Expert had predicted chariot track find

A LEADING expert at the British Museum predicted the discovery of a Roman chariot racetrack in a historic town four years before its ruins were found by archaeologists, it has emerged.

By Roddy Ashworth

A LEADING expert at the British Museum predicted the discovery of a Roman chariot racetrack in a historic town four years before its ruins were found by archaeologists, it has emerged.

Renowned Romanist Dr Ralph Jackson said the decoration on a Second Century Colchester jar, which shows the image of a charioteer in action, suggested that whoever had made it had seen a real race rather than used their imagination or relied on eyewitness reports.

The pottery exhibit was found in Colchester, where last week it was announced the ruins of a "Roman circus" – as chariot racetracks are known to historians – had been unearthed by archaeologists. It was made either in Colchester or nearby.


You may also want to watch:


Dr Jackson, curator of the Romano-British collection at the British Museum, told the EADT that when he assembled a collection of items for an exhibition in 2000 he had written about the realism of the image on the decorated jar.

"This was not a stylised depiction, or a scene lifted from another piece of artwork. There is something genuine about the way the figure is depicted with the right gear – the straps, and the whip – and the way the figure is really leaning forward," he said yesterday.

Most Read

"I noted I thought it was only a matter of time before a circus was found at Colchester."

Dr Jackson added that a large number of images of gladiators and chariots had come from Colchester – Britain's oldest recorded town - further suggesting there was a Roman circus there.

A glass jar in Colchester Castle Museum also features chariots, although unlike the British Museum piece it is uncertain that it was actually produced in the town.

Dr Jackson added he was delighted the 350 metre-long racetrack and stadium, which would have had a capacity of around 8,000, had been found.

"It is a terrific find. I am sure a lot of expletives have been used already. But there are some things in life that are more exciting than others, and this is certainly one. Well done to Colchester Archaeological Trust."

Philip Crummy, head of the trust, said the organisation would be collating items from Colchester depicting chariot racing as secondary evidence of the Roman circus's authenticity. This would include the piece in the Castle Museum, he said.

"Already archaeologists use images of chariots as indicating the presence of a Roman circus, especially mosaics," he said.

"At the moment we are doing a review of all the items featuring them."

Mr Crummy and his team located the Roman circus while conducting a dig for environmental assessors RPS on land at Abbey Field, in Colchester.

The area is being developed by construction firm Taylor Woodrow who are building 2,500 houses on the 200 acre site as part of the Colchester Garrison private finance initiative.

n The decorated pottery jar can be viewed at the British Museum in London in Case Nine of Gallery 49.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus