The Via Consolare Project in Pompeii
Field Season 2018
During the summer of 2018 with the generous permission of the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali d del Turismo e la Soprintendenza Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Pompei and with vital assistance from Prof. Osanna, Dott.ssa Sodo, Dott.ssa Toniolo, Dott.ssa D’Esposito, and Assistente Sabini, members of the Via Consolare Project conducted archaeological excavations, survey, and documentation in the area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico as part of a multi-year study of the chronology, development, and nature of urban growth of the properties along the Via Consolare, stretching from Pompeii’s surburbium to its forum. Research was undertaken this year by excavating a series of small trenches within the courtyard of the central core of the Villa (AA016, AA017, AA018, AA020), and through the re-exposure of the surviving ancient surfaces of the northern entrance corridor (AA019) at doorway 15 (North). (Figs. 1, 2 and 3). Topographic survey and 3D Structure from Motion methods served to bring the full 3D model of the Villa and its surroundings closer to completion, correcting a few small errors and situating the current excavations within the existing model. Analysis of materials continued to move forward at pace this year, with the completion of the study of large amounts of pottery from 2017. The following brief report presents the preliminary results of this research and current interpretations at the end of the 2018 field season.
The overall goal of this season of excavation was to finalise research on the Villa to enable work to commence once again within Insula VII 6. Within this general goal, the specific goals of this year were the following:
1. Exploration of the primary walls of the Villa through a series of small trenches on the southern side of the courtyard in the centre of the putative “villa core” (AA016, AA017, AA018, AA020), in order to provide a date for the initial Villa construction and an exploration of the pre-existing topography.
2. Recovery of the final surviving ancient surface of the northern corridor (doorway 15 North), in order to discover whether the large street paving stones now littered around the area of the “sacellum” might actually derive from the area and the initial sub-surface investigations of the area that discovered two Samnite burials.
3. Excavation of a small trench within the bath suite of the Villa to the east of the core, in order to explore the earlier arrangement of space in this area and its chronological relationship to the “villa core.”
4. Correction and filling in details of the 3D model of the Villa and its dependencies produced in 2015-2017, combined with complete survey of excavated deposits using Total Station Survey. Use of open-source Structure from Motion (SfM) technologies to provide a complete, volumetric 3D record of on-going excavations.
5. 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.
6. Recording, analysis, and processing of pottery recovered in previous seasons (AA012) remaining to be studied systematically.
The great majority of these goals were achieved successfully during the summer of 2018. While the pre-existing surfaces of the area of the Villa core proved to be far too deep to be recovered in any great extent, the very monumentality of the construction of even the initial phases of the Villa “core” proved that the original intent of the structure was to create the impressive and dominating edifice that it had truly become by the end of the city’s life. It is now clear that the first phase of this work involved the creation of a massive earth-filled platform that served to elevate even the initial Villa above its surroundings. Furthermore, the compression of chronology caused by a surprisingly early date recovered from the platform’s fills serves to place the whole Villa complex, and its later expansion within a relatively late time-frame in the city’s history, raising interesting questions about the state of the area in earlier times. Cleaning in the northern corridor answered a number of questions about the nature of this corridor, indicating that the paving stones in the area must have come from elsewhere, but that the area must certainly be seen as a component of the Villa complex and not as a separate road or public space. The time-consuming discoveries in the Villa core, meant that it proved to be impossible even to begin the intended trench within the area of the bath suite, but also served to underline and emphasize the importance of this planned trench, which will provide the only possible window onto the earlier history of the eastern side of the property.
Archaeological Area AA016
The 2018 field season saw the full exploration of the "villa core" of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico via a number of small trenches. AA016 was an approximately two-by-four meter trench located along much of the eastern side of the central villa core courtyard (Fig. 5). The trench was excavated in order to investigate the construction sequence of several architectural features believed to have been related to the later phases of the building’s use, as well as with the hope of finding evidence of earlier phases not immediately discernible from the above-ground standing remains. The placement of the trench also deliberately avoided the northern and eastern boundary walls of the villa core court to reduce safety concerns stemming from the height of these walls and the volume of soil that they retain. Despite these constraints, the placement of the trench revealed much about the pre-79 AD history of the Villa’s construction and changing spatial organization.
Phase 1 – Pre-Villa Sequence – No Evidence
No evidence of this phase was identified in AA016.
Phase 2 – Colonnade, Cistern, and Drain
Believed initially to have been a period in the life of the Villa that saw the addition of some luxury features and at least one story of additional living space above the original elevation of the Villa core, it is now clear that the brick columns in the area were a component of the initial construction of the Villa in its earliest phase. The features associated with this phase also included a substantial construction of a black lava wall made with high quality mortar. The wall ran north-south and served as a support for at least one block of tuff that underlay one of the four extant columns (Fig. 6). Space for a second block of tuff, and presumably its associated column, were evident in the southern extension of the black lava wall, but seem to have been removed in a later phase (see phase 3 for the removal of this tuff block). A similarly functioning wall underlay another tuff block in AA018 to the west, although here the lava construction was capped first with Sarno blocks and did not envelop the tuff block in the same manner as that in AA016.
A cistern was also constructed in this phase (cf. Fig. 6). A cylindrical shaft construction, the cistern was approximately 50cm in diameter and no less than 6m deep. Several put-log holes, or perhaps lower-level inlet channels were visible in the internal walls of the cistern shaft (Fig. 7), but further exploration of the nature of these features was not possible. This cistern was placed in conjunction with the construction of the Villa’s internal colonnade. The supporting wall continued south of the cistern, strengthening the likelihood that the wall and cistern were built commensurate with one another.
A substantial, well compacted earthen deposit was added against the western side of the black lava wall as a component of the creation of the villa platform, rising to the level of the bottom of the tuff blocks. This earthen deposit may have served as a working surface, or perhaps the sub-floor levelling layer of a now-absent floor, considering at least 30cm of the wall stood above the highest elevation of this deposit. Very similar in character and in elevation to similar fills in AA0017, the soil that made up this deposit contained small amounts of mortar, ceramics, discarded wall plaster, and related materials pulverized down to very small fragments. A few small black lava and tuff chips were also present in the highest levels of the deposit, suggesting that it was laid in close association with the construction of the surrounding wall and column bases, which had evidence of having been worked in place. The bottom of this deposit was not reached. It should be considered equivalent to the levelling layers explored more thoroughly in AA017 and AA018.
As a final step in the first creation of the Villa, a drain was constructed up against the east side of the colonnade. To support the eastern side of the construction, a black lava and Sarno opus incertum wall rose above floor level to a significant degree at its juncture with the north wall where a ramp would later descend to a doorway that provided access to the lower, barrel-vaulted rooms on the other side of the north wall (Fig. 9). A substantial and well-built feature, the drain survived to the present day in a remarkably good state of preservation. The full extent of the drain is known. It began at the northern wall of the Villa core (wall 03.047) with a rectangular catch basin, the point at which water was poured in, although there is no evidence of a downpipe or other means of bringing water to the basin (see Fig. 9).
The source of the water carried by the drain remains unclear. Indeed, the location of the drain under what is presumed to have been the covered side of the colonnade adds to the ambiguity of its function, since it would not have received rain runoff from the eaves of the open court of the Villa. Regardless, the drain channel increased in depth from north to south, nearly 40cm deep at its most southern point, with the ability to drain what must have been a substantial volume of water into the cistern. At its southern extent, just before the channel met the cistern, it widened into another rectangular portion similar to its northern start point, seemingly a decorative embellishment or perhaps a settling basin that would have slowed the flow of water and caught any detritus before the water was collected in the cistern itself, but this ‘basin’ was no deeper than the general gradient of the drain as a whole (Fig. 10). The channel, its internal walls, and its top faces were finished in high quality plaster that preserved the spatula marks of its application (Fig. 11).
