Gladiator fights were once staged in Roman-occupied Britain, new research suggests.
Evidence has shown that the Colchester Vase, an ancient artifact depicting a fight between combatants, was made and decorated locally.
Without written information, this was the “only evidence” of such duels in Britain, the director of the Colchester and Ipswich museums. told the observer.
The findings have led to “new and surprising conclusions,” added Frank Hargrave.
The vase in question, which is almost two millennia old, was used as a cremation vessel and was discovered in a Roman tomb in Colchester in the mid-19th century.
The 23 cm high (9 in) vessel, made around AD 160-200. C., it is described as “one of the most important, and perhaps famous, vessels of Roman Britain” by the Colchester Museums.
It depicts scenes that may have been witnessed in a Roman arena, namely animal hunts and a duel between a pair of gladiators.
Hargrave told The Observer that the vase was “of such high quality that there has been a bit of snobbery, the assumption that it could not have come from Britain.”
But, he said, the new investigation had “put an end to that.”
In addition to confirming that the artifact was made from local clay, the analysis crucially showed that the names of the gladiators Memnon and Valentinus were written on the clay while the vessel was being made.
The inscriptions were previously believed to have been added after the vase had been burned, suggesting a minor link between the decoration and local events.
Analysis of the human remains inside the pot suggested that the deceased person was over 40 years old and could have come from abroad.
Glynn Davis, senior curator at the Colchester and Ipswich museums, told The Observer that the vase may have belonged to a patron of the gladiator fight depicted.
The item will go on display at Colchester Castle from July 15, along with other important Roman finds.
Colchester is one of the most historic cities in England, becoming the capital of Roman Britain shortly after the conquest of AD 43 and known as Camulodunum.
Previous discoveries have indicated the presence of Roman-era gladiators in Britain, even if evidence of arena combat here has been sparser.
Skeletons from an ancient “gladiator graveyard” went on display in York in 2011although archaeologists said they couldn’t be sure the men were wrestlers.