The Via Consolare Project in Pompeii
Field Season 2016
During the summer of 2016 with the kind permission of the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali d del Turismo e la Soprintendenza Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei and with great assistance from Prof. Osanna, Dott.ssa Stefani, Dott.ssa Capurso, and Assistente Sabini, members of the Via Consolare Project conducted archaeological investigations in the area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico as a part of our on-going research into the chronology, urban development, and utilization of the properties along the Via Consolare, from Pompeii’s surburbium to its forum. Research was undertaken this year by opening two new trenches (AA012 and AA013) (Figs. 1 and 2), situated respectively in a corridor or cryptoporticus on the western side of the Villa core and within the triangular space at the back of tombs 6, 7, and 8 on the northern side of the Via dei Sepolcri. In addition, topographical survey was continued in the area of the Villa, filling in any omissions in the survey of the Villa and its dependencies that was largely completed in 2015. The results of this work have increased appreciably our understanding of the narrative of the Villa and its evolution as discussed in our report of last year, revealing whole sectors of the Villa that were previously unknown and demonstrating a longevity and continuity of use in some areas that seems to have survived the transformations which modified the function of space elsewhere in the Villa. The following brief report presents the preliminary results of this research and current interpretations at the end of the 2016 field season.
The main goals of this season’s archaeological research were the following:
1. Investigation into the sub-surface of the area between the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico and the shops that flank the Via dei Sepolcri, in order to resolve the question of extreme level change between the original phase of the Villa as recovered in 2015, the elevation of the shops themselves, and the area in between them.
2. Exploration of the triangular area beyond the viridarium, which is situated behind northern tombs 6, 7, and 8 in order to see if any stratigraphy had survived the previous explorations of A. Maiuri in 1935, and to be able to connect the tombs and their chronology to that of the Villa and its late-period expansion.
3. Correction and filling in details of the 3D model of the Villa and its dependencies produced in 2015, combined with complete survey of excavated deposits using the Total Station. Use of open-source Structure from Motion (SfM) technologies to provide a complete, volumetric 3D record of on-going excavations.
4. Recording, processing, and analysis of small finds and ecofacts recovered from the current trenches in concert with excavation in order to provide immediate chronological feedback and to speed the process of publication.
5. Recording, analysis, and processing of pottery recovered in previous seasons remaining to be studied systematically.
The summer of 2016 saw all of these goals initiated, and several achieved. While neither trench was completed, both produced unexpectedly rich results that increase our understanding of the Villa and its relationship to its surroundings, including aspects of earlier topography and suggesting some longevity in the use of space. In particular, the results of these trenches serve to augment and extend the results discussed in our 2015 report, and correspond well with the outline of phasing and development in the Villa that was identified last year.
The 3D model is now virtually complete and includes the areas of the tombs and the spaces behind them, as well as most deposits from the excavated trenches, while 3D Structure from Motion scanning has continued to open new possibilities for excavation recording, including areas that could never be scanned by traditional time-of-flight scanners. In particular, analysis of materials have moved forward considerably this year, with the processing of large amounts of pottery both from Insula VII 6 and from the area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico, beginning to finalise our study in some of these areas in preparation for final publication. At the same time, it is clear that more work will need to be done in order to complete our study of the Villa and its surroundings and that we will have to return to our trenches of this year.
Archaeological Area AA012
This trench spanned an area between the shops along the east side of the Via dei Sepolcri and the core of the Villa della Colonne a mosaico, including an area of excavation approximately 6 by 5 meters (AA012). The location of the excavation was chosen partially to investigate further the area excavated in 2015 by excavating a new trench on the west side of a doorway that was closed in the modern day, that separated the area of AA005 from that of AA012 (Figs. 3 and 4). The trench spanned part of two rooms located where the southwest corner of the earlier Villa core met the later additions of vaulted supporting structures, rooms thought to be ground storey rooms equivalent with the Villa interior and raised one floor above the lower ground level of the western shops (shop doorway 18) (Fig. 5). The location was intended to facilitate the investigation of how the shops along the Via dei Sepolcri and the Villa itself connected to one another, to define the function of the rooms of this space, and to clarify the structural elements that supported at least two additional levels of structure in the vertical growth of the Villa. This report aligns the 2016 investigations with the phasing of the Villa as established and discussed in the VCP 2015 report.
Phase 1 – Earliest Traces – No Evidence
The earliest phase of the area, prior to the construction of the Villa, as yet has presented little evidence within the two rooms of the 2016 investigations. Because the are turned out to be a second storey, it was not possible to recover evidence of the earliest phasing this year, which would be evident at a much deeper level, where the ground floor interacted with natural deposits. It may be possible to recover this information in deeper excavations next year.
Phase 2 – Early Villa Construction, the “Rustic” Core
The first activity evident in the area is the construction of the Villa core itself, the corner of which, built in characteristic Sarno quoining, protrudes through the later additions of walls adjoining to the north and south. Here it has later been shaped and cut as the area was re-purposed. Of note is the disjunction in alignment between the axis of the Villa core and the Via dei Sepolcri, an alignment it shares with the Villa di Diomede and Villa dei Misteri to its north, and the Villa di Cicero to the south.
