The pit for gladiators and animals in the Roman Amphitheatre of Cartagena has been found

Noelia Arroyo, Mayoress of Cartagena, during her visit to the Roman Amphitheatre Felipe G. Pagán / Cartagena City Council

The excavations being carried out by Cartagena City Council in the Roman Amphitheatre have located the ‘fossa bestiaria’ of the monument. This is a space under the arena which was used to keep the wild beasts that took part in the shows in cages. The gladiators also used it as a place for the gladiatorial fights.

Archaeologists unearthed a first section of this structure as part of the recovery work on the Roman site. The piece will be incorporated for the first time to tourist visits next summer, according to the mayoress of Cartagena, Noelia Arroyo.

The mayoress’s visit was attended by the councillor for Heritage, Pablo Braquehais; the councillor for Tourism, Beatriz Sánchez; as well as those in charge of leading the multidisciplinary team working on the coliseum: José Miguel Noguera, professor of Archaeology at the University of Murcia, and the architect Andrés Cánovas.

The ‘fossa bestiaria’ ran from one end of the arena to the other, widened in the central part and was hidden under boards on which the sand was placed. The animals used in the spectacles were caged in this space and from there came out into the arena. The gladiators also appeared from these underground areas, to increase the theatricality of their exits.

Next summer visitors will be able to enjoy the recovery work on the Roman site.

In the excavations they found access stairs to the pit and the footprint of the spaces on which the planks were placed. Something which, according to Noelia Arroyo, “allows us to know the type of spectacle that took place in ancient Carthago Nova, 2,000 years ago”.

For their part, the team working on the monument announced that the section of the pit will soon be covered to protect it during the excavation work. This new discovery adds to the total of 30 percent of the Roman Amphitheatre that has been excavated to date, as Noguera explained. The expert added that this advance makes it possible “to make a first theoretical, hypothetical restitution of what the geometric development of the building as a whole was like”.

Next summer visitors will be able to enjoy the experience, while the work continues, so that they can enjoy “what has already come out and what has already been recovered and consolidated”, declared the mayoress.

3-metre wall
Archaeologists are now working on the recreation of a section of the perimeter wall of the stands. The stands were protected by a wall between two and three metres high, topped by railings that prevented animals from entering the stands. The installation of new ashlars will give visitors a better understanding of the dimensions of the monument in the section chosen for its restoration.

In addition, up to eleven layers of paint were discovered on the wall, demonstrating the monument’s prolonged use over time. Cánovas concluded that “this is not only an exclusively archaeological work, but also an eminently cultural work, because it speaks of the diversity of periods, the diversity of architectural styles and the coexistence of all these styles throughout history”.

The work is being carried out on a 25-metre-long section of the stands. And it is part of the actions included in the third phase of excavations financed by the Ministry with 1.5 percent, and which is expected to be completed in 2025.


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