The plaster, which dates from Roman times, fell from a square-meter section of roof in one of the stone entrances through which crowds filed to watch gladiators fight each other, animals and prisoners back in ancient times. Archaeologists said that a disaster had been narrowly averted, and if this would have had happened later in the day, visitors could have been badly hurt or even killed.
Authorities said the loosening of the plaster may have been caused by recent heavy rains, humidity and temperature changes. It is estimated that it will cost some $33 million to restore the Colosseum. A restoration and cleaning project is due to start in the next few weeks but Rome city council is still trying to raise funds from the private sector in Italy and abroad to finance the work.
Archaeologists said the near miss should be a wake-up call for the perilous state of the arena, which was begun in 72AD and has since suffered from earthquakes and centuries of pillaging.
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