Phases 3-4 – Alterations to the colonnade and discontinuation of the drain and cistern
The vertical expansion of the Villa necessitated greater structural support within the original core and was accomplished by the addition of several opus vittatum mixtum piers, two of which were present within AA016 (Fig. 12). Built in alternating single rows of yellow tuff blocks and two rows of tile, and using a high quality yellow-brown mortar, these pier walls match the characteristic construction materials and style of many other additions that were installed in this phase across the Villa. Both piers were roughly 40cm by 70cm in footprint, and substantial constructions supported by expertly poured foundations. The foundation constructions appear to have been cut into the earlier compact earthen layer and black lava wall, although this cut appears to have extended well beyond what was required for the pouring of the foundations. Only when met with a tuff column base did the foundations not cut through the entirety of the pre-existing structure, although it does seem as though an attempt was made to cut through the block of stone (Fig. 13). The foundations were expertly poured, creating equal, level, and even surfaces on which each pier rested. The foundation constructions added an additional 30cm of support below the piers, and expanded their footprints an additional 15 centimetres at least in order to further disburse the weight of the added upper levels of the Villa more widely.
At the same time, while these features were added to the Villa core, others were put out of use. One of the columns and its tuff base were removed, leaving a well-defined rectangular space in the black lava wall where these features had once been located Fig. 14). Thereafter, a tile and mortar capping, nearly 30cm thick and 1m in diameter, sealed off access to the cistern and put it out of use, leaving the cistern shaft an empty void. The cistern cap was constructed directly onto the flat base of the space in the wall left by the removal of the tuff column base, demonstrating that the tuff base had been removed before the cap could have been added (see Fig. 14). At the same time, the drain that fed the cistern was at least partially filled with loose soil and building materials – primarily Sarno stone blocks and broken tiles that were purposely stacked into the drain channel, sealed with a poor quality yellow-brown mortar.
The closure of these water systems seems to have been connected to the provision of new water systems within the Villa. The installation of a lead pipe in AA005, excavated in 2015, and one in AA018, excavated and discussed in the current report (see below), may have both been part of a systematic addition of piped water to the Villa. Indeed, both pipes were installed on a similar alignment, and both pipes were laid by cutting through substantial, pre-existing subterranean walls. The addition of piped water to the area may have been the reason for discontinuing use of the drain and cistern in AA016 – technology no longer necessary as a result of the more up-to-date pressurized piped water. On the other hand, the high quality and substantial nature of the cistern cap, very similar in its professional finish and mortar quality suggest that the provision of additional support might have been the overriding concern.
Subsequent to the structural changes in the area, a levelling deposit was added across the whole of the space, perhaps constituting a sub-floor levelling layer. A final, beaten earth layer, although uneven and inconsistent in its compaction, may have been the remnants of a now-missing final phase surface.
Phases 5 and 6
No traces of the final use surfaces in these areas survived in AA016.
Phase 7 – Eruption damage?
A few features appear to have been damaged in the latest ancient phase of the Villa, perhaps as a result of the eruption of Vesuvius. A large Sarno block came to rest atop the midpoint of the drain, either having been put in this location in modern times, or perhaps having come to rest there after falling from the stories above (see Fig. 9). Regardless, the drain capping suffered a great deal of damage that may well have been caused by the upper floors crashing down into the Villa core courtyard. The tiles and mortar that rendered the drain out of commission cracked down their lengths and partially collapsed into the drain channel (Fig. 15). Soil and, in a few places, lapilli filled any voids in and around the collapse of the cap. That the drain had already been filled with rubble in antiquity is made clear by the lack of lapilli filling up the cistern into which the drain fed. Lapilli did, however, entirely fill the most northern portion of the drain, suggesting that perhaps this part of the drain was left open through to the end of Pompeii’s existence.
Phase 8 – Modern interventions
Modern interventions in the area were few. Build-up of modern soils across the area were not deep, and there was no evidence of modern excavation breaking through ancient ground level. Restoration of the vittatum mixtum piers was significant, doubling the height of one of the heavily damaged ancient constructions. Two other features, however, appear to be modern fabrications. First is an apparent grain mill on the south east side of the trench, a construction that seems to have no ancient elements (Fig. 16). The millstone is set loosely atop an opus incertum base, apparently not bonded. The base is a very poor-quality grey, crumbly mortar without foundation. Perhaps these were a creation by Maiuri when the viridarium was restored and prepared for public consumption during the 1950s.
The second feature that may have been added in the modern day is a thin opus incertum wall that ran between the brick column and the north wall of the Villa court (Fig. 17). Certainly later than the other walls that it abutts, the wall has no foundation and is constructed over top of loose, likely modern soil and rubble deposited over the drain and its capping, the alignment of which this wall followed. The presence of a wall in this location would make sense in light of the range of other small rooms along the northern side of the Villa core, as well as its utility for defining the ramp that descended to the doorway giving access to the barrel-vaulted cryptoporticus. If this wall is modern, perhaps it reconstructed a more substantial, ancient construction for which no evidence is presently visible above the current ground level.
Archaeological Area AA017
AA017 was excavated in the south-western portion of the central core of the Villa (Room 10), including the final phase kitchen features as well as two walls associated with the original construction of the Villa. Measuring 3 meters by 3.2 meters, the trench extended into the northern portion of the entrance hallway (Room 7), in order to further facilitate exploration of access and use of the original core. Like AA016, the goal of this trench was to explore trace of the final phase use of space as well as the earlier history of the Villa. The phases identified in AA017 were the following:
Phase 1 – Natural
No evidence for this phase was recovered due to the depth of deposits encountered.
Phase 2 – Original Wall Construction and Fill Layers
The first phase of construction of the Villa consisted of deep foundation/retaining walls for a tall, earth-filled platform intended to support the ground floor and upper storeys of the villa. These were constructed over a hard-packed surface which appears to have acted as a footing for the whole structure, and may represent the first phase of construction. The walls, which measure 1.8 meters from the base of the wall to the floor level, were constructed in several phases, with a thick course of opus incertum in black lava capped with the addition of a course of Sarno stone blocks, and finished at height with an opus incertum of cruma. During excavation, evidence of the process of construction of this wall, including lenses of mortar intermixed with levels of fill, emphasized that the platform had been raised through a series of stages, with walls being partially raised prior to the deposition of fills.
The first of these was a deep black, silty deposit containing a significant amount of material including ceramics, bone, and worked shell. Following this, a second filling layer was topped with mortar spilled during the construction of the wall itself. This mortar lens was thin and inconsistent, suggesting accidental deposition during construction of the southern wall (Fig.18). Directly overlying this deposit was a thick layer of differential yellow soil followed by another mortar lens - clearly demonstrating that the wall had been built through a series of repeated phases of filling and wall construction. This was followed by yet another thick layer of yellowish soil with another mortar lens. The origin of much of the fill materials appears to have been natural soils taken from elsewhere which gave the layers their distinctive yellowish colouration. Other fills are likely to have related to the building of the wall, including a final mortar lens that was capped by a layer of pulverized Sarno stone that likely came from the construction of the Sarno elements of the wall itself. Within this layer, there was evidence of a large square post-hole. Since the post was removed prior to the first floor level, it is possible that the post was a component of a mechanism used to aid the builders during the installation of the large Sarno blocks. Excavation of the deposits within the corridor to the south revealed similar fills contemporary with those on the northern side of the AA, highlighting the fact that the doorway between the corridor and the central area was open from the start, despite the continuation of the wall foundations across the doorway. Another post-hole was found situated to the south of the wall contemporary with the northern one and likely related to the same activity.
The earliest floor surface recovered was a differential, dark brown deposit of rubble, mortar and some plaster, capped with a beaten surface. Extending across the top of the southern foundation wall, this surface united the corridor and the central courtyard (Room 7 and Room 10), reinforcing the fact that this doorway had been a primary feature of the Villa. The fragmented nature of the surface as it ran across the doorway might indicate the original presence of a threshold stone or other capping, which would have been removed prior to the subsequent phase.