Phase 3 – Augustan Adornment, No evidence
This phase of adornment to the Villa, which impacted the area of AA005, appears not to have involved the area of AA012.
Phase 4 – A Room with a View. Adding an Upper Storey and Shops
As discussed in the 2015 report, the Villa underwent a significant overhaul in the fourth phase of its building history, during which time the westernmost wall of the Villa precinct was constructed. Commensurate with this construction was the addition of the first phase of building of the shops lining the Via dei Sepolcri, constructed with heavy black lava stones of large size in the weight-bearing walls of the first and second storeys, and with lighter cruma construction for vaulting spanning the defined spaces. It was in this phase that the shops and additional walls appended to the southwest corner of the Villa core filled in the different alignments between the street and the Villa itself. Both rooms of AA012 were, at this point, accessible to the Villa, connected by several doorways through the eastern wall. There are no openings evident between the first storey front two rooms of Shop doorway 18 and the two rooms to the east that make up the space of AA012, demonstrating that the eastern rooms were intended to be accessible to the Villa and not the shops in their original configuration. The eastern of the two rooms investigated by AA012 constitutes a hallway that appears to have run the length of the western wall of the Villa expansion, perhaps continuing to the south as well. This space appears to have functioned as a cryptoporticus, structurally bearing the loads of a peristyle above. It is likely that this space had a floor surface that sloped from the south down to the north, evident in the depth of the doorway through the eastern wall, and as suggested by the overall sloping of later deposits and declination of plaster on the face of the eastern wall. No evidence of the first-phase floor surface or underlying structure was recovered in 2016. It is however quite likely that a set of subterranean rooms supported the second storey in this location, and may have functioned as useful spaces during the period immediately after its construction. However, how these hypothetical spaces may have been accessed originally is presently unknown. It was initially believed that the rooms in this area may have been supported by a thick deposit of soil, raising the level of the area to that of the Villa interior. It is now clear that this was not the case.
In this phase of construction, or perhaps in a sub-phase of development, the western room of AA012 received two small walls in opus incertum to the south and west that subdivided off the northern third of the space into a small cubicle that was also plastered and then paved in a coarse opus signinum (Fig. 6). The function of this space at this time is unknown, but the size is suggestive of a small closet.
Phase 5 – Changes to the System. Reconfiguration of Space
As found in 2015, the next phase of construction in the Villa was characterized by the use of mortar in a particularly characteristic colour – a vibrant yellow-brown with large white lime inclusions. Use of this type of mortar is identifiable in two constructions of AA012: that of a wall that was built at the southern end of the east room/hallway of the AA, keyed into the western face of the Villa’s western precinct wall, and in the filling in the southern of two doorways between the rooms of the area. The purpose of these two changes in the configuration of the space was to enable the construction of a large drain and drain catchment at the southern end of the corridor, seemingly for an industrial-scale purpose (Fig. 7). The drain, with a rectangular opening measuring approximately 30cm x 20cm, drains directly south from its inlet to a channel that maintains the opening’s dimensions (Fig. 8). The capping of the drain was carried out in what appears to have been sections of reused river pebble floor surface, also a characteristic use of material as found in throughout the Villa walls of this phase as identified in 2015 (Fig. 9). The wall through which the drain inlet was built was itself made of large fragments of at the upper portions of its surviving height, stacked as though they were bricks in a very abnormal method of construction. Against this wall, at the corners it creates with the pre-existing east and west corridor walls, were built two square pillars or plinths, the heights of which had clearly been delineated beforehand with scoring marks in the mortar of the wall (Fig. 10). These pillars coordinated some sort of additional drainage platform construction that does not survive. Below this, a very fine-grained, sloped surface served to direct liquid into the drain. Indeed, the efficacy of the slope of the platform as a means to facilitate drainage is evident from staining on the surface, demonstrating that whatever the material being drained, it was fairly caustic. The drain was also capable of being plugged or reduced in flow by means of a seemingly purpose-made fired ceramic block that had been left in place in front of the mouth of the drain. The construction of such a large drainage system may have corresponded with the installation of the lead pipe found in AA005 in 2015, also believed to be a feature of this phase. Though no evidence of the pipe has yet been discovered in AA012, it stands to reason that an increase in water flow to the Villa and its supporting structures as a whole would introduce a wider potential for liquid use and need for additional, large-scale drainage.
