Painted Red Numbers Found on Colosseum's Arches

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 00:00

A surprising new detail has emerged during the ongoing restoration of the Colosseum: a series of painted red numbers on its arches.

Just as in today’s stadiums, the numbers served to indicate the various sections of the amphitheater and to direct spectators to their assigned seats, which were divided according to social class. The bright color helped visitors identify their sector from a distance.

Rossella Rea, director of the Colosseum, said the paint is an “exceptional discovery,” because restorers did not expect traces of color to still be visible. The director of operations Cinzia Conti said that the preservation of such traces shows how the method of restoration is effective in removing dirt and smog, while preserving ancient evidence lying beneath.

Through the cleaning system, which uses no chemicals but ordinary Roman water directed at varying intensities from a few centimeters away, the ancient color of the Colosseum’s travertine stone is slowly resurfacing.

The 25-million-euro renovation, financed by luxury shoes and leather goods company Tod's, began at the end of 2013. The project is expected to be completed in five years.