Part of a chariot that raced in the Roman circus at Colchester

OK it is only a very small part of a chariot but it was a pretty important one – it stopped one of the wheels flying off! Pretty good eh? But more than that, this is the real thing – part of a chariot that actually raced in the circus all those years ago.

The linch pin, as it is called, consisted of a metal head or top in the shape of winged (probably) beast into which was fixed  one end a small iron rod. The latter  would have been slotted into a narrow hole bored top to bottom  at one end of the chariot’s  axle.  A length of rope or leather would have then been threaded through the loop in the head of the pin and then tightly wound and tied around the lower rod of the rod where it emerged out of the other side of the axle end.

The iron rod evidently broke off and was discarded in antiquity.  The rod snapped just where it entered the underside of the animal-shaped head. Looks as if something nasty must have happened to cause the break – something which made the wheel twist inwards or outwards. A crash on the arena seems the most likely explanation. Corrosion on  the underside of the head now masks the site of the upper end of the rod. Some metal analysis in this area will be needed to establish if the rod really did snap or if instead it simply got pulled out of its socket. Either way, it’s not likely to have been good news for the charioteer. 

Friends of the Colchester Archaeological Trust will be visiting Roman Circus House on Saturday 20th July between 10.00 am and 12.30 pm to see this remarkable little object and some recent finds especially from the Mercury Theatre excavation.  You are welcome to come too. You don’t have to be a member and entry is free.