Tony Wilmott started with the re-excavation of one amphitheatre, that of Chester. He promptly went on to a re-examination of amphitheatres, sorts of amphitheatres (you need to read the book!), and theatres of Roman Britain to explain how they worked in practice. But this book is far more than a warm up for an excavation report. For the first time it brings together the classes of evidence for the amphitheatres of Britain, it summarises them, and (joy) gives references. But forget ‘iconic image of Ancient Rome’ – our amphitheatres seem to be more local league football grounds. Was this the reality of ‘Romanisation’?
Tony also successfully puts the study of amphitheatres in its British historical context, especially explaining the antiquarian Stukeley’s involvement in the field. In so doing, he shows just how much modern archaeology depends upon the 18th century.
As for those Saturnalian couch readers who ought to obey Professor Henry ‘Indy’ Jones’s dictum that archaeology is best practised in the field, Tony gives a guide to those sites that can be visited – but probably best to wait until the Ides of March have passed.
Chosen by Dai Morgan Evans, Visiting Professor at the University of Chester, who is researching antiquarian aspects of the 18th century and with fieldwork projects on Early Medieval sites in Pembrokeshire and Denbighshire (see CA 223 and 224). In 2009, he will be looking at the 1968 Walsh Report on Field Monuments to see what (if anything) has changed in the last 40 years.
This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 32. Click here to subscribe