Phase 6 - Post-earthquake(?) Changes to the Area and the Shops
Kockel and Weber proposed in their discussion of the phasing of the Villa1 that perhaps the earthquake of AD 62 had caused the collapse of the vault at the back of Shop at doorway 18, necessitating a reworking of the space using beams to re-span the space for the second storey. Some evidence for collapse in the rooms of AA012 may have correlated with just such an event during Phase 6. Regardless of the impetus, changes to the accessibility of the spaces and a general shift to more utilitarian use seem to have characterized this phase of construction. The drain at the south end of the east room/hallway was put out of use at this point, seemingly at the same time as the closing of the northern doorway between the east and west rooms, sealing the two rooms off from one another (Fig. 11). Over top of the drainage construction were deposited a series of soil and rubble dumps, possibly filling in some sort of subsidence or collapse below, though the actual nature of the deposits and the space that they fill is yet to be ascertained in full. The drainage platform was found to rest on very little supporting the possibility of underlying collapse or subsidence below it. The deposits related to the end of the use of this feature also support the conclusion from our excavation in 2015 that the western portion of the original Villa core became more utilitarian in nature during this phase. The installation of a second cooking surface and a millstone that seem to have been necessary for supporting the further expansion of the Villa which included the viridarium to the south is in keeping with the changes seen in AA012. The topmost deposit contained a high volume and wide variety of butchered animal bones, as well as an equally large amount and diversity of pottery forms and wares, ranging from course cooking ware to fine mould-made terra sigillata. Often these remains coordinated into nearly complete vessels, suggesting that the location may have served as the locus of deposition for this rubbish, acting as a sort of temporary dump or rubbish pile. Atop the apex of this exceptionally rich deposit, which sloped from south down to north, was placed a dolium, accessible from the Villa through the one doorway that was yet open through precinct wall to the east (Fig. 12). It is likely that the dolium was used for water storage, an observation supported by the a lack residue in its base, and its convenient in a corridor, possibly under a light-well in the Villa construction. Further support for such a use is the recovery of the ceramic vessel within the dolium presumably used to retrieve water (Fig. 13).2 Just to the east of the dolium, an amphora was fixed into the deposit on which the dolium was placed, such that it leant against the southern wall.
The same deposit on which the dolium had been placed also lapped up to the wall dividing the two rooms, demonstrating clearly that the door between the two rooms had been closed at the beginning of this phase. The closure was carried out with the second phase of yellow-brown mortar with large lime inclusions, similar to that recovered and identified as Phase 5 mortar in 2015. In the west room, the doorway fill enabled the construction of a sizeable, toilet-like drainage chute in a poor quality brown mortar, utilizing the small wall that was already in place from Phase 4 for the northern portion of this feature (Fig. 14). Remarkably, the channel created by this construction drains through the wall between the two rooms and into a sizeable chamber below the northern portion of the eastern room/hallway, a space whose articulation with the rest of the area is as yet unclear. The space may have been a fully functioning room in an earlier phase that was turned into a very large cess pit, though it must be admitted that this would be a rather unusual scenario. Further excavation of the eastern room/hallway will be necessary in order to determine the nature of the lower spaces and how they connect with the rest of the room division and vaulting.
Abutting the south side of the “toilet” construction were several deposits of material not dissimilar to those on the east side of the wall. A comparable volume of pottery and bone was included in the soil, but with a much larger volume of iron objects: nails, tacks, and possible slag. Iron staining was also evident on the construction of the “toilet”, perhaps suggesting that iron working or storage was being carried out in the western room at this point. No final phase floor or surface survives in the southern portion of this space, and it appears that the opus signinum floor installed during Phase 4 in the northern portion of the room was still in use during this time. Precisely how the room was accessed, now that both doorways through the dividing wall had been filled by this point, remains to be seen, but it seems likely that this area was accessed from the second storey of the shop to the west. This would suggest a possible reason for the loss, or removal of the wall bounding the western side of the opus signinum.
Phase 7 – Final Changes and New Upper Stories – No Evidence
No direct evidence survives for any notable changes in the area of AA012 during the Villa’s Phase 7.
Phase 8 – The Eruption of AD 79
The last ancient phase of activity in the Villa is that of the eruption of Vesuvius. The eastern room/hallway was filled with a series of eruptive layers, alternating between enormous pure white/grey lapilli, small multi-colored gravel-like lapilli, and the more ashy, compact silt material. The eruptive material appears first to have flowed into the space through the eastern doorway with enough force to push or carry a complete garum vessel that was caught against the wall, half of a marble labrum that ended up situated next to and not quite under the dolium, as well as an object that involved several large copper alloy bosses attached to iron fixtures and a copper alloy finial, all of which seemed as though they may have been related to a piece of furniture (Fig. 15). Thereafter, the space was filled with lapilli and stones, likely at the moment when the vaulting above the area collapsed. At this time, the dolium, the water vessel it contained, and the amphora to its east were all filled with lapilli, attesting to their use right up to the eruption. The impact of the collapsing vault, elements of which were found pressed into the lower more silty grey eruptive layers, seem to have caused the dolium, the vessel it contained, and a nearby amphora to fragment extensively but not separate. Perhaps enough material had already surrounded them to act as a support.
Phase 9 – Modern Alterations and Interventions
Modern excavation of the eastern room/hallway reached to the top of the dolium, which must have been seen to be broken as found by the VCP’s excavation (Fig. 12). Perhaps this fact discouraged further exploration of the deposit, which clearly focused on accessing the portico area of the Villa. A clear packed layer in the top surface of the lapilli and ash led directly through the doorway. Whether to hold back un-excavated lapilli or to control access, this doorway through the Villa precinct wall was later sealed with modern infilling, as were three other doorways that connected the Villa courtyard with the rooms to its west. In the case of the doorway between AA005 and AA012, the infill was built directly atop lapilli and eruptive material. The western room of the AA seems to have been excavated to full depth, exposing the I>opus signinum and “toilet” constructions.