Phase 3 – Installation of the Lead Pipe
After some time, the Villa core underwent a period of transformation which included changes and additions to the upper stories and alterations to systems for the provision of water. In AA017, this phase is documented by the installation of a lead pipe, involving a cut through the previous floor level in the north eastern corner of the trench (Fig. 19) running east to west from AA018 through AA017. The cut was deep, penetrating into the underlying fill layers to the level of the pulverized Sarno, and was subsequently filled with a yellow rubble filled deposit. After the installation and fill of the pipe, a fill layer of dark yellow soil containing a significant number of black scoriae was deposited in order to raise the level of the space and create an appropriate base for a new beaten earth surface. The yellow layer with scoriae was also found in other trenches within the courtyard and could be linked directly to the installation of the pipe. Overlying this was a hard-packed earthen surface which spanned the full length of the trench, completely covering the base of the doorway into Room 7. During this phase, there was also a new doorway opened through the southern wall, which led directly into Room 8. In a subsequent phase, the pipe was intentionally cut on the south-eastern end, 30 centimetres east and 13 centimetres south from the trench north-eastern corner.
Phase 4 – Creation of a Doorway
At a point after this, a doorway was cut into the western wall within AA017, connecting Rooms 10 and 11. While there is no clear evidence for this action in AA017 due to the subsequent construction of kitchen platforms, evidence for the change can be found within AA018.
Phase 5a – Closures of Doorways and Construction of Kitchen Platforms
This phase was characterized by a reorganization of space in the Villa including the closure of both the southern doorway and the western doorway, prior to the construction of the two kitchen platforms, which rest against the fills of these doorways. Though the western platform has been heavily reconstructed, the two platforms were likely contemporaneous with each other, as they were built in a similar fashion and with similar mortars. The southern platform measures 2.15 meters in length and 0.91 meters in width and was constructed mostly out of black lava and cruma, with two large Sarno blocks serving as the edges and ceramic tiles forming the arched portion. Due to the collapse of the central arch, an incision made by Roman builders in order to trace the intended course of the arch can be seen on the southern wall. Furthermore, at the base of the platform a groove, measuring 1.24 meters in length, 10 centimetres in width and 4 centimetres deep, runs in between the two Sarno block edges. During excavation of the fill of the groove, a preserved piece of wood attached to an iron fitting was found, suggesting that there was a wooden sleeper supporting a door that would have closed off the space under the platform (Fig. 20). There was a similar groove found at the base of the western platform suggesting a similar arrangement.
The addition of the two kitchen platforms in Room 10 to the two already present in nearby Room 13, suggests that the Villa had expanded to such an extent as to require four cooking surfaces and is indicative of the level of grandeur reached by the structure. It is likely that the southern and western doorways were filled in order to provide the walls greater support for the addition of an additional story to the Villa, especially as this phase witnessed similar supporting structures built elsewhere in the area (cf. AA016 above). Upon excavation of the base of the platform, it was clear that the platform and its feature had been cut down slightly into the underlying levels during its construction. Given the absence of earlier platforms in the area, it is probable that Room 10 did not function as a kitchen space prior to this phase.
Phase 5b – Final Floor Surface and Mortar Additions
At a point after the kitchen surfaces had already begun to function as such, a final flooring surface, consisting of a friable yellow beaten earth-mortar was deposited within the trench. It was present mainly along the eastern edge of the trench and became fragmented as it moved near the features, but appears to be contemporary with the addition of a a tile and mortar construction along the western wall between the two features forming a sloping surface that might have been the remains of a small oven, or the platform for a fire pit with grill that is now missing. A laminate of ashy surfaces and apparent use seems to underlie some of these elements, suggesting that the kitchen had already been in use when they were constructed. The tile and mortar feature also appears to run over the groove in the southern bench, covering the now-missing wooden sleeper and presumably altering whatever door arrangement had been originally constructed in that space.
Phase 6 – Laminate Layer and Use of Kitchen Space
This Phase includes evidence of the on-going and repeated activities of use and movement of occupants within the area of the kitchen between its construction and the eruption of Vesuvius. Subsequent to the construction of the kitchen platforms and the tile and mortar surface of Phase 5, cooking on these surfaces produced thin, periodic layers of charcoal and ash which appear to have been swept to the floor and then covered with a layer of lime, possibly to act as a cleaner. This produced a laminate of many thin layers repeating this sequence suggesting a relatively long period or high frequency of use. There were approximately two to three sets of this activity visible, concentrated around the base of the platform. The laminate soils sloped up towards the southern platform, and the area underneath it, was in particular, filled with materials associated with cooking, including broken and discarded ceramic cooking vessels, numerous carbonized seeds, and a substantial amount of charcoal. In light of the material found underneath the platform, it seems possible that the space underneath the platform was used not only for storage of necessary material, but also for general discard. As the deposit approached the hallway, it sloped downward and became fragmented and compact (Fig. 22). Within the laminate deposit, there was also evidence that the final flooring surface had been repaired in isolated places, suggesting that the space surrounding the kitchen platforms was in constant use up until the time of the eruption.
Phase 7 – Eruption
Though this trench contained evidence of deposits up until AD 79, it produced little material from the eruption itself. Along the south-eastern end of the western platform there was a mortar edging that jutted out to the east and terminated in a cut for a post, which punctures through the Phase 3 floor surface . It seems likely that this mortar construction functioned with the western cooking platform and may originate from Phase 5. The fill of the post-hole at the edge of the platform consisted mostly of lapilli, clearly revealing that the post was present during the time of the eruption and had subsequently rotted away, leaving a void for lapilli to collapse into. A final trace of the eruption comes in the form of a broken antefix which was found overlying the mortar and tile construction along the western wall. It seems likely that this antefix was originally attached to the top of roofing in the luxurious Villa elements above and fell during the eruption. If this was indeed the case, it suggests the presence of a light-well or opening for air flow just above the kitchen platforms that would have spanned several stories, connecting the kitchen workspace with the elite areas above.
Phase 8 – Modern Overburden and Reconstruction
The modern period saw the build-up of large deposit of rubble and debris, heavily concentrated near the kitchen platforms and dissipated toward the hallway. This deposit also contained a mortar lens which was spread out from the south-eastern base of the western platform towards the northern edge of the southern platform that was likely related to the rebuilding of the western feature after excavation.
Archaeological Area AA018
AA018 was located in the south-western area of the internal villa core and extended from the south-eastern corner of Room 11 into the western central space of Room 10. The south-eastern extent of AA018 measured approximately 3m by 1.5m and was located adjacent to Wall 20 (dividing AA017 and AA018), extending from the southern Wall 21 (southern wall) to the northern threshold that divided Room 11 from Room 10. The northern extent of AA018 included the south-western corner of Room 10, bounded on its western side by Wall 32 (western boundary), and which measured 3.50m by 4m, with a small trench extension established between the tuff block, located in the centre of Room 10 and the pilaster located just to its north. Although the nearby trenches identified at least eight phases in the development of the central Villa space, only six phases were apparent in AA018.
Phase 1 – Natural Topography
No evidence for this phase was identified in AA018.
Phase 2 – Primary Villa Foundation Structure
The almost monumental construction of a raised platform spanning the area of the Villa core, which was designed to provide a solid foundation for the intended structures above, represented the earliest phase identified in AA018. The lower portion of these primary walls was constructed entirely out of black lava and mortar and was identified as the primary constructions of most of the walls in the area, which criss-crossed the area in the manner of casemate construction. These walls, measuring approximately 40cm in thickness, formed the original architectural layout of Phase 2, which included a doorway in the northern extent of the eastern wall that provided access to Room 10. Together with an upper Sarno stone element and tuff column bases, these formed a peristyle-like area in the central court.
