Room XXV of the palatial mansion
This week, we returned to courtyard XXV (see plan) after the conservation team had secured its eastern row of arcades and their supporting piers. My study of the villa's successive transformations has shown that this arcaded gallery represents a second intervention. During its first phase, courtyard XXV had been an arcaded gallery flanking the large internal courtyard XIII toward the east. It was later enlarged to become a second court, also surrounded on the east by a row of piers supporting arches. During the sixth century A.D., we think that the room was turned into a stable with fodder troughs placed between the piers. The room was accessible from both the courtyard and the arcaded gallery behind it. The height of these troughs suggests that they can only have been used to feed cattle, a fact indirectly corroborated by the remains of dried cattle dung in nearby room XXVIII. We removed the remaining soil in front of the eastern arcade's southernmost arch last week. We found a second animal trough underneath that resembles the one that we uncovered in the first week. It also had holes on either side to attach ropes for animals. We were then able to uncover the entire cobbled floor of the courtyard. In the destruction layers above this, we found a large amount of colorful stucco pieces which once must have covered the arches and the walls.
Room XV (east of caldarium X in the private bath complex)
We also ended the excavation of Room XV, one of the rooms that were once part of the private bathing complex of the mansion (see Domestic Area, July 4-8). As in the first week, the destruction layers in this room contained a large amount of black and white mosaic tiles and stucco pieces of many colors. The center of the southern part of the room had a tile floor, unlike the northern end that was excavated during the 2002 season. We found some black burnt spots in the corners above the level of these floor slabs. These are probably the remnants of the villa's hypocaust system, the central heating system of a Roman public bath that had a fire chamber or underground furnace. In this room and in the neighboring room XVI, this system had been removed during the early sixth century A.D. Removal made many repairs necessary inside the mansion, and the size of its bathing section may have been reduced. In the destruction rubble, we discovered a beautiful coin of Claudius II Gothicus (A.D. 268-270).
The team also continued removing the destruction layers in room XXXI this week (see Domestic Area, August 1-5). The identical building technology of the large reception hall XXII and the two rooms to its west (XLIV and XXXI) and the fact that these rooms are only accessible from the hall leaves no doubt that the three spaces were contemporaneous and had related functions. The corner pilasters in rooms XLIV and XXII with vaulted ceilings are also dented the same way in both spaces.
Next week the team will finish in the Domestic Area by removing the last layers in room XXXI and excavating the northwest corner of room XXV where there seems to be one of the oldest walls in the villa. Hopefully, this sounding will allow us to learn more about the first construction phase of the urban mansion.