'Killing Machine' Rebuilt After 1.5K Years

Ancient elevator raised animals into the Colosseum
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2015 3:20 PM CDT
Roman 'Killing Machine' Rebuilt After 1.5K Years
Dancer Sonia Bracalenti performs after emerging from the remake of the movable cage during a presentation in Rome's Colosseum, Friday, June 5, 2015.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Imagine seeing wild animals roar onto the field of your favorite stadium to maul prisoners or battle gladiators. Well, that was considered entertainment in ancient Rome—and now experts have reconstructed a wooden machine like ones that once raised leopards, bears, lions, and elephants into Rome's Colosseum, the Telegraph reports. Designers unveiled it at the Colosseum Friday, raising a modern dancer "who twisted and turned in animal-like fashion," says the New York Times. Makers of a PBS documentary on the project, Colosseum: Roman Death Trap, also had an adult male wolf pulled up, but the animal got a biscuit to snack on, not a person. "It was the first time that a wild animal had been released into the Colosseum in 1,500 years," says Gary Glassman, who directed the film.

"I would love to have used a lion, but there were obvious safety issues involved," he adds. The impressive wooden elevator took 18 months to build, rises 23 feet from the bowels of the Colosseum's remains, and can easily lift about 660 pounds. Builders based their design on ancient texts as well as rope marks, carved holes for posts, and bronze fittings found in the tunnel network. The pulley will remain as a piece of cultural heritage and a money-maker for tourism. Ancient Romans built 28 such structures and mounted incredible displays, including games in 81AD that featured the slaughter of some 9,000 animals. About a million were killed before the last such recorded event in 523AD, the Independent reports. "The question it poses is, how could such an advanced culture have staged such bloody spectacles?" says Glassman. (Researchers recently uncovered the Colosseum's ancient seating plan.)

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