July 9, 2001
Goals for 2001 Season
The overall goal of the Anglo-American Project in Pompeii is to understand the development of Regio VI, Insula 1. We are examining the sequence of building from the earliest signs of human intervention to the Vesuvius' violent eruption in A.D. 79. One question driving our research is: how did Pompeii operate as a city?
Now in our eighth season, we have completed excavation and analysis of the House of the Vestals, one of Pompeii's most impressive residences in A.D. 79. Our attention has shifted from the insula's extravagant domestic spaces to its commercial and industrial areas.
This season we'll focus on the insula's northern and southern ends, both of which are points of production and commerce. We hope to understand not only the chronology of the development of the bars, workshop, inn, and water supply, but also their relationship to each other and to the luxurious houses they surround. This structural arrangement--the mixing of domestic with commercial and industrial--is quite common throughout Pompeii. We hope, therefore, that our interpretation will have broad applications across the ancient city.
Click here for the plan of excavations past and present.
2001 Field School
While the AAPP is a full-scale excavation, it is also a University of Bradford field school, training students in all aspects of archaeological method and methodology. No prior experience is expected of the students, and this year's 68 students come from a range of countries and intellectual perspectives--including archaeology, classics, Near Eastern studies, finance, communications, and conservation. By the end of the field season, our team of 40 specialists will have taught all students the fundamental techniques of architectural analysis, excavation and documentation, drawing and planning, artifacts and ecofacts processing, and archiving.
The focus for students is always the particular trench in which they have been working. Students are also encouraged to consider the relationships of their trench to the insula as a whole, to the city of Pompeii, and to Roman culture and archaeology. To this end, staff specialists guide the students on site tours both within Pompeii and throughout the Bay of Naples area. Our constant commitment to communication has been furthered this year by our inviting members of other teams working in Pompeii not only to visit our trenches, but also to present their own research to our staff and students in weekly evening colloquia.
Students maintain journals of their work and lessons throughout the summer. These journals are essential to the archaeological process and important for the assessment of the students' understanding and progress. Throughout the season, we will feature samples from students' journals on this website.
Before our students put trowels to the ground, they are encouraged to gather as much information as possible from the standing remains. The absence of plaster from the majority of walls in Regio VI, Insula I allows for a careful reading of the many phases of construction of each wall. Doorways have been filled or cut into pre-existing walls; walls have been patched, repaired, removed, and plastered. The differentiation of building style and building materials coupled with the examination of the relationship of various construction events reveals the history or life of any given wall. This study can often include can also include an analysis of modern destruction and restoration.
We carefully document, draw, and analyze the construction events to produce a chronology of each wall. This process helps us understand how space has been redefined over time. Absolute dating of the wall's initial construction is then made possible through the excavation of datable material from each wall's foundation trench. Excavation reveals sequences that are intimately associated with the construction and alteration of the standing masonry. Examining these relationships helps us understand the way in which our insula developed over time.
Examining the Archives
Complementing our study of the standing archaeology, Hélène Dessales from the École Francaise de Rome has researched archival material such as eighteenth- and nineteenth-century publications and records. Her approach has already proven invaluable in the 2001 season. Regio VI, Insula I was first rediscovered in 1760, and excavations to A.D. 79 level were completed by 1797. Those first excavators maintained informal diaries as eighteenth- and nineteenth-century architects and artists such as Piranesi and Mazois drew maps and sections and rendered the wall paintings in vibrant watercolors. Early travel guides and correspondence, embellished with engravings, add more information on the houses of VI, I. Unfortunately, relatively less interest was devoted to the workshops and bars.
Two hundred years later, exposure to erosion and sunshine has taken a serious toll on the city block. Frescoes and mosaics that were not removed to Bourbon palaces or the Reale Museo di Portici have been all but obliterated through constant environmental weathering and, in some cases, modern warfare. In 1943 VI, I was suffered from Allied bombs, leaving ruined stratigraphy and demolished walls. By scrutinizing the archives,we are able to gain a keen sense of the original architecture of much of VI, I, including wall and floor decoration that has been lost.
The House of the Triclinium
In our first week in the field, we have already seen many of these issues come together in our investigation of the House of the Triclinium. This particular area--badly damaged by a Second World War bomb, obscured by sprawling growth of vegetation, and deteriorated from extreme weathering--offered little promise of archaeological recovery. Archival documents have been crucial here. Gell's early nineteenth-century travel guide and Mazois' watercolors hinted at what A.D. 79 archaeology awaited our investigations. The initial clearance of vegetation and accumulated debris revealed standing remains and floors. Instead of destroying all the archaeology, the bomb had covered and protected a lot of it. The excitement and surprise of our team is best expressed in one student's journal.