At a later date during further excavations in the Villa, perhaps beginning during Bourbon excavations and then followed by those conducted by Maiuri within the Villa itself, the two rooms were re-filled with lapilli mixed with dirt, rubble, and other backfill that was deposited in the area from over the western wall of the Villa, as evident in the stratigraphy of the baulk’s section. The nature of these fills was suggested of a first stage of filling that included much jumbled and redeposited eruptive materials, followed by a second phase that was characterised by the black sandy levels that come from early natural and volcanic deposits in the area. These latter may well derive from the sub-surface investigations of Maiuri undertaken within the Villa itself.
Archaeological Area AA013
The 2016 season also saw the excavation of AA013, a trench excavated in a triangular area behind a series of tombs to the south of the main entrance to the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico. The trench spanned 9 meters from north to south, running along the western wall of the triangular space, and turning west at 7.5 meters to encompass the entrance of Tomb 8 (Figs. 16 and 17). A baulk running east-west measuring 1 meter from the wall was left standing against much of the wall to the west in order not to undermine these walls or cause instability during their restoration, which was currently under way. This western series of walls includes the east face of the tuff opus quadratum wall that divides the back of Tomb 6 from Room 34, and a black lava opus incertum construction which delineates the back wall of Tomb 7. Sections were dropped against the northern and southern ends of this wall, and at the mouth of Tomb 8 with the intention of securing information related to the sequencing of Tombs 6, 7, and 8, and their relationship to the phasing of the Villa, as was outlined in the report of 2015. Published evidence attests previous explorations of the central area of Room 34 by Maiuri, therefore the placement of the trench against the walls was also a deliberate attempt to skirt prior excavations. A localised area of the previous investigations of Maiuri was swiftly identified in the south-east corner of the trench, leading excavations to focus on the surrounding areas to the north and the west, where it was believed that his interventions had not penetrated. These areas indeed produced ancient stratigraphy, which has greatly enhanced our understanding of the phasing Tombs 6, 7, and 8, and suggests a more compressed timeline for their construction than has previously been proposed. This chronology has contributed to our interpretation of both the phasing and the use of space in Room 34, as well as to its relationship to the Villa as a whole. Due to the considerable depth of the stratigraphic information yielded by AA013, it proved impossible to reach the natural sequence of soils in this area this year, but this will hopefully be achieved in 2017. Three phases were identified in the stratigraphic evidence, the earliest of which corresponds to Phases 5 and 6 of the overall architectural analysis of the Villa complex detailed in the report of 2015.
Phases 1 through 4 – The Earliest Activities
While excavation within AA013 did not produce evidence of the earliest phases or indications of natural, sections of later pits cut through the area indicate a long sequence of significant levelling activities, many of which may plausibly relate to funerary activities. The upper part of this sequence was produced during the later Phases of the Villa expansion, but earlier levels might attest to similar activities in this area over a protracted period of time. Certainly, the apparent tomb evidence recovered by Maiuri’s 1935 investigations suggest that the Samnite cemetery that ran across much of the area of the Villa also continued here. Further investigation will be necessary to examine the nature of the thick levelling layers seen in section, some of which include interesting characteristics, such as an apparent shell midden (cf. infra). It may also be possible to resolve an apparent discrepancy of elevations between the shops outside of the tombs (excavated by Centre Jean Bérard in 2015), which recovered natural soils at a relatively high elevation and the apparent absence of these levels within AA013.
Phases 5 and 6 –Expansion of the Villa. Creation of the Viridarium and Tombs
The earliest stratigraphic phase identified in the trench witnessed the primary foundation trench and construction of a large, municipal-sized drain running directly under Tomb 8. While the precise purpose of this drain is as yet unclear, it seems likely to have been for the evacuation of waste, possibly waste water or sewage from regions situated to the east of the Via dei Sepolcri. The base of the foundation trench was not reached, but the cut was identified running through a yellow-grey deposit seen in section in the southwest corner of the northern trench area. The drain and surrounding build-up provided the foundation for Tomb 8. Constructed in opus incertum, the foundation of Tomb 8 included primarily black lava supplemented with Sarno, reused elements of a characteristic flooring of river stones, and tiles that form the pent roof of the drain itself. In particular, the river-pebble flooring serves to connect this construction to the same period of expansion as Phase 5, as this unusual material is found throughout the constructions of this period. The drain channel runs west under Tomb 8 in the direction of the Via dei Sepolcri 2.8 meters before plunging downward. It was well-preserved, but not fully excavated due to obvious safety concerns and a desire not to undermine Tomb 8. Limestone and tuff chips were also incorporated into the composition of the construction, evidently the result of discarded construction build-up from the shaping and dressing of the stones that decorate Tomb 8 itself. This provides an interesting window onto the process of construction, which clearly involved the final shaping of these stone in situ, and the practices of the builders, which was apparently simply to leave the chips where they fell. The distinctive mortar used in the drain construction, a yellow-brown low-quality mortar with white limestone inclusions, is consistent with the mortar used elsewhere in the Villa during Phase 5, in the construction of support for the extension of the second story, as well as in AA005 in the construction of another drain recovered in AA005. River pebble flooring fragments were incorporated into some of these constructions as well.