The substantial foundations for the raised platform of the intended villa (Fig. 23.) were clearly constructed through sequential building and filling events. Initially, a band of the black lava opus incertum wall was built and then filled almost to the same elevation with a silty loam soil deposit. This was differential in colour and compaction, notably containing apparently redeposited bright yellow and dark brown elements of natural soils with very few anthropogenic inclusions of plaster and pottery. Following this first construction, another band of black lava and mortar was built, which resulted in a number of mortar spills, identified in the corners and adjacent to the walls. In the northern extent of AA, the lowest identifiable brownish grey mortar spill was uncovered at a depth against the northern face of the southern wall, extending into the corners of the perpendicular wall builds, and which was found to be between 60-80cm below the surface of the initial fill layer. The mortar spill itself was relatively fragmentary in form and varied in thickness (1-5cm) and elevation, containing pieces of black lava, likely remnants of the continued upper wall construction. The second and final band of the primary wall construction, evident in both the northern and southern extents of the AA, resulted in the second and final mortar spills. The construction of the low Sarno north-south wall and tuff column atop the lower black lava elements in the south-eastern corner of the northern AA resulted in a mortar spill that closely resembled the matrix and formation of that identified in the south-eastern corner of the southern AA. This latter mortar spill atop the fill deposit was a result of the construction of the upper walls of the villa core, which were constructed in opus incertum, using primarily Sarno, grey tuff, red cruma, black lava, and reused elements of brick and tile. Each of these mortar spills were friable and roughly formed, and brownish grey in colour. Following the construction of these primary foundation walls and fill, a very thin (1-2cm) medium grey mortar surface was formed on top of the fill layer, surviving only in the north-western area of AA018. The absence of this finished Phase 2 surface across the rest of AA018 was notable. However traces of a very degraded mortar and/or wall plaster was evident in varying locations at similar elevations – possibly indicating that this surface may have once received a finished working surface that has not been preserved elsewhere. Finally, a plaster layer was applied to the southern face of the east-west primary wall, visible on the lower preserved portion of the primary construction. This was abutted by the door fill that subsequently divided Room 10 from Room 11 in the next phase of the villa.
Phase 3 – Lead Pipe, Changed Access, and an Opus Signinum Surface
Substantial alterations were made to the overall villa core during this phase, and are clearly evident in the archaeological sequence of AA018. The installation of a lead pipe for pressurised water in the northern AA following the installation of a cistern in a room adjacent to the north-west, and the closure of a door and laying of opus signinum in the southern AA all reflect a changing utilisation of this space.
First, the primary walls built in the previous phase were treated with a thin coating of plaster. In the northern AA extent, this plaster is preserved entirely below the level of the modern overburden, on the eastern face of the western north-south wall, the northern face of the east-west wall, and the western face of the low Sarno wall. The level of the bottom edge of this plaster suggests that the upper elevation of the levelling fill that contained the pipe was anticipated by the builders, as the filling deposit just covered the lower plaster edge. In the south, this plastering event is evident only on the primary wall build and the northern door fill.
The installation of the northwest-southeast pipe in the northern extent of AA018 necessitated a cut through the low Sarno foundations to permit the laying of the pipe at the desired elevation. The excavations of nearby AA017 and AA019 revealed that this pipe continued from AA018 in a south-easterly direction, through the northern extent of AA017 curving to the east towards the western extent of AA020. A thin fill of medium brown silty loam was deposited against the low Sarno wall elements, then a light yellow silty loam redeposited natural fill with inclusions of black scoriae and unfinished and reed-impressed plaster was deposited over the whole area, raising the surface of the northern AA enough to lay the pipe. The same fill was then used to raise the floor level to a level now unknown in AA018, likely a result of modern investigations that removed elements of the sequence in this area. Although the final elevation of the Phase 3 surface is no longer extant in the northern area of AA018, it is likely that it was raised to a level just above the bottom of the plaster layer attributed to this phase.
The northern trench extension of AA018, which exposed the northern construction of the low Sarno wall between the primary tuff block column base in the centre and to the north, revealed a deposit of black lava and grey silt fill that had been deposited over at least the north-eastern extent of the low peristyle wall. This fill then formed the surface upon which the yellow mortar opus mixtum pilaster was constructed, an event reflecting the growing necessity for architectural support for the expanding villa above.
The southern area of AA018, Room 11, still separated from the peristyle to its north in this phase, was also subjected to a number of changes at this time. Firstly, the Phase 2 doorway identified in the northern extent of the eastern wall that provided access from Room 11 to the east was closed with a fill characterised by a band of black lava at its base, and filled above with materials including Sarno, cruma, and grey tuff, and finished with a thin plaster layer that likely also extended over the primary wall to the south. The construction of this northern door fill resulted in the intentional accumulation of mortar, plaster, and chips of Sarno and tuff at its base, a fill which likely extended further along the edge of the eastern wall, and which was used to help level the surface of the original fill layer that sloped downwards to the wall face in this location. A yellow fill, characterised by black scoriae inclusions and similar to that found elsewhere in the trench in this phase, was unevenly deposited over this southern area, the first of two fills used to elevate the surface in preparation for a opus signinum surface. The northern extent of this Room 11 received the majority of the yellow levelling fill, with some also identified in the south along the base of the southern wall and in the southeast corner of the room. A rubble fill was then used to level the entire area to a matching elevation. Interestingly, a small coarse ware lid (ca. 20cm in diameter), recovered in semi-associated fragments and associated with large, intact pieces of charcoal, was uncovered in the southern extent of this fill (Fig. 24). A soil sample was taken from this immediate context to help determine the nature of this specific deposition event. Finally, a opus signinum surface was laid over these soil and rubble fill deposits, constituting the final surface of Phase 3 in Room 11. The fact that this opus signinum surface, which varied in thickness from 1-5cm, was constructed without a substantial or stable sub-floor such as mortar, indicates a likely mundane intended service function rather than elite activity. At this time, it is likely that access to Room 11 was through a doorway in the southern wall, now visible as a closed doorway in the upper construction.
Phase 4 – Southern Doorway to Room 10 and Repair to the Opus Signinum
Changes to the immediate area of Room 11 in the southern extent of AA018, are the only events attributed to Phase 4. A doorway to the southern area of Room 10 was opened in the southern extent of the eastern wall. This event, or those that just preceded or followed its creation, caused extensive damage to the opus signinum surface, made all the easier by its substandard construction (Fig. 25). The absence of a finished opus signinum surface along the majority of its western extent, and the substantial damage evident on its southernmost surface surrounding the new door cut are evidence of the scale of work that transformed this space. The western central edge of the damaged opus signinum was patched with a thick, finished plaster fill that lipped up onto the eastern wall and formed the thick wall plaster also extant on the lower northern door fill. It was also at this time that the southern wall received a layer of plaster, which extended through the new doorway created into Room 10.
Phase 5 – Filling of the SE Doorway, New Northern Doorway, and Stairway Access
The filling of the southern doorway to Room 10, and the creation of the northern doorway and stairway access to the lower triangular Room 13, and the construction of an opus incertum wall to the north are among the final major changes made to the immediate villa structure and are part of the activities of Phase 5.
