The Via Consolare Project in Pompeii
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Daily life on the Project
The Via Consolare Project is an ongoing project of field research in the ancient city of Pompeii, Italy. Pompeii is a World Heritage Site that is located on the Bay of Naples and is open to the public 364 days per year. We are very fortunate to receive daily entrance for our research and permission to conduct archaeological inquiry through the generosity of the Superintendency of the site (the Parco Archeologico di Pompei) and the Italian government (Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali: Direzone generale archeologicia belle arti e paesaggio). The Project is active in the field during the summer months.
The Project carries out on-site research approximately five to six days per week, depending on the needs of the work being undertaken. We depart camp at 7:00-7.15am for breakfast at the nearby cafe and are on site working already by 8:00am. All Project members carry out the various tasks for the day including excavation, survey, recording, and carrying equipment to site.
The team takes a short lunch break on site at roughly midday. During the early afternoon, the entire team comes together for artefact and ecofact processing and analysis, pottery washing, cataloguing of artefacts, and ecofactual recovery, including conducting soil sample floatation and the sorting of residue fractions, etc. At roughly 6-6.45 pm, the group finishes final work and packs up the site, departing site prior to sunset, when the site closes its doors. Some tasks, including downloading survey points, data entry, and writing up goes on after we return to the campsite and sometimes even after dinner. Its a long day!
When possible, the Project also takes time for trips to archaeological sites elsewhere around the Bay of Naples such as Oplontis (Torre Annunziata), Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Cumae, and/or exploration of other parts of ancient Pompeii itself. Largely informal and unstructured, these trips are intended both to enrich our experiences and provide a basis of comparison for our research. Occasionally, we have been known to escape to the beach or nearby seaside towns to explore and relax. It should be noted however that there is no time for vacationing during the research season and that this schedule is entirely contingent upon the needs of the archaeological work and subject to change at any time.
The Via Consolare Project is housed at Camping Zeus, