.
augusti labor hic fuerat committere classes et freta nauali sollicitare tuba. caesaris haec nostri pars est quota? uidit in undis et thetis ignotas et galatea feras; uidit in aequoreo feruentes puluere currus et domini triton isse putauit equos: dumque parat saeuis ratibus fera proelia nereus, horruit in liquidis ire pedestris aquis. quidquid et in circo spectatur et amphitheatro, id diues, caesar, praestitit unda tibi. fucinus et diri taceantur stagna neronis: hanc norint unam saecula naumachiam.
cum traheret priscus, traheret certamina uerus, esset et aequalis mars utriusque diu, missio saepe uiris magno clamore petita est; sed caesar legi paruit ipse suae: lex erat, ad digitum posita concurrere parma: quod licuit, lances donaque saepe dedit. inuentus tamen est finis discriminis aequi: pugnauere pares, subcubuere pares. misit utrique rudes et palmas caesar utrique: hoc pretium uirtus ingeniosa tulit. contigit hoc nullo nisi te sub principe, caesar: cum duo pugnarent, uictor uterque fuit.
concita ueloces fugeret cum damma molossos et uaria lentas necteret arte moras, caesaris ante pedes supplex similisque roganti constitit, et praedam non tetigere canes. ............................................
Chester/Amphitheatre 2000 haec intellecto principe dona tulit. numen habet caesar: sacra est haec, sacra potestas, credite: mentiri non didicere ferae.
da ueniam subitis: non displicuisse meretur, festinat, caesar, qui placuisse tibi.
cedere maiori uirtutis fama secunda est. illa grauis palma est, quam minor hostis habet.
flauia gens, quantum tibi tertius abstulit heres! paene fuit tanti, non habuisse duos.
C Plinius Secundus [Pliny the Younger]
uisum est spectaculum inde non enerue nec fluxum nec quod animos uirorum molliret et frangeret, sed quod ad pulchra uulnera contemptumque mortis accenderet, cum in seruorum etiam noxiorumque corporibus amor laudis et cupido uictoriae cerneretur. [Panegyric of Trajan xxxiii.1-5]
C Suetonius Tranquillus
saeuum et sanguinarium natura fuisse, magnis minimisque apparuit rebus. tormenta quaestionum poenasque parricidarum repraesentabat exigebatque coram. cum spectare antiqui moris supplicium tiburi concupisset et deligatis ad palum noxiis carnifex deesset, accitum ab urbe uesperam usque opperiri perseuerauit. quocumque gladiatorio munere, uel suo uel alieno, etiam forte prolapsos iugulari iubebat, maxime retiarios, ut expirantium facies uideret. cum par quoddam mutuis ictibus concidisset, cultellos sibi paruulos ex utroque ferro in usum fieri sine mora iussit. bestiaris meridianisque adeo delectabatur, ut et prima luce ad spectaculum descenderet et meridie dimisso ad prandium populo persederet praeterque destinatos etiam leui subitaque de causa quosdam committeret, de fabrorum quoque ac ministrorum atque id genus numero, si automatum uel pegma uel quid tale aliud parum cessisset. Induxit et unum ex nomenculatoribus suis, sic ut erat togatus. [Diuus Claudius xxxiv]
Q Septimius Florens Tertullianus [Tertullian]
pluribus enim et asperioribus nominibus amphitheatrum consecratur quam capitolium: omnium daemonum templum est… exspectabimus nunc ut et amphitheatri repudium de scripturis petamus? si saevitiam, si impietatem, si feritatem permissam nobis contendere possumus, eamus in amphitheatrum. si tales sumus quales dicimur, delectemur sanguine humano. ‘bonum est, cum puniuntur nocentes.’ quis hoc nisi nocens negabit? et tamen innocentes de supplicio alterius laetari non oportet, cum magis competat innocenti dolere, quod homo, par eius, tam nocens factus est, ut tam crudeliter impendatur. quis autem mihi sponsor est, nocentes semper vel ad bestias vel ad quodcumque supplicium decerni, ut non innocentiae quoque inferatur aut ultione iudicantis aut infirmitate defensionis aut instantia quaestionis? quam melius ergo est nescire cum mali puniuntur, ne sciam et cum boni pereunt, si tamen bonum sapiunt. certe quidem gladiatores innocentes in ludum veneunt, ut publicae voluptatis hostiae fiant. etiam qui damnantur in ludum, quale est ut de leviore delicto in homicidas emendatione proficiant? sed haec ethnicis respondi. ceterum absit ut de istius spectaculi aversione diutius discat Christianus. quamquam nemo haec omnia plenius exprimere potest nisi qui adhuc spectat. malo non implere quam meminisse. [de spectaculis xii.7 & xix]
Chester Archaeology … hodie istic bellonae sacratus sanguis de femore proscisso in palmulam exceptus et esui datus signat. item illi qui munere in arena noxiorum iugulatorum sanguinem recentem de iugulo decurrentem exceptum auida siti comitiali morbo medentes auferunt, ubi sunt? item illi qui de arena ferinis obsoniis coenant, qui de apro, que de ceruo petunt? aper ille quem cruentauit, conluctando detersit. ceruus ille in gladiatoris sanguine iacuit. ipsorum ursorum aluei appetuntur cruditantes adhuc de uisceribus humanis. ructatur proinde ab homine caro pasta de homine. haec qui editis, quantum abestis a conuiuiis christianorum? minus autem et illi faciunt qui libidine fera humanis membris inhiant, quia uiuos uorant? minus humano sanguine ad spurcitiam consecrantur, quia futurum sanguinem lambunt? non edunt infantes plane, sed magis puberes. [Apologeticum ix]
Cassius Dio Cocceianus
Most that he [Titus] did was not characterized by anything noteworthy, but in dedicating the hunting-theatre [Colosseum] and the baths that bear his name, he produced many remarkable spectacles. There was a battle between cranes and also between four elephants; animals both tame and wild were slain to the number of nine thousand; and women (not those of prominence however) took part in dispatching them. As for the men, several fought in single combat and several groups contended together both in infantry and naval battles. For Titus suddenly filled this same theatre with water and brought in horses and bulls and some other domesticated animals that had been taught to behave in the liquid element just as on land. He also brought in people in ships, who engaged in a sea-fight there, impersonating the Corcyreans and Corinthians.... These were the spectaculars that were offered and they continued for a hundred days; but Titus also furnished some things that were of practical use to the people. He would throw down into the theatre from aloft little wooden balls variously inscribed, one designating some article of food, another clothing, another a silver vessel, or perhaps a gold one, or again horses, pack animals, cattle or slaves. Those who seized them were to carry them to the dispensers of the bounty, from whom they would receive the article named. [Ίστορία ‘Ροµαναί lxv.25; translated from Greek]
Aurelius Augustinus [St Augustine of Hippo]
(Augustine’s friend Alypius has arrived in Rome to study): non sane relinquens incantatem sibi a parentibus terrenam uiam, romam praecesserat, ut ius dicerat, et ibi gladiatorii spectaculi hiatu incredibili et incredibiliter abreptus est. cum enim auersaretur et detestaretur talia, quidam eius amici et condiscipuli, cum forte de prandio redeuntibus per uiam esset, recusantem uehementer et resistantem familiari uiolentia duxerunt in amphitheatrum crudelium et funestorum ludorum diebus haec dicentem: “si corpus meum in locum illum trahitis et ibi constituitis, numquid et animum et oculos meos in illa spectacula potestis intendere? adero itaque absens ac sic et uos et illa superabo.” quibus auditis illi nihilo setius eum aduxerunt secum id ipsum forte explorare cupientes utrum posset efficere. quo ubi uentum est et sedibus quibus potuerunt locati sunt, feruerant omnia inmanissimis uoluptatibus. [...] ut enim uidit illum sanguinem, inmanitatem