SF State News {University Communications}

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Tracing urban development in ancient Pompeii

September 19, 2008 -- During SF State's first archeological field school in Pompeii this summer students unearthed a preserved drain pipe and its contents from the first century -- evidence that will provide clues about the urban development of Pompeii.

A photograph of a student removing soil in an archeological dig as part of San Francisco State's archeological field school in Pompeii.

Excavation in progress at the SF State archeological field school in Pompeii.

Led by Assistant Professor of Classics Michael Anderson, students spent seven weeks in Pompeii, the Italian city buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the first century, where they were exposed to cutting-edge technology and archeological search techniques.

"The season went very well and the students had a marvelous time" Anderson said. "We cleaned two areas down to the level of the 79 C.E. eruption and dug one test trench where we found a first century drain pipe and its contents. This will be useful for reconstructing the activities of the shop that was on that site."

The field school is run in collaboration with the Via Consolare Project, a research project, started by Anderson in 2005, that investigates the process and history of urbanization in Pompeii and its suburbs. The project is named for the street it examines and focuses on two sites along the Via Consolare: a city block near the heart of Pompeii and the area around Villa delle Colonne a Mosaico, a large villa just outside the city wall.

"Comparing these two locations allows us to look at the development of the whole city and to test the validity of preconceived notions of the difference between urban and suburban space in the ancient world," said Anderson, who has spent more than a decade carrying out excavations in Pompeii.

A photograph of the remains of the Villa delle Colonne a Mosaico, one of the sites under investigation in San Francisco State's archeological field school in Pompeii.

Remains of the Villa delle Colonne a Mosaico, an area that once comprised a villa, metalworking and pottery workshops, civic buildings, bars, and tombs.

"We are looking at changes in Pompeii that are not yet understood. A lot of attention has been paid to the evidence preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius, but our research goes back hundreds of years before that and explains more about southern Italy before Roman rule," Anderson said. With a doctorate in classical archeology from the University of Cambridge, Anderson's expertise includes ancient daily life and the Roman house.

During the next academic year, faculty and students in the classics department will be processing huge volumes of material collected in Pompeii. Survey information and photographs need converting into 3-D models and the team is designing and populating a digital archive of material records, photos and sketches. In his research, Anderson has championed the use of open source technology including the use of video game software to produce 3-D models -- tools he hopes to eventually introduce as part of the field school.

The 2009 field school will include opportunities for participation by students from SF State and other universities and there are plans to provide class credit the College of Extended Learning. See the Web site for more details: http://www.sfsu.edu/~pompeii/

-- Elaine Bible


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