1,900-Year-Old Snacks and Animal Bones Found in the Sewers of Rome’s Colosseum

Archaeologists have found 1,900-year-old remains of fruits, nuts, and meats in the Colosseum’s drainage system, possibly indicating the types of snacks enjoyed by spectators.

Researchers also discovered the bones of lions, leopards, bears, and small dogs—likely the remains of fights and hunting games held within the ancient arena—as well as the brick stamps of emperors who promoted the construction and restoration of the underground infrastructure.

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Additionally, ancient coins were unearthed, including 50 bronze coins dating back to the late Roman period (roughly 250–450 CE), along with a commemorative silver coin celebrating 10 years of Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ rule from 170–71 CE.

The discoveries were made as part of ongoing restoration work at the site and a research study focused on roughly 230 feet of the drains and sewers underneath the iconic structure, which began in January 2021.

Video posted online from Parco Colosseo shows archaeologists carefully wading through narrow sections of the Colosseum’s drainage system, sometimes on their hands, knees, and stomachs. The researchers and specialist architects also used wire-guided robots to navigate the ancient hydraulic structures.

Before the Colosseum became one of modern Italy’s most popular tourism destinations, it was the Roman Empire’s largest amphitheater, hosting gladiator fights and other spectacles in front of large crowds. It was completed in 80 BCE, and fell into disuse around 523 CE. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Colosseum attracted more than 7 million visitors annually, and contributes around €1.39 billion (roughly $1.4 billion) per year to Italy’s GDP.

Earlier this year, the U.K. based financial consulting group Deloitte L.P. estimated the value of the Italian historical landmark at $79 billion. The figure was based on a survey asking Italians how much they were willing to pay to help preserve the Colosseum.