A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Colchester Vase May Be Roman Sports Memorabilia
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
COLCHESTER, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that archaeologists have conducted a new series of tests on the Colchester Vase, which was discovered in a Roman grave in southeastern England in 1853. The vessel is decorated with images of bear-baiting, a gladiatorial combat scene, and the names Memnon and Valentinus, which may have been stage names for the enslaved fighters. It had been previously thought that the names had been carved into the vase after it had been fired. But the new study indicates that the well-made vase had been fashioned from local clay between A.D. 160 and 200, and that the names had been cut into the clay before it went into a kiln. It could therefore have been commissioned by someone who owned or trained gladiators locally. The combat also likely took place in the region, explained John Pearce of King’s College London, perhaps in one of Colchester’s two theaters. Archaeologist Glynn Davis of Colchester and Ipswich Museums added that the vessel may have been a memento of a particular fight before it was used as a funerary vessel. For more on gladiatorial combat, go to "Weapons of the Ancient World: Gladiator Weapons."
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