ROME – For 500 years, the Colosseum was the largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire, hosting gladiatorial fights, executions and animal hunts. Then it fell into disrepair.
Today, nearly 2,000 years after its construction, the Colosseum has a new high-tech floor. Made of carbon fiber covered with durable wood, it promises to give visitors a gladiatorial view of Italy’s most popular tourist attraction.
For now, the Colosseum’s underground tunnel system is on display, a vestige of 19th-century archaeologists who unearthed the labyrinth of corridors that lay beneath the arena.
“The floor will be retractable using electrical mechanisms,” Fabio Fumagalli, an architect involved in the project, told NBC News. “In this way, we will be able to control the environmental conditions of the basement, and at the same time, we will be able to show visitors the complex system of openings on the original floor plan.
The Colosseum, which could accommodate up to 70,000 people when it opened, drew around 7.6 million visitors in 2019, before the coronavirus hit.
When it was built in 80 AD, the floor was made of wood and covered with sand. It was high-tech for the time, with moving parts and removable sections where gladiators and wild animals appeared on stage thanks to a complex system of elevators.
“The original floor of the Colosseum was very innovative,” said Andreas Steiner, editor-in-chief of Archeo, an Italian monthly magazine on archeology and ancient history. “The whole arena was a symbol of the most advanced and expensive technology in the world. time.”
This new floor will also be a technological innovation.
The wood and carbon fiber slats can be tilted 90 degrees to let in light and reveal a glimpse of the tunnels below. Sections of it will be able to retract, slide alongside runners, and more fully expose the warrens below that were once used as backstage for deadly shows and big events in the arena, according to the Culture Department.
The ground is also intended to protect the foundations of the arena, which has been exposed to the elements for around 200 years. New ventilation units along the perimeter will help control the temperature and humidity of underground rooms, and rainwater will be collected for use in public toilets.
The idea of putting back the ground of the Colosseum was first proposed by archaeologist Daniele Manacorda in an article published in Archeo in 2014. The proposal was adopted by the country’s Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, who has called on engineers and architects to present a plan. Recently, the tender was won by Milan Ingegneria, an engineering firm, which will build the floor at a cost of $ 22 million.
“It’s an interesting proposition, but we must not forget that the original ground was not only used for games, but also a scene of violence and cruelty,” Steiner said. “Rebuilding the ground is a good idea, but I hope they don’t use it to replay gladiatorial fights. It would be a tribute to death and violence. “
The new floor is expected to be completed in 2023 and will once again allow cultural events inside the Colosseum, according to Franceschini.