The presence of limestone and tuff chips in the construction of the drain indicate that Tomb 8 was built in the period immediately following the construction of its foundations and the underlying drain. The inner tuff opus vittatum construction is faced with large limestone and tuff blocks in opus quadratum. Limestone and tuff fragments found in the sections of a series of thick deposits immediately east of the entrance of Tomb 8 suggest that its construction coincided with a significant levelling up of the surface in the room. An interesting deposit that consisted almost entirely of small bi-valve sea shells, was observed in the section adjacent to the tomb entrance underlying another thick, yellow-brown deposit which contains discarded construction materials seemingly associated with the shaping of the tuff and limestone blocks on the face of the tomb itself. The nature and reason for this peculiar deposit will only be clear upon excavation in 2017.
A final thick, grey-brown deposit, also containing limestone fragments, brought the topography level with the tomb entrance and may be considered the final surface in the area. This deposit was a thick levelling layer that spans nearly the full length of the trench, stretching east from the entrance of Tomb 8 and wrapping around to the southern extent of the excavated area. The final layer in a series levelling deposits, it suggests that the entire area underwent a rapid series of changes at the time of the construction of Tomb 8. The approximate correspondence between this deposit and the levels of the foundations of the walls that form the backs of Tombs 6, 7, and 8 implies that the whole sequence of construction here may be relatively condensed. Though the materials and construction technique of Tomb 6 have generally suggested an earlier date, excavations against the northern corner of the wall have revealed that it rests upon an opus incertum foundation and is very much a participant in this phase. It is, furthermore strongly connected with the construction of the walls of the triangular space itself, and is even keyed into them such that the final dressing of its surface did not include the area of these walls, which must have already been built. These facts imply that the construction of Tomb 6 and Room 34 may have been a cohesive effort, and mean that Tomb 6 must be a deliberate stylistic archaism. The construction of all of these walls is likely contemporary or immediately following the construction of viridarium of the Villa, which connects Room 34 to the Villa core, and dates to Phase 6 of the Villa construction. Naturally, it is also possible that the construction the tombs and walls was ongoing throughout both Phases 5 and 6 in the main Villa core. Nevertheless, this interpretation makes the tombs in this area relatively late constructions.
Other building associated with the tombs and their levelling included a low, opus incertum stone feature running north-south overlying the deposit in the northeast area of the trench (Fig. 19). This was constructed in Sarno, black lava, and cruma, though the feature is truncated on both the north and the south by cuts in later phases. For this reason very little survives of its original extent and its intended function remains entirely opaque. While it aligns roughly with the previously excavated east-west facing Samnite tombs located west of the sacellum and in the viridarium, the shallowness of the feature and its overall stratigraphic elevation mitigate against it being associated with these burials, and is more likely contemporary with Tombs 6, 7, and 8, even though the relationship between them is not yet clear.
The finds from the post-tomb levelling layer include early pottery and bone highly suggestive of the re-deposition of earlier deposits excavated from elsewhere, possibly within the areas excavated for the tombs themselves. Within this deposit, a cinerary urn and contents were discovered in the central trench area east of Tomb 7 (Fig. 20). No cut for this feature was detected, suggesting that the cremation was deposited during the build-up of the area, as a component of the overall transformation of the area. This again indicates that the levelling up in Room 34 was a single, deliberate endeavour, and part of a wide-spread moment of embellishment. Kockel mentions at least one other cremation in the area behind Tomb 6 discovered by Maiuri,3 suggesting that the cremation urn discovered this year was probably not unique. The sheer volume of levelling material precluded excavation of the full deposit this season, but a section dropped through the layer just north of the location of the cinerary urn revealed an underlying hard packed surface and another sondage extending from the area west of the urn showed the continuation of earlier deposits witnessed to the north of the trench.
The levelling layer itself was a deposit of variable compaction, proving quite firm in the area surrounding the urn and in a strip running from north to south down the centre of the trench. The deposit became more degraded to the west. The southern area of the trench was associated with a series of deposits of hard-packed earth, possibly the result of changes that were being made to the western wall during the final phase (Fig. 21). A series of additional confused deposits in the southern half of the trench probably related to the interventions of Maiuri in the centre of the area and my have included the trample caused by workmens' boots and the disposal of cement into the central trench area.
Phases 7 – Final Phase Changes in the Area and the AD 79 Eruption
An ancient trench running east-west was discovered in the northernmost area of the trench, presumably cut for the purpose of refitting or servicing the drainage system during the final phase of occupation. The cut follows the course of the earlier drain construction between Tomb 8 on the west end and the trench extent on the east, where it may have widened or begun to turn toward the north. It cut directly through elements of the construction of Tomb 8 to the west and truncated the north end of the strange wall-like feature to the east (cf. supra), which it also undercuts. The base of the cut, like the drain itself, could not be reached due to its considerable depth - however a dark brown deposit lining the cut that contained construction materials, was excavated to a depth of 1.7 meters (Fig. 22). The trench was found filled with primary lapilli, clearly indicating that it had been open during the eruption of 79 AD (Fig. 23). Ancient pick axe marks were visible in the section near the eastern trench extent, suggesting that the cut might have been quite recent or even incomplete at the time of the eruption. A deposit of nearly pure lapilli came down onto a deposit of mixed rubble, probably the result of the collapse of the sections of the cut during periods of seismic activity related to the eruption. The lapilli can also be seen in section in the northeast corner of the trench continuing along the line of the trench cut and extends west into the drain underlying Tomb 8.
