BAR 27:04, Jul/Aug 2001
Connecting the Dots: Deciphering the Colosseum Inscription
The drawings shown here explain how scholar Geza Alföldy, a specialist in reconstructing ghost inscriptions, was able to deduce the wording on the Colosseums original dedication. Today, the stone slab bears a fifth-century C.E. inscription carved into the rock that describes a series of repairs to the structure (drawing A, above; the darker tint indicates the surviving portion of the inscription). But Alföldy and others had noted the presence of holes in the stone along three pairs of parallel lines (drawing B).
The holes once held pegs onto which metal letters were fastened. Through meticulous work Alföldy arrived at the phrases that had once adorned the rock; these are shown superimposed on the inscription visible today (drawing C).