August 31, 2003: AAPP 2003, an overview
Our excavations for the 2003 season are now complete! Some more questions were answered, still many more were posed. We have refilled the trenches to protect what remains, and we're now putting our energy into writing reports and closing out the season. Our reports will include how each of the trenches we excavated adds to our understanding of the city block, answers to questions we've had for some time, and new directions for next season.
Our excavations in the inn have enabled us to piece together the complex spatial relationships across the entire property, and we can now chart the development of these from their earliest origins through to the final destruction in A.D. 79. The story of the building's history--from its industrial beginnings, to the Sullan attack of 89 B.C., to its final years as an inn--will be presented at the January 2004 AIA Annual Meeting in San Francisco by Gary Devore in a session on Pompeian archaeology.
With the inn's story now complete, we hope to apply this knowledge to the immediate areas surrounding the complex. We particularly hope to extend our investigations to the fortification wall and the Herculaneum Gate in future campaigns.
The House of the Surgeon:
In our second season excavating the House of the Surgeon (see previous update), we have begun answering some of the questions asked by generations of Pompeian scholars, such as date of the construction and the house's original layout. We can now determine that the House of the Surgeon was built much later than has been traditionally assumed, in the third century or possibly as late as the early second century B.C.
It's common to uncover important features in the final hours of a campaign, and this year the House of the Surgeon proved no exception! We uncovered an earlier structure in our last days this summer. The traces of a possible impluvium (an internal water basin for collecting water through an open roof) suggest that a structure existed prior to the House of the Surgeon. This has important implications on the early urban arrangement of the city block. We're very excited to learn more about this building next year!
Another important find on the final day of excavation was a stash of large ceramic vessels at the bottom of a pit that may have been dug at the same time the House of the Surgeon was constructed. Unlike the complete amphora found in the Casa del Triclinio, these pots had all been broken in antiquity. Fortunately they retain enough of their forms to be easily dated by pottery specialists, so we remain hopeful of determining when the pit itself was dug.
Our excavations in the southern part of the city block continued through the 2003 season. This area is characterised by various types of properties including several bars, shops, and other industrial buildings. We've found many different types of storage and production tanks, working surfaces, and retail counter from all periods of history, reflecting the commercial and industrial nature of the block.
One of the more significant advances we made in our understanding of the early development of the city block came through some discoveries made in the southern properties. We'd been unsure of the geological nature and topography of our region prior to its first signs of urban development, but we have now determined the sequence of natural soils spread over this corner of the city. Understanding this sequence is crucial for determining when and where the first urban developments were made. Indeed this is an area of Pompeian scholarship that is less well-known, owing largely to the greater emphasis on the final periods of Pompeii leading up to the A.D. 79 destruction. Our discoveries and insights into how the natural terrain was modified for the earliest building activity leads us a step closer to the more complete picture of Pompeii and its growth as a city.
A Final Word:
On behalf of project directors Rick Jones and Damian Robinson, I would like to extend our sincerest appreciation and thanks to the students and staff who have contributed in so many ways. Our students deserve a special mention, as it is through their hard work, commitment, and zest to learn that we've been able to achieve so much this season. As the AAPP returns to home base at the University of Bradford, we would like to wish all of the students well in their own travels back home and in their future studies of the ancient world!
If you are interested in taking part in our 2004 season, please see our project website.