simul ebibit et non se auertit, sed fixit aspectum et hauriebat furias et nesciebat et delectabatur scelere certaminis et cruenta uoluptate inebriabatur. et non erat iam ille, qui uenerat, sed unus de turba, ad quam uenerat, et uerus eorum socius, a quibus adductus erat. quid plura? spectauit, clamauit, exarsit, abstulit inde secum insaniam, qua stimularetur redire non tantum cum illis, a quibus prius abstractus est, sed etiam prae illis et alios trahens. et inde tamen manu ualidissima et misericordissima eruisti eum tu, et docuisti eum non sui habere, sed tui fiduciam ; sed longe postea. [Confessiones vi.13]
7: the Chester Archaeology context record form
8: discarded finds
Cont. u/s 2 2 2 Period PM PM Recent Recent Material Pot Pot Organic Plastic Sub-terms
Object Sewer pipe frag Sewer pipe frags (x 7) Golden Wonder cheese and onion crisp packet (price 3p) 2 frags
2 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 6 6 6 8 8 8 8 10 12 12 12 12 12 13 15 15 16 16 16 Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent PM Recent Recent Recent Recent PM Recent Recent PM Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent PM Recent PM PM PM PM Recent Recent Organic Organic Plastic Metal Plastic Plastic Ceramic Organic Organic Metal Plastic Ceramic Plastic Metal Ceramic Organic Organic Plastic Metal Organic Organic Metal Ceramic Organic Ceramic Ceramic Building Materials Ceramic Metal and Organic Organic Polystyrene Aluminium Toffee crisp chocolate bar wrapper frag Marathon chocolate bar wrapper frag 1 frag Ring pull Blue ?pen cap Finger from a glove Sewer pipe frags (x 15) Plant roots Tiny frags Ring pull Tooth of comb Sewer pipe frag (x 1) frag (x 1) milk/juice bottle top Sewer pipe frags (x 3) Plant root Chewing gum paper wrapper Chip forks (one white, one blue) Chocolate or sweet wrapper Plant roots Wood frags (fencing/window frame?) Ring pull Sewer pipe frags (x 8) Stake in several small frags Sewer pipe frag (x 37) Sewer pipe frag (x 7) Joint between sewer pipe sections (x 1 frag) Sewer pipe frags (x 28) Paper-backed foil (?cigarette wrapper) (x 1 frag) Pointed end of square section wooden stake (in several frags) Sewer pipe frags (x102) Electrical insulating strip Sewer pipe frags (x 4) Fragment of pencil Almost complete Fanta bottle 1 piece aluminium foil Sewer pipe frag (x 1) Sewer pipe frag (x 4) Tubing (pink) (x 2 frags) Potato Puffs packet Foil ‘Churchman’s A1’ ½ oz tobacco packet Top of Tizer bottle Bag Ready salted crisp packet Cup Foil chocolate/sweet wrappers (x 2) Plank frag Bundle of strips/ties ‘Dewhurst, your personal service butcher’ meat wrapper
Aluminium foil Wood Aluminium Wood
17 17 27 29 30 30 41 56 56 56 56 56 57 57 57 57 57 57 57
PM Recent PM Recent Recent Recent PM PM Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent
Ceramic Plastic Ceramic Organic Glass Metal Ceramic Seramic Organic Organic Metal Plastic Plastic Organic Plastic Metal Organic Plastic Plastic
Wood Vessel Aluminium
Rubber Aluminium Bakelite? Polythene
Aluminium Wood Polythene
67 67 67 67 Recent Recent Recent Recent Plastic Plastic Plastic Organic Polythene Polythene Polythene Wrapper from Crawford’s fruit shortcake biscuits Bag Bag frag Wrapper off ‘Galaxy’ milk chocolate counters (priced 6d/2 ½ p) Strips/ties (loose and in a bundle) Plank frag with iron nails driven into it Bag printed with ‘Sanitex greaseproof paper’, ‘Sanitex (Great Britain Limited), Shaw Mills, Hawarden’. Price 6d. Sewer pipe frag (x1) Small piece orange cord/string Crisp packet frags Bag/sheeting Golden Wonder salt and vinegar crisp packet Ring pull
67 67 85
Recent Recent Recent
Plastic Organic Plastic Wood Polythene
91 94 94 97 97 97
PM Recent Recent Recent Recent Recent
Ceramic Plastic Organic Plastic Organic Metal
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