A curvilinear cut was made through the damaged opus signinum surface along the base of the southern doorway to Room 10. This was made to locate base of cut through the wall so that it could be filled completely. This southern door was subsequently filled using a characteristic yellow mortar with white inclusions. This work resulted in two small damage holes in the southern surface of the already poorly preserved opus signinum, evidence of the small posts used to prop up the shuttering for the door fill. In the northern half of the southern part of the AA, a doorway was created through the primary wall dividing Room 10 from Room 11, providing access to the central open area of the villa core. A stairway was also constructed along the western extent of Room 11, the upper entry for which also punched through the western portion of the primary east-west wall. This provided access to the downstairs service area to the west (Room 13). The alterations made to this primary, load-bearing wall at the time necessitated the formation of a substantial wooden support for the structures above. A rectilinear cut was made against the northern wall and through the northernmost extent of the opus signinum, and cut the underlying fill layers, creating a void substantial enough to insert two large posts. With this support in place, the northern door and stairway access was cut through the primary wall. It is clear that this event caused considerable damage to the eastern extent of this wall. The base, above the level of the opus signinum floor surface, was cut away to form a thinner partition wall, the upper band reconstructed primarily in Sarno opus incertum. The wall dividing the stairway from the rest of Room 11 was also created along the total length of Room 11, and received a plastering layer over its eastern face. When the supporting posts were removed leaving two concave imprints at the base, the cut was filled with the debris originally removed with the cut, including mortar, plaster, and the underlying soil fills.
The changes made to the architectural structure of the immediate area resulted in the continued degradation of the opus signinum surface. The thick, finished plaster previously used to patch the opus signinum in the central western extent was itself damaged at this time. The broken pieces were kept in the same location as fill, which extended to the blocking of the south-eastern door, and was subsequently incorporated with the earthen mortar of the door that spilled out at its base and filled its cut. A plaster was then applied to the north face of the southern wall, and the south face of the newly reconstructed wall dividing Room 10 from Room 11. A lightly mortared yellowish earthen surface was then laid across the entirety of the southern extent of AA018, extending over the new northern threshold to the open area of the villa core. Intermingled with this yellow surface were lenses of a fine grey silt deposit, a likely accumulation during the use of this flooring. The newly filled doorway then received a plastered surface, now extant only at its base. Finally, in the northernmost extent of AA018, an east-west cut was made into the firm yellow fill for the construction of an opus incertum partition wall, creating Room 15 in the north-western area of the villa core, and providing further structural support for the villa above (Fig. 26).
Little activity for this phase is evident in AA018. However, an ill-defined north-south cut was made along the western wall, through the yellow scoriae fill, and into the yellow redeposited natural fill below. This may have been for the partial removal of the lead pipe following alterations made to the water system in this area of the villa after the earthquake of AD 62/3.
Phase 7 - Eruption
No evidence for this phase was identified in AA018.
Phase 8 - Modern Investigations in the Area of AA018
Evidence of historic excavations in the vicinity of AA018 are evident in the upper archaeological sequence of the northern part of the AA. It is clear that the upper surface of the yellow fill with scoriae inclusions was cleared to the surrounding walls, leaving an undulating and differentially packed surface. The deposit surrounding the tuff column base was also excavated, exposing it and the upper construction of the Sarno wall completely. Following this, a silty grey lapilli and degraded mortar lens was deposited before being covered with a fractured modern concrete surface, in the central area of the northern AA (Fig. 27). A thick deposit of a dark silty loam with modern inclusions of flat-plane glass, aluminium cans, and glass bottles then accumulated over the entirety of AA018. Interestingly, a substantial amount of large animal bones were recovered as hand-sorted finds from this modern overburden. It is likely that these bones derive from the AD 79 eruption layer, and were recovered and set aside by modern excavators only subsequently to be lost in the build-up of modern overburden.
Archaeological Area AA019
AA019 was an exploratory removal of modern debris from the area of the northern corridor off of entrance 15 (north) in the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico to the final phase of ancient deposits in the area, such as they survived early modern and early 20th c. explorations in the area. The purpose of this trench was to investigate whether or not the several paving stones found today in the area, seemingly having been cast aside during these investigations, indicated that the corridor once had been paved as a street. Such a situation might have indicated that the viridarium and the Villa were actually separate features in antiquity, rather than a connected whole. Two separate areas of the corridor were cleared of modern build-up. The first was an area roughly 2.6 by 3.2 m that encompassed the eastern end of the corridor including where the walls of the corridor indicated modifications in the final phase to do with the creation of a masonry stairway and the addition of upper stories over the space of the passage itself. The second, was a smaller area at the western end of the corridor, roughly 2.75 by 1 m, running between the northern and southern sides of the corridor, and including the area of the modern gate that serves to seal off the villa from the Via dei Sepolcri. Removal of the modern debris in this area immediately produced evidence of a number of ancient deposits and significant evidence of modern trenching and cutting through them. The ancient elements that survived permit a basic reconstruction of the sequence in the area, although additional exploration will be necessary in order to be entirely certain of the sequence presented here.
Phase 1 – Pitted Earth and Black Sand
Thanks to the extent of previous modern explorations in the area, it was possible to identify immediately underlying the modern reconstruction of the masonry stairs elements of a sequence of soils of volcanic origin which normally herald the beginning of the natural sequence in Pompeii. These three elements, consisting of a layer of small, pea sized gravel underlying a fragmentary layer of light grey pocked or pitted silty soil and a layer of dark brown to purplish black sand were recovered in section immediately below the stairs, seemingly marking the beginning of the sequence. Their appearance immediately underlying relatively late features in the Villa, probably indicates a period of truncation in the area of the viridarium and sacellum, confirming conclusions reached in that area in 2017. Certainly, their elevation conforms to the levels experienced in the central core of the Villa this year.
Phase 2 – The First Walls; the First Doorways
The earliest surviving ancient phase of building appears to pertain to the first period of expansion across the area of the viridarium, including the creation of the attached western shops, the decorated fauces and the long row of shops to the north of the viridarium itself. In AA019, it was marked by the foundations of walls in black lava, mortared together in an opus incertum using strong well-constructed mortar characteristic of the earlier construction in the area. The precise connection of this phase of construction with the phases identified within the Villa must await further exploration in 2019, as it is presently unclear. Certainly these black lava walls appear to have been extensive, and to have continued toward the west, reaching the present location of the western entrance to the corridor. Connected with these features appears to be a hard-packed earthen trackway, the uneven surface of which plausibly could be result of cart traffic or similar erosion and trample. Repairs to this surface in loose and varied rubble, are consistent with such an interpretation. These earthen surfaces generally had been disassociated from their surrounding walls by modern trenches. However, on the northern side of the eastern area, they ran up against the earlier black lava walls and appear to have been contemporary with their use. On the western end of the corridor, two black lava threshold stones belong to this phase, in conjunction with the walls. The southern of these preserves evidence of a metal fitting, which while seemingly a metal tube, was fused with so many lapilli that it seems unlikely to be a modern addition. The northern threshold stone did not contain similar evidence, plausibly suggesting that in this phase the passage was closed by a single broad door that pivoted on a single axis.
Phase 3 – Later Period Changes to the Walls and Doorways
Subsequent to this early arrangement and plausibly to be situated among the final changes in the area, masonry stairs and an upper storey were fitted above the corridor. On the northern side, this change involved the creation of a new corner in opus vittatum mixtum and yellowish mortar. The original wall was damaged and the corner rebuilt, possibly reusing some of the lava stones from the original wall. On the south, a similar corner in opus vittatum mixtum and yellow mortar replaced the original end of the lava opus incertum wall, and sat against and over the original northern wall of the viridarium and its foundations. Both of these additions appear to have contained posts for wooden jambs that must have supported a second set of doors situated on the eastern end of the corridor. The purpose for this double closure is unknown. On the western end, the original doorway appears to have been replaced by a double door arrangement. New mortar footings were poured over the original stones, which contained clear evidence of holes created by wooden beams. Plausibly these connected to the limestone threshold stone with closure fittings presently situated in the centre of the doorway, but since this seems very likely to have been placed or replaced during the modern period, it is unclear whether it is actually an original feature. Three possible post-holes located in the centre of the corridor above the packed earthen surface might relate to these changes. On the eastern end, it is clear that certain elements of this rebuild involved large lava stones, so it is possible that the discarded street paving stones found in the area today derive from this phase, though it seems quite unlikely that the area was paved in this way at any time in its life.