Phase 8 - Modern Phase Changes and Excavations
Publication in NSc 1943 confirms that modern excavations took place in the area behind the tombs under the direction of A. Maiuri in the form of a square trench in the central area of Room 34. These were seemingly a part of his greater investigations of the fortifications of Pompeii, and are only briefly mentioned within the context of his larger publication on the walls. The western side of this trench cut was identified in the central and south eastern area of AA013. The fill of the cut consisted of a differential deposit full of modern contamination and redeposited lapilli and came down on a nearly impenetrable surface of solidified grey clay or industrial lime. Further interventions in the area include a rectangular sondage running east to west that cut through the final phase lapilli-filled trench, and terminated just east of the drain construction and a second north-south sondage on the western side of the AA. The section of the E-W cut is preserved on the southern side and partially on the east and west, while on the north side the cut shape was easily discernible via the differentiation of the fill from the lapilli fill of the ancient cut, even if the cut itself had not held a clean section in the lapilli (Fig. 24). The other sondage was less easily discernible from the surrounding deposits, mostly due to the fact that it had been filled with the very soils that had been excavated from it. Neither of these narrow sondages were indicated in Maiuri’s publication, but similar investigations appear on the eastern side of his plan. The goal of these appears to have been to penetrate deeply into the soil in a quick search for tombs, and it is unlikely that any material encountered was retained.
Finds Processing, Ecofacts
Excavation in 2016 was paired with contemporaneous processing, analysis, recording, and study of all artefacts recovered from AA012 and AA013. This season witnessed the near complete cleaning, documentation, and preparation of all materials recovered from excavation, with the exception of several bags of pottery and bone that could not be washed prior to the end of the season.
Charcoal, Bone, Shell, and Micro-Faunal Remains
Charcoal, Bone, Shell, and Micro-Faunal Remains
Soils from all seasons have now been floated using a bucket-flotation method. As usual, light fractions have been reserved for study by environmental specialists and heavy fractions were sorted throughout the field season, recovering material smaller than the 0.4cm mesh employed in dry sieving. Finds included terrestrial and marine bones ranging from mouse to fish, shells, sea urchin and charcoal, including several seeds. Additional study of the remains this year produced evidence of snakes and lizards in the remains recovered from excavations of previous years.
This year the goal for pottery was to perform a complete study of the ceramics belonging to AA005 and AA006. Both datasets belong to two different archaeological areas within the city. AA005 was located in the Villa delle Colonne a Mosaico and was excavated in 2009 and 2015 (cf. the report of 2015). AA006 was situated in the area of Insula VII, 6, at the other end of the Via Consolare and was excavated in 2012.(cf the report for 2012). The ceramic assemblage of AA005 contained over 3398 pottery sherds, while that from AA006 contained over 717 pottery sherds, all of which were studied this year. Through the study of the material, including the secondary documentation of the sherds through drawings and photographs, a general typology of the two different datasets was created. While neither assemblage contained exceptional finds outside of the normal classes and types expected from other Pompeian datasets, such as the Granai del Foro, with this study it is possible to begin to characterise the consumption patterns within the two archaeological areas, while also contributing chronological information to the stratigraphy of AA005 and AA006, and the overall phasing of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico and Insula VII, 6.
Review of Area AA005 (Villa delle Colonne a Mosaico).
Fabric-wise it can be noticed that the local produced wares were well presented within the assemblage from AA005. Of those ceramics imported to the city, greater Italy, Spain, the Aegean region, and the south of France (e.g. Gauloise 4) are represented, though the amount is considerably less than that of the locally (i.e. Pompeii and the Vesuvian area) and regionally (i.e. Cuma, Bay of Naples) produced ceramic wares. Among these local wares, Thin Walled pottery is particularly important, since a workshop producing this kind of pottery has been identified by researchers from the Centre Jean Bérard a few doors down from the Villa (Via del Sepolcri shops 29-30). Due to its vicinity it was expected to find this local production line within the assemblages coming from the trenches within the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico. AA005 did not disappoint, producing a rim with incised decoration characteristic of this extremely local production, the shape of which is similar to Marabini XLVII. This vessel is an important find to the Project, since it reveals aspects of the dynamics of locally produced wares, their consumption, and distribution throughout the city. Coarse ware, especially that attributed to preparing and cooking food, were also present in large numbers in AA005. This large amount of cooking ware may relate to the function of nearby rooms in the Villa, which were involved in such activities throughout much of their use-life.
Review of Area AA006 (Insula VII, 6).
The pottery assemblage from AA006 showed a higher percentage of fine table ware (i.e. Black Gloss Ware, Red Slip Ware and Thin Walled Ware) than coarse material such as amphorae and coarse ware. It is also noteworthy that fabrics from pottery of local or regional production, such as Black Gloss and Coarse Ware were much more frequent than imported wares. Those imported products that were present came from Italy, Africa and the Aegean area. The presence of datable amphorae (e.g. Dressel 1C, Dressel 2-4, Dressel 21-22,) and Italian Red Slip Ware (e.g. Conspectus Forma 4, Conspectus Forma 7, Conspectus Forma 19) helps to date many of the deposits in this area from the Late Augustan period until the eruption of AD 79.
