Chester Amphitheatre: The fish remains from the Roman phases

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Chester Amphitheatre (CHE/AMP’04) comprises the largest assemblage of fish remains from table or kitchen waste in Roman Britain. The site was very tightly dated from c. AD 71 to the late 3rd century, and 5 phases spanning 2 areas were examined. Fishing targeted the River Dee, the Dee Estuary and the inner reaches of Liverpool Bay, without any exploitation of deeper or open waters; associated fishing methods were probably varied any may have included fishing from the shore or using small boats, using nets, hook and line, and using fish traps. Flatfish like flounder and plaice were the most common taxa fished, along with eel, salmon and trout family, herring and others for a total of 27 different fish taxa. Fish sizes tended to be small, with most fish only producing food for one or two meals. There was no evidence for butchery or differential representation of elements: these small fish were likely cooked whole and served on the bone. There was little variation either between areas of the site, or between the first 4 phases. However, the final Roman phase dating to the 3rd century showed a greater reliance on eel with very few flatfish, and as such it may represent a shift in fishing or fish consumption associated with, potentially, a change in dietary habits and/or fishing methods. A few imports of salsamenta made from Spanish mackerel were noted in Phases IV and VI (late 1st century), and a few other examples were found in medieval and more recent contexts indicating some residual Roman material is likely present in upper layers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Roman Amphitheatre of Chester
Subtitle of host publicationThe Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology
EditorsTony Wilmott, Dan Garner
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9781785707445
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • fish bones
  • Roman
  • fish trade


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