Phase 4 – Modern Interventions
Modern interventions in the area include the rebuilding of the stairway, which clearly was inspired by elements of preserved plaster in its underlying arch and scoring on the southern wall indicating the intentions of the original planners. It is unclear whether this stairway was, in fact, ever completed in antiquity. Subsequent to modern investigations, which seem to have been focused on the discovery of underlying Samnite graves, the area has experienced modern build-up of detritus and topsoil.
Archaeological Area AA020
AA020 was a trench added during the course of the 2018 field season in order to discover the destination of the lead pipe recovered within AA017 and AA018, which initially appeared to be the water features situated in the SE corner of the central court of the Villa. Measuring approximately 2.6 x 2.3 metres it ran between the eastern door-fill, the two water features located against the southern wall, and the base of the SE opus vittatum mixtum column in of the Villa core. Within the area of the trench, a major collapse of soils was found, radiating from a point on the eastern side but also including a long channel under surviving hard-packed surfaces that had produced a void. Excavation of these areas permited not only the area to be coordinated with the other AAs but also to secure the safety of the area through the filling of these voids during backfilling.
Phase 1 – Natural
AA020 produced no evidence of this phase.
Phase 2 – Creation of the Villa core
This phase was witnessed within AA020 by the construction the surrounding walls, as well as a foundation/casemate wall that was the continuation of the wall supporting brick columns within AA016. This wall was constructed in opus incertum and consisted of 100% black lava stone, with a light grey mortar that was visible on the upper half of its southern face. This wall extended past the later eastern base of the opus mixtum column into AA016, and also matched similar foundations recovered in AA018. Although the base of this wall was never reached, excavation within AA017 showed that in general the foundations of the Phase 2 walls are very deep, following an almost temple-like construction technique. The later construction of the water features against the southern wall and the collapse at the eastern end of the trench (cf. infra) prevented proper investigation of the bases of the eastern and southern walls, but due to similarities with the walls in AA017, they can probably also be attributed to this phase. While the deep fills recovered in AA017 were not excavated in AA020, nevertheless in the section of the collapse it was possible to identify a dark brown layer interspersed with rubble that was very similar to the earliest first floor level located in AA017 and likely represents the final filling layer of the platform upon which the Villa was built.
Phase 3 – Installation of pipe and floor level
This phase witnessed considerable changes in the Villa, including the placement of a lead pipe running W to E across the Villa core as well as changes related to the support of upper stories. Unfortunately, a later collapse (cf. infra) or final phase removal, prevented the recovery of evidence for both the cut for the lead pipe and the pipe itself. The dark brown putative floor level was likely cut at this time, though this cut has been lost in the collapse or removal of the pipe in a later phase. Given this, while the lead pipe itself was not actually present in AA020, it was nevertheless possible to trace its probable original course, which would have led it through the open doorway in the wall to the east and possibly to the bath suite located in that area of the Villa. Clearly visible in the northern and southern sections of the collapse, overlying the brown rubble layer was a light-yellow deposit filled with scoriae, ranging in width from 9-20cm (Fig. 31). The similarity of this deposit with one found in AA017 and AA018 again suggested that the two levels could be equated with each other; therefore, the yellow scoriae-filled deposit within AA020 could be taken as the fill that followed the placement of the pipe elsewhere in the Villa core.
Overlying this yellow scoriae deposit was the first clear floor level defined within AA020. This was a greyish-brown, mortar-like surface that later appeared to be a level of hard-packed earth. This deposit equates with the second floor surface in AA017, and belongs in this phase. The earth was so compacted that it was able to span the considerable void caused by the later removal of the lead pipe and the collapse of nearby deposits. The deposit easily spanned a void of approximately 20cm in depth and almost 50cm in width and could support considerable weight before breaking. Towards the eastern end, this deposit had collapsed against the filling of the eastern door, probably during the eruption when the upper stories of the Villa likely fell in. The eastern doorway was likely open at this stage. The hard-packed earth also ran up against the opus mixtum pier, helping to situate the construction of these features within this phase, likely to support changes to the upper stories above.
Phase 4 – Creation of southern doorway to Room 10
No information about Phase 4 was found within AA020.
Phase 5 – Floor surface and construction of water features; pipe removal?
Phase 5 saw the deposition of a final hard-packed surface, comprising a thin, yellow earth-mortar layer that was found directly on top of the earlier floor level in patches throughout the AA. In AA020, this floor surface also contained a series of embedded tiles that formed a small channel around the westernmost of the two water features in the SE of the courtyard. An opening fashioned from an amphora neck formed a drain at the base of the channel and was possibly connected to the final phase of the drain that was found outside of the Villa in AA005. Remnants of further embedded tiles appeared to produce a further step to the north of the channel that might also have been related to the control of drainage. The construction of these water features, which consist of a large and small basin was clearly undertaken along with this floor surface. The plaster on these water features ran down to the yellow deposit (Fig. 32). Since the sealed southern doorway is blocked by the water features, it must have been filled by this time. Finds recovered from the yellow surface included elements of monochrome and polychrome plasters as a component of their underlying fill. One fragmented plaster piece with 4th style embroidery pattern (yellow on black design) supports a conclusion of a relatively late date for this phase.
While the sequence is not entirely clear, possibly related to these changes was the removal of parts of the lead pipe. In the north-west corner of AA020 near to the opus mixtum pillar, a collapse or cut was observed, and similar damage was found in the south-west corner in AA016 near the same pillar. The absence of the lead in the existing channel, coupled with the widespread collapse of deposits in aligned with its apparent course suggests that the pipe had deliberately removed, though precisely how this would have been achieved is mysterious. The eastern collapse appears to have occurred because of the presence of the void recovered in the area, rather than producing it, perhaps indicating that it belongs to Phase 6 below. Investigations into the section of AA017 revealed that the end of the pipe extended approximately 20cm towards AA020, and that the end of the pipe had been torn, apparently deliberately. It is therefore possible that a trench dug down for the removal of the pipe between AA017 and AA020 involved the lateral removal of the pipe, producing a void that would later be filled with eruptive debris. While it is possible that such a change could have occurred during the final phase (the relationship of the damage with the yellow final floor are not clear), or even during the first excavation of the area, it is also possible that it took place at this time. The reason for its removal is also unknown, but seems likely to be related to the new addition of the water features at this time.
Phase 6 – Final Use
Along with the use of the water features after their construction, the cut at the north-west corner of AA020 was filled with a light grey, silty deposit (see fig. 32). It is possible that this was contamination from the overlying modern overburden, but could also related to grey-ashy deposits such as were recovered in AA017. If so, it would suggest that the Villa courtyard continued to be used for some time after the removal of the pipe.
Phase 7 – Eruption
The subsequent collapse of the deposits seen in the northern section (Fig. 33) may have been the result of eruption damage, but also could have been triggered by the removal of the pipe. The fill of the collapse included lapilli and chunks of shaved-off mortar that appeared to have been elements of walls, possibly elements of the upper stories of the Villa. It appeared likely that the fill was the result of the collapse along with the subsequent sweeping in of deposits that occurred as a component of the 79 CE eruption. A differential layer of lapilli, grey silt, small-sized gravel, and yellow silt-loam were found within the fill of the collapse (Fig. 34), which appeared to be deposits that were blown or forced into the existing collapse at the time of the eruption. However, the extreme mixture of varying types of deposits in the fill, including an extensive layer of volcanic black sand, which would be unusual in eruptive stratigraphy make it clear that it has become highly contaminated, possibly in the modern period.
Phase 8 – Modern overburden
The modern overburden found in AA020 covered the exposed trench extent, overlying whole area. Some ancient material was found within the fill of this modern overburden, including a noticeable amount of red and black monochrome plaster. It is likely that this plaster originated from upper elements of the Villa having been lost in the layers of modern build-up.
Finds Processing, Ecofactual Recovery
Excavation in 2018 was accompanied by contemporaneous processing, analysis, and recording of all artefacts recovered from this and previous seasons.
