Roman theatre remains dating back to the second century AD have been discovered in fields outside a market town in Kent.
The excavated site at Faversham has revealed an open-air ‘cockpit’ theatre built into the hillside, which is the first of its kind to be uncovered in Britain.
It is thought to have sat up to 12,000 people across 50 rows positioned on the side of the hill, with the diameter of the whole venue being 65 metres.
This type of Roman rural theatre, which has previously only been discovered in other parts of Europe, would have been used for religious plays during festivals according to Paul Wilkinson, the director of Kent Archaeological Field School, which the remains were found behind.
He explained that the ruins include a stage with an orchestra pit in front, which entertainers would have typically used rather than musicians.
Holes found in the stage would also have allowed for the orchestra pit to be flooded for aquatic displays.
Two other buildings found at the site, which have been identified as bath-houses, would have been used for fairs that were held in conjunction with performances, he added.
Wilkinson said: “This is important for Roman archaeology because this is the first theatre of its type found in Britain. Therefore it shows that architectural practices in continental Europe at the time did seep over into Britain.
“It’s such an important and interesting site – and we haven’t even begun to touch on the amount of archaeology which is there – that I shall be asking English Heritage for it to be scheduled [given legal protection] so it will always stay as a cultural site.”