3D Topographic Survey of the Area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico
Having mostly completed the Total Station survey of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico in 2015, attention this season was turned towards surveying the remaining architectural elements and rooms associated with the Villa, ensuring that all details of the remains have been recorded appropriately and are represented in the completed 3D model. To this end, the triangular room located behind the tombs at the southern extent of the Villa (Plot 3), and the shops identified to the south of the fauces to the viridarium (Plot 1), were surveyed. In addition to this, the Total Station was used to record all stratigraphic units and features identified within the two excavated Archaeological Areas this season (AA012 and AA013), providing a record that complements detailed hand-drawn area plans and photography.
As in previous years, all 3D survey was accomplished with the use of a Leica TCR805power Total Station, in combination with a Leica GMP111-0 Mini Prism. These data will provide a highly accurate (±1cm) representation of the area, replacing the previously known and available site plans and augmenting the laser scans recently produced by the Grande Progetto di Pompei. The resulting wire-frame model is also used to supplement traditional planning and 3D Structure from Motion (SfM) data capture in AA012, AA013, and of the standing architectural remains.
Structure-from-Motion (SfM), although quite accurate and flexible in its ability to create dense 3D point clouds of excavation areas and standing archaeological remains, does not inherently provide scaled or geo-referenced models. The Total Station 3D wire-frame model can therefore provide the necessary framework, essentially attributing geo-referenced information to the SfM constructed model. The end results of the entire process are coordinated in the open-source 3D rendering package Blender3D, for further modelling and overall reconstruction. Other 3D visualisation and manipulation programs such as Sketchup, Maya, and ZBrush can also employ the data captured by the Total Station survey to extrapolate potential architectural features of the area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico, providing new understandings and interpretations of the extant archaeological remains. These surveyed data will also be used to create a highly accurate GIS phase-plan of the research areas, combining data already collected by the Via Consolare Project over past seasons.
The Total Station was also used to record the Stratigraphic Units identified in the two Archaeological Areas (AA012 and AA013), serving to geo-reference the results of more traditional recording techniques such as hand-drawn plans and photography. The method was specifically employed in situations where the depth of excavation or the degree of relief present in the excavated remains might produce significant errors via traditional methodology, or when the pressures of time made traditional methods impractical. 3D survey also provides important immediate feedback on alignments, elevations, and other pertinent aspects of the standing and buried archaeological remains recovered during the season.
3D Data Collection
Excavation in AA005 was carried out with complete recording in 3D at a centimetric level of accuracy. Each stratigraphic unit (US), feature, and surface was recorded using Structure from Motion (SfM) to extract millions of 3D points and colour information from an unordered series of photographs.4 Photographs were taken after each SU/US was officially photographed, so that each and every stratigraphic unit encountered in each excavation has been recorded in this way. In addition, since excavation involved several situations were a higher degree of accuracy for the positioning and location of finds within each deposit was desirable (such as within previuolsy un-excavated lapilli), 3D capture was also used during the excavation process in order to capture objects at the moment of their recovery. The end result will be a highly detailed point cloud volume detailing the position and orientation of each object recovered within these highly-sensitive contexts.
After processing, point clouds are meshed with Meshlab software designed specifically for cultural heritage projects by the University of Pisa, and developed with the support of 3D-CoForm Project. Following this stage, each mesh is coordinated into a 3D model including all surfaces of each deposit, wall, feature, and pavement. This permits a complete reconstruction of the entire excavation and even the virtual ‘re-excavation’ of deposits recorded in 3D.
Conclusions and Current Interpretations
Archaeological investigations in the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico and the excavation of AA012 and AA013 have provided a wealth of new data about the Villa and its dependencies, their development and alteration over time, and the length of time for which certain areas may have been utilised for funerary activities. As our research continues, it becomes ever clearer that the area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico can make a valuable contribution to understanding the chronology of urban development of Pompeii and its suburbs, the intensity of construction and the importance of establishing a seaward vista in these areas, the extent of changes wrought by earthquake damage, and the degree to which the forces of urbanisation in Pompeii's suburbs were sometimes driven by very similar motivations to those at play inside the city. Our research of this year has allowed this area of the city to contribute to the Project’s express goals of examining the process, chronology, and driving forces of urban development along the length of the Via Consolare, from the city core to its surburbium. At this time, it is therefore reasonable to present some of the major observations and possible implications of our results as they stand at the end of the 2016 field season.
Vaults and More Vaults – the growth of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico
One of the key questions addressed by our trenches this year was the explanation of a discrepancy in elevation between the deep levels of the Villa core (which are not dissimilar from the current elevation of the western shops) and the relatively high elevation of the area in between them (at least during the final phase). It was hypothesized that the area where the Villa meets the shops, much like our excavations in AA005, may have contained a thick level of fill, designed to bring the area level with the later ground floor of the Villa. However, our excavations instead discovered evidence of a long, sloping cryptoporticus, on one, or possibly two levels suggesting that the entire space had been filled with vaulting. This new perspective sheds additional light on other vaults that surround the Villa core, such as those on the northern side, which otherwise remain relatively unclear. In fact, it seems likely that the first expansion of the Villa in Phase 4, not only included the western shops but also a surrounding series of vaults, which supported the creation of extensive upper stories and served, quite literally, to elevate the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico above its neighbours on an artificial hill made up of several storeys of vaulting. Presumably driven by the desire for a sea-view, the end result was a complex that dominated the landscape and its neighbours, impressing its importance on travellers arriving to the city from Ercolano or Naples, and displaying considerable technical sophistication in the very construction of its vaults. The cryptoporticus uncovered this year appears to descend at a sufficient slope to align with vaulted spaces on the northern side of the Villa core. If so, this would imply a ring of substructures, intended to bear the loads of the now-missing but refined elite quarters above. The apparent discrepancy in levels is therefore non-existent, and the entire zone was filled by vaulted space that will require further investigation - aspects of the Villa that were previously unknown.