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 some heavy fractions were sorted throughout the field season, recovering material smaller than the 0.5 cm mesh employed in dry sieving.
The 2018 field season recovered approximately 35 kg of pottery from the trenches identified AA016, AA017, AA018, AA019 and AA020. All the pottery excavated during this year’s season has been washed, processed and accessioned to be fully analysed and studied during the following field season of 2019. Simultaneous to the processing of the contemporary material from the 2018 excavations, a complete and full analysis of the ceramic evidence originating respectively from AA008 and AA012 was performed. Pottery analysis consisted of sorting the entire dataset into different ceramic classes as a primary division phase in the methodology maintained by the ceramic specialist of the Via Consolare Project. Each class is further divided into vessel shape and type variation. In addition to the creation of a typology based on diagnostic elements, a quantification of the entire assemblage was performed based on EVE’s, weight, and volume. The study of the material, included the secondary documentation of the sherds through drawings and photographs. Furthermore, in addition to the analysis of the diagnostic elements, few of the vessels from AA012 were able to be refitted and reconstructed in their original state (Fig 36). Furthermore, the whole vessels were also used for 3D scans through the use of desktop 3D scanner. The Via Consolare Project continued its previous goals of the 2017 season (cfr. 2017 report) in regard to the analysis of pottery. The creation of a complete typological overview of the pottery data recovered from both research areas, including the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico and the area of VII 6, is work in progress. This study aids in the characterisation of the consumption patterns within the excavated archaeological areas, while simultaneously providing chronological ranges for the stratigraphic layers and the overall phasing of the villa and the areas excavated in VII 6. Furthermore, this study will provide better and more accurate insights into the overall consumption patterns of the ancient Pompeian inhabitants and the use of ceramics in general. In addition a particular focus lies on the so-called imitation wares interpreted as Campanian orange ware and its specific role in the Pompeian market. The season of 2018 saw the completion of this work for the archaeological areas knowns as respectively AA008 and AA012. The pottery dataset, recovered from the trench AA008, is associated with the shops in the northern corner of VII 6. The following area under investigation during this season is associated with the shops on the outside of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico. These specific areas were chosen to gain a better insight into the deposition processes and consumption patterns of shops rather than domestic contexts (cfr. Reports of 2016-2017). In previous years our focus has mainly been on the ceramic evidence associated with a domestic context, rather than a commercial feature. The focus on commercial features has created an opportunity to distinguish potential differences between commercial and domestic contexts in terms of deposition processes and consumption patterns. A particular phenomenon regarding the reuse of vessels became more apparent in comparison to the ceramic evidence studies over the previous years. Many more vessels demonstrated evidence of a secondary repair or reuse. The former insight has provided a useful tool to start discussing the difference in use of pottery across different archaeological contexts and social classes.
The total ceramic assemblage (28 kg) of AA008 was fully analysed and studied during this year’s field season. The ceramic analysis of the evidence associated with AA008 distinguished a total of 179 diagnostic pieces. Based on these diagnostic elements a date range between the second century BC and the final phase of Pompeii was established for the shops identified as AA008 in VII 6. The general pattern noticed in AA008 produced a similar view in regard to the previously noticed patterns in previous studies of the Via Consolare dataset under our investigation (cfr. report of 2016 & 2017). The ceramic evidence demonstrated a high presence of locally produced wares, including both provenances in the area surrounding the Vesuvius and in larger extend the Bay of Naples and other regions of Campania. The amounts of import products, however, is considerably less in comparison to the regionally produced ceramic wares. These imported products include amphorae from Africa and other Italian regions such as the Tuscan coastline. One of the focal points of this projects is to gain more understanding into the importance of local productions and imitations within the city limit of Pompeii. The study of this year further demonstrated the importance of local wares within the city of Pompeii in comparison to the import wares.
AA012: Voluminous pottery deposit
The archaeological area known as AA012 uncovered a voluminous deposit consisting mainly of pottery during the consecutive excavation summers in 2016 and 2017. The extended pottery assemblage was fully analysed and studied during the 2018 field season. This assemblage not only contained ceramic vessels such as, amphorae, coarse ware and fine ware, but also contained a considerable amount of utilitarian ceramics such as tripods, scrapers, lamp stands, and a part of a chimney flue (Fig. 37). The former items were mainly located in the bottom stratigraphic layers of this specific deposit in association with a high number of amphorae, indicating a potential use of these items to raise up the floor level after the destruction of the shops as a result of the destructive earthquake of AD 62 (cfr. field report 2017). The preliminary study of this deposit further revealed a high amount of pottery in use during the final phase of Pompeii. The association of following diagnostic vessels date this deposit to the first century AD i.e. Dressel 20/8, Dressel 2-4, a caccabus type Di Giovanni 2211b and an olla type Di Giovanni 2311a, a Jupiter-Eagle lamp type Deneauve VB and a Terra Sigillata plate, originating in Pisa, with a stamp of Zolonius (5BC-AD50). However due to the presence of a particular variation of a Dressel 20 and the stamp of Zolonius, this deposit must have been created in post-Neronian times (cf. Bustamante et al 2011, 522). As a result, this deposit can be dated to the Neronian times or post-Neronian.
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, the focus of survey this season was the features and deposits of the trenches. 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. While in many cases, traditional planning techniques were employed in order to record features in detail, Total Station survey supplements these plans and provides the overall framework into which they may be fit. Small gaps in the previous 3D model were also addressed through continued survey of the standing monument. Finally, the Total Station was used to provide necessary scale and position for Structure from Motion point clouds, which now form an essential aspect of the Project's recording process.
3D Data Collection
Excavation and cleaning in AA016, AA017, AA018, AA019 and AA020 was accompanied by complete recording in 3D using Structure from Motion technology,1 employing free use and open source software. Each stratigraphic unit (SU/US), feature, and surface was recorded in this manner extracting millions of 3D points and colour information from an unordered series of photographs. Additional photos for this purpose were taken after each SU/US had been photographed in the conventional way, so that every stratigraphic unit was recorded. After processing, these point clouds will be 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 will be coordinated into a 3D model of each excavated area that will permit the re-examination of the excavation in the future, in almost as much detail as the original one. 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 completed excavation and cleaning of AA016, AA017, AA018, AA019, and AA020 have dramatically altered the understanding of the Villa and its dependencies, from its initial phase until the destruction of the city. As a result, a number of the conclusions reached in previous reports will need to be re-evaluated and in some cases revised. While the overall sequence of development remains correct, the chronological implications of the dating evidence from this year not only cause an overall compression of the temporal sequence, but shed a rather different light on the socio-cultural context of the Villa, its construction, its associated shops and dependencies, and its final expansion. Some of these changes are still in the process of being resolved, but at the moment it is possible to highlight here some of the major observations that can be made about the Villa, its developmental phases, and the meaning of these phases for the area outside of the Porta Ercolano.
