Archaeology Odyssey 4:6, November/December 2001

Field Notes

By Judith HarrisRichard Parkinson

Archaeology Odyssey

Restorers Remove the Detritus of the Modern City from Rome’s Ancient Landmark

Thanks to a $17.6 million renovation project sponsored by the Banco di Roma, about 85 percent of the world’s most famous amphitheater will be accessible to the public by the year 2003—four times the area that can be visited today.

Smog stains will be scraped from the nearly 2,000-year-old walls of the Colosseum, restoring their original golden color. (The north side of the arena has already undergone cleaning.) An underground corridor, used by emperors as they entered the amphitheater from the imperial residences on the nearby Celio hill, will be excavated.

A planned geological probe of the land underlying the Colosseum should provide information about how to stabilize the edifice. About a quarter of its foundation rests on an old stream bed that the emperor Nero (54–68 A.D.) dammed to create a small lake, designed to reflect a 90-foot-tall gilded statue of himself. His successor Vespasian (69–79 A.D.) drained the lake and erected the amphitheater.

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