Archaeologists in Rome have just discovered bones of the animals that once fought in the Colosseum

Archaeologists found bones, seeds and nuts in the Colosseum’s drainage system that give a new perspective on life in ancient Rome.

Carl Simon/United Archives/Universal Images Group via Getty ImagesRoman gladiatorial battles were bloody, but they evidently did not spoil the appetites of the spectators.

Over the past year, archaeologists have conducted a study of the drainage systems beneath the Colosseum in Rome, leading to the discovery of bone fragments from bears, big cats and even small dogs.

What Reuters Archaeologists also reportedly found more than 50 bronze coins from the late Roman period, silver coins commemorating the 10th anniversary of Marcus Aurelius’s arrival at the emperor, various seeds of figs, grapes and melons, and traces of olives and walnuts.

The discoveries allowed the researchers to “dig deeper [their] understanding of the experience and customs of those who came to this place during the long days dedicated to the representations”, said Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum Archaeological Park.

Seeds and food scraps, for example, probably indicate that The ancient Romans I ate these foods while watching games. Meanwhile, the animal bones are likely from creatures that were used as prey in hunting games or pitted against each other in fights.

According to the BBC, archaeologists navigated the complex drainage system using wire-guided robots. The researchers said that these offered them information about the daily life of the ancient Romans and the hydraulic structures of the time.

The Colosseum fell into disrepair around 523 CE, but this new study offers a glimpse into its later years.

In total, the study involved cleaning approximately 230 feet of drains and culverts below the amphitheater.

Food scraps from the Colosseum

Dr. Jo Ball/TwitterA variety of seeds and nuts found in the Colosseum’s drainage system.

Some of the bones found belonged to “dachshunds,” the ancestors of modern dachshunds. They may have been involved in hunting or fighting bears and other large creatures, but Russo also has a less violent hypothesis.

“However, my theory,” he said, “is that they were part of some kind of circus act that took place when the gladiators were exhausted.”

That being said, one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the ancient Colosseum, aside from gladiatorial battles, was the venationa battle involving exotic animals such as lions, bears and hippos.

Often, onlookers would see the animals fight each other in the arena. Other times, the animals faced each other venatorswarriors with weapons venations they were so popular, in fact, that some emperors put on shows that lasted for more than 100 days.

Track some accounts venations until 252 a. C., with a record by Pliny the Elder describing an event involving captured elephants during the First Punic War.

It should be noted that these elephants were not used in battle: they were put on display for spectators, most of whom had never seen an elephant before.

Perhaps, then, it was not a true venation. In that case, the Roman historian Livio could have a record of the first event in 185 BC. C., when the Roman general Marco Fulvio Nobilior organized a hunt to celebrate his victories in Greece.

“For the first time, an athletic competition was held in Rome,” Livy wrote. “And a hunt was staged in which lions and panthers were preyed, and the games were held with practically all the resources and variety that the whole age could muster.”

roman circus illustration

Cultural Club/Bridgeman via Getty ImagesEmperor Lucius Aurelius Commodus dressed as Hercules fighting a bear with a heavy weapon.

Naturally these were bloody events, hence the need for a drainage system that could carry away the blood of animals and men fighting in the arena. Among this debris were, of course, the bones and remains found in the recent survey.

The seeds and nuts were also impeccably preserved in the drains.

“It looks like the seeds just got spit out,” Russo said. “You can imagine the Romans taking a basket of fruit to the games and then leaving their waste, just like people do now in stadiums. The cleaners would wash the stands and now we find the seeds in the drains.”

The only difference between modern viewers and those of yesteryear, it seems, is that the sports we now enjoy are generally bloodless, and that’s something to be thankful for.

After reading about these new discoveries under the Colosseum, learn about the 1,700-year-old Roman eggs that the researchers found, and then opened. Or take a look at the 1800 year old Roman gladiator arena which hosted bloody battles in Turkey.

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