Sudden Transformations – Hasty Alterations and the Transfer of Property
More than simply resolving the problem of mismatching levels however, excavations on the west of the Villa core have also revealed a series of changes that took place in the area during the final phases of the site, possibly in response to structural damage sustained during the earthquake of AD 62. Kockel and Weber had already noted that the vault in shop 18, directly in front of AA012, had lost its vault and had had its second storey replaced with a different system.5 Our excavations reveal that this change also involved the conversion of at least one room from the Villa into an upper-storey back room of shop. At the same time, the character of the cryptoporticus behind this room was also transformed. Its previous role as an industrial-sized drain for some sort of caustic fluid was terminated, and the area in general, which likely had also suffered a collapse, was filled with a variety of rubbish including pottery and animal bones in great quantity. Thereafter, a large water-filled dolium had been placed awkwardly sitting on top of this material. This can only be described as some sort of downgrading or transitional situation, and it is tempting to imagine these as the temporary arrangements of builders engaged in restoring the upper elements of the Villa. Even more important however, is the possible abandonment of the lower storey of rooms. The toilet or sluice in the western room communicates to a large, seemingly vaulted space that seems implausibly spacious to have been originally intended for the storage of waste alone. Collapsing vaulting in the area might therefore have convinced the Villa owner to give up entirely on the lower rooms and to put them towards a new, alternative purpose. Certainly, these changes speak to dramatic shifts in the nature of these spaces in the final years of the Villa’s life.
Continuity and Change – Longevity of activity in the triangular space
While excavations to the west of the Villa core speak to change, those behind the tombs emphasize continuity, or at least long-term use. At the depth of over a metre and a half, this trench showed no signs of producing natural deposits, even in section. Instead, a long series of relatively thick deposits spoke to repeated and enduring activity. Extensive black-gloss remains and specific and particularly butchered cuts of bones appeared to imply a continuity of activity in the area, while Maiuri’s previous discovery of a central tomb suggest that the funerary activities may have long been associated with this space. Conversely, virtually every aspect of the area as now preserved, from the walls that form its triangular shape to the four tombs the backs of which define its western edge, appear to be very late additions, added more or less in tandem with a thick levelling deposit. This same deposit was also built up around at least one cremation burial, which the extensive trenches of Maiuri had managed to overlook. Clearly then, the space which may plausibly have been a part of the Samnite cemetery which has recently produced such dramatic and exciting finds to the north of the Villa and shops, had not changed so very much in its function by the end of the city. Perhaps this would explain the virtually unique trilithon doorway present in the southern viridarium wall emphasizing the funerary role of this space.
Expansion, Drains, and Tombs – A Late Phase Phenomenon?
However, the changes of the final phase emphasize that even this zone was not entirely designated for one function. A large trench, open at the time of the eruption and filled with lapilli as a result, speaks to works intended to service or rebuild a very large, municipal-sized drain or sewer that runs directly under Tomb 8 and was clearly built at the same time. The channel, which appears to have been just under the size of a man in height, was certainly intended to bear considerable flow of liquid out and under the tomb toward the street (or similar drains under its pavement). Whence this material derived is at this moment unclear, but it is certain that whatever its original function, the drain was not yet functioning again at the time of the eruption of AD 79.
Overall, the results of the 2016 field season have served to strengthen, support, and build upon the conclusions of our previous research. Nevertheless, there remain important questions to answer, especially within the core of the original Villa, and in areas where modern build-up has been most extensive. These questions will form the basis of our future and on-going research. As always, we remain deeply indebted to the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei, the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Soprintendente Prof. Osanna, Direttore dott.ssa Stefani, dott.ssa Capurso, and Assistente Sabini and extend our warmest thanks for their kind and continued support and encouragement in our research activities. Our work could not have been done without their aid. Finally, we wish to thank our great friends at Bar Sgambati and Camping Zeus for their on-going generosity and unwavering friendship toward the Via Consolare Project and its members since its inception.
1. Kockel, V. and B. F. Weber. 1983. ‘Die Villa delle Colonne a mosaico in Pompeji.’ Mitteilungen des Deutschen archaeologischen Instituts. Römische Abteilung: 60-61.
2. We are grateful for this interpretation by Caroline Cheung.
3. Kockel, V. and B. F. Weber. 1983.
4. VisualSFM by dott. ChangChang Wu and PMVS2 by dott. Yasutaka Furukawa and dott. Jean Ponce are normally employed by this Project. This year the commercial alternative PhotoScan was tested as an alternative. The results were found to be impressive but largely comparable.
5. Kockel, V. and B. F. Weber. 1983.
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