The “Villa Core”
The roughly square central core of the Villa, aligned neatly with the other villas outside of the Porta Ercolano and identified by Kockel2 as a possible first phase villa rustica, has long formed the starting point for our understanding of the development of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico. Excavations undertaken against its walls in order to date this phase, or possibly find evidence of earlier phases at depth, instead found that the whole Villa was constructed upon a massive platform from the start. The walls, constructed in three different materials in layers (lava stone opus incertum at the base, Sarno stone opus incertum with large Sarno and tufo di Nocera quoins, and finally opus incertum in red cruma), descend at least 1.8 m and are filled, virtually to the current existing surface with a massive filling layer of redeposited natural soils. Elements of the standard Pompeiian natural sequence, from the yellow and scoriae-filled soils of the Mercato eruption layer, to black sands, and green-grey soils, pea-sized lapilli, compressed ashes of later natural deposits, and extensive elements of rich dark chocolate-coloured soils, were all found jumbled in a differential fill that filled the spaces between each of these walls to roughly the same elevation. The construction method for the platform was clear, since at intervals in the fill, spillage of mortar from the walls themselves was recovered against them. The workers had filled the platform in stages as they built it. Most obvious of all was the residue of fractured Sarno stone that marked the transition from lava opus incertum and roughly the beginning of the intended above surface elements of the Villa. Apparently, the walls were always intended to bear considerable loads. All of the surviving primary walls follow the course of similar deep lava stone incertum foundations, and even where doorways were intended, it seems that the walls continued across the thresholds. Possibly this was a form of casemate construction, creating cells of fill that would serve as a solid base for the Villa itself. At the centre of this platform, a series of brick columns on large Nocera tuff bases ran around at least the western, northern and eastern side, producing a manner of peristyle and probable entrance to the Villa. A doorway leading off to the east, suggests that the original “core” actually continued further to the east, though further excavation in that area will be necessary to be certain of this supposition. From its initial conception then, the Villa was always intended to sit above a massive platform, with walls sufficiently thick to support upper stories and evidence for a first floor set of rooms on the eastern side at least. Far from being a rustic “villa core,” the central element of the Villa, was, from its inception a monumental platform in support of luxurious Villa life and elite display.
A New Date for the Primary Villa
Preliminary and tentative dating from the deep redeposited natural deposits of the platform suggest that the first phase of the Villa cannot be before the late 1st c. BCE or early 1st c. CE, a considerably later date than anticipated and suggested in previous reports. While the material that produced this date must yet be completely studied and confirmed, such a late date, at least on the face of things, serves to situate the creation of the Villa into a later time frame than anticipated, while also compressing the changes observed within the structure of its interior to a shorter period of time. Perhaps an Augustan date for the primary Villa helps to explain the platform upon which it was built. Certainly, it seems that securing a view to the sea was one major motivation of the Villa owners, and the report of last year has already suggested that the expansion of upper stories may have been motivated by this desire. That such a motivation may be behind the form of the initial Villa also accords with the specific placement of the Villa, which fits suspiciously neatly between the vistas of the other two nearby Villas (di Cicero and di Diomede). The later date for the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico may suggest that this Villa was a relative late-comer that had to fit itself into pre-existing topographical limitations created by earlier villas in the area. The timing of the first phase of construction of this edifice, which has always been known to be directly over an extensive Samnite cemetery, is also important. Had such an action had occurred directly after the establishment of the Roman Colony in 80 BCE, it might have been interpreted as a significant, and audacious act of imperialism. Situated instead in the late Augustan period, it could be seen instead as a component of the rebuilding and monumentalisation of the Porta Ercoloano itself, which, according to results of the University of Bradford excavations in Insula VI 1, also occurred at this time. While not entirely removing the possibility of imperialistic erasure of the Samnite past, such timing allows for the possibility that these graves, or those with whom they were connected, might have been conveniently forgotten by this time. Even if that were not so, the construction of the Villa does neatly align with similar constructions of Villa over earlier cemeteries in Rome, such Maecenas' Esquiline villa (Sat. I, 8), famous built over Plebeian cemeteries of Republican date. Perhaps Horace could have written similar jibes about the owners of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico.
A Simpler Development: Upward Expansion and Water Features
The compression of chronology caused by a later date for the primary phase of the Villa is matched and supported by the fact that most trenches in the core produced relatively few phases overall. Beyond the first surfaces associated with the primary Villa, there appear to have been only two subsequent phases. The first, involved the considerable reinforcing of the structure of the villa with the closure of some doors, (and the opening of others), and the creation of several large piers in opus vittatum mixtum, in tile and yellow Phlegrean tuff. These piers were built over and through the earlier walls, removing at least one of the original brick columns, and putting out of use a deep (more than 6 m) cistern that had been part of the original construction. In tandem with these changes, a new method of providing water to the Villa was established. To the west, in the triangular space produced by the difference between the alignment of the shops and the Via dei Sepolcri and the Villa itself, a cistern was created, fed by water from the second storey peristyle and roofing and providing a reservoir of water with a lead pipe that was found to run out of the eastern wall of this feature, into the floor and then across the area of the central core. This pipe seems to have run originally out through the eastern doorway, and possibly was intended to provide water to the modified bath suite on the other side of the Villa. Whether this cistern was considered sufficient to the water needs of the Villa or was supplemented with additional water storage, it is clear that the large cistern within the core that had been present from its creation was now sealed and put out of use. A thick mortar capping was built over it, and the channel of its drain was filled in. The cistern was found to be empty and without either access point or lapilli fill that would have indicated a continuation of use. It is likely that a major consideration in this was the provision of structure suitable for the expansion of upper stories, which, as discussed in the report from 2017, reached at least three storeys at this time.
It is clear that the final phase of changes in the Villa likely related to alterations in response to the considerable damages caused by the earthquake(s) of 62/3 CE. In some cases, this involved the filling in of additional doorways, possibly in an effort to shore up the upper stories. Extremely deep foundations for supports where a new doorway was cut on the western side (AA018) testify to the significant loads that the walls were already bearing and the extent to which proper preparations were necessary to undertake architectural modifications. Early results from the Project’s excavations outside of the core (AA012) have already documented the extensive changes that the Villa and its dependencies appear to have undergone at this time. At this same time within the core, the lead pipe appears to have been broken and partially removed. On the western side, its connection with the wall was broken, and towards the east, its possible removal appears to have created a void that had not been filled at the time of the eruption, but was filled with a jumble of lapilli and collapsing layers, including a thick deposit of black sand, possibly during the modern period. It is possible that this area also had a thick supporting beam placed against the eastern wall, producing what appeared in excavation to be a collapse. Seemingly as a response to this change, two water basins were constructed in the south-eastern corner of the room. The larger square basin, provided that the lower open was blocked, would have fed water into the smaller circular one. Both ultimately drained into a channel that fed the drain recovered in AA005, itself possibly the reused overflow channel from the original cistern of the Villa. How water was provided to these features is unknown, but the lead pipe was certainly out of use, terminating between AA017 and AA020. These significant alterations appear to be related overall to the changes documented in AA012, where the surrounding cryptoporticus areas (which had been a part of the creation of upper stories), experienced considerable transformation, upheaval, and even some downgrading. Indeed, it is possible that the apparent decommissioning of these areas is what drove the changes within the villa core. However, it is clear that such changes did not equate with abandonment. The expansion of the Villa across the area of the viridarium and the provision of additional storeys in those areas attest to a revitalisation effort that was perhaps never fully completed. Within the core, a final, generally thin yellow surface was applied to most of the central core area, seemingly as a final, perhaps temporary floor surface. Within the area of AA017, build-up of alternating ash, debris, and lime, suggested continued use, of the kitchen surfaces, including perhaps the addition of a small oven between the two surfaces. Certainly, the lamination of cooking residue, including broken pottery, and evidence for wooden cupboard doors in the southern bench, attest to a continuity of use and inhabitation until the eruption itself.
The results of the 2018 field season have served to augment considerably the understanding of Villa and its dependencies. With chronological resolution on the original phases of the Villa and its internal development, the stages identified through the Project’s earlier excavations have come into greater focus and refinement. As always, we remain deeply indebted to the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei, the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Soprintendente Prof. Osanna, dott.ssa Sodo, dott.ssa Toniolo, dott.ssa D’Esposito 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 ongoing generosity and friendship toward the Via Consolare Project and its members since its inception.
1. VisualSFM by dott. ChangChang Wu and PMVS2 by dott. Yasutaka Furukawa and dott. Jean Ponce are normally employed by this Project.
2. Kockel, V. and B. F. Weber. 1983. ‘Die Villa delle Colonne a mosaico in Pompeji.’ Mitteilungen des Deutschen archaeologischen Instituts. Römische Abteilung.
Website Content © Copyright Via Consolare Project 2018