Excavation to begin at Richborough, one of England’s most important Roman sites
Archaeologists hope to unlock the story of an ancient amphitheatre by embarking on an excavation at one of England’s most important Roman sites.
The amphitheatre at Richborough, Kent, is part of Roman Britain’s longest-occupied site.
As a place for entertainment and spectacle, it once held wild animal hunts, executions and gladiatorial combat. Its origins, however, remain a mystery and English Heritage hopes to discover when it was built, what it looked like, more about how it was used and what happened when the Romans abandoned it.
To the naked eye, nothing is left of the amphitheatre apart from a mound in a field.
English Heritage’s senior properties historian, Paul Pattison, said: “The impressive ruins and the enormous, rich collection of finds from previous excavations place the settlement at Richborough amongst the most important Roman historical and archaeological sites in England.
“However, until now, its amphitheatre’s secrets have remained hidden below the surface.
“We have a number of questions we’re hoping will be answered during this dig: what did the amphitheatre look like, how was it constructed and what happened after it fell out of use?
“This excavation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to temporarily reveal these ancient remains, analyse the clues left by the Romans and finally unlock its story.”
The only other excavation of the amphitheatre took place in 1849 but records are sketchy.
The Victorian excavation revealed a skeleton dug into the amphitheatre, raising the possibility that it became a cemetery after the Roman period.
The amphitheatre lies apart from an area of Roman remains that would have stretched over 50 acres at the settlement’s peak.
Richborough’s Roman fort is a key site in the history of Roman Britain, used from the invasion of 43AD until the end of Roman rule around 410.
Excavation of the amphitheatre will begin in late March and the site will open to the public in spring 2021.