No, preauricular pits are not the warm-up rooms for gladiators. They are actually the most common congenital abnormality involving the ear, occurring in one out of 200 Americans.
The pits are small openings or dells in the skin just in front of the ear, slightly higher than the interior auditory canal (the normal ear hole).
They tend to occur more on the right side of the head, but not in infrequently are bilateral. They do tend to run in families.
In most people they are of no healthy consequence and serve only as an interesting topic of conversation. There is however some modest potential for them to become infected causing a boil-like swelling in front of the ear.
Very occasionally they are an external clue to a more significant inherited condition. The most common of these is Brachiootorenal Syndrome.
Affected individuals have not only the pits but also hearing loss, blockage of the nasolacrimal ducts (causing eye tearing), and kidney abnormalities.
The next most common syndrome is Brachiootoureteral Syndrome. These pit patients also have hearing loss along with duplication of the ureters of the kidneys (usually each kidney has only one ureter).