By Hannah Ryan, CNN

A major glimpse into how the Romans residing on the south-east coast of England would have lived has been revealed by the excavation of a historic amphitheater, where thousands of people are said to have gathered to witness gladiatorial fights , wild animal hunts and executions.

English heritage archaeologists working in Richborough, Kent, have discovered a cell in the amphitheater – known as the carcer – which is believed to have held gladiators, criminals and wild animals before they were released into the arena to face their macabre fate.

The amphitheater was first revealed during a Victorian excavation of the site in 1849, but now details of its use have been revealed – and English Heritage said in a press release it has “provided residents with of the city with a place for shows and public entertainment.

Paul Pattison, senior property historian at English Heritage, said in the press release: “The discoveries we made during the excavations at Richborough are surprising and exciting, and significantly transform our understanding of the structure of the amphitheater and of the nature of the settlements in the city.

Excavations also suggest that the Romans living in Richborough could have taken care of pets, as evidenced by the ‘moving’ discovery of the almost complete skeleton of a Roman cat, which had been deliberately buried in a settlement area. servant outside the amphitheater.

The cat has been nicknamed Maxipus by English Heritage, a charity that looks after hundreds of monuments, buildings and historic sites in England.

Archaeologists working at the site have also discovered coins, slaughtered animal bones, pottery fragments and personal adornments which show that the Roman settlement of Richborough was occupied by civilians until the end. from the 4th century AD – the entire Roman period in Britain.

Pattison told CNN that Richborough would have been one of Britain’s most unique and diverse Roman colonies.

“As Richborough is coastal, it would have provided a link between what was then called Britannia and the rest of the Roman Empire – and, because of that, all kinds of Romans came from all over the Empire would have passed through and lived in the colony, ”Pattison said.

The excavation threw up puzzles for the team to solve, including two badly burnt rectangular areas – described as being “bright red-orange in color” – believed to be the remains of Roman buildings that stood against the turf exterior wall. of the amphitheater.

While it is not clear what these buildings would have been used for in the settlement, English Heritage said “their destruction by fire must have been dramatic, although the reason is unknown.”

A major renovation of the Richborough on-site museum is expected to take place later this year and will reopen to the public in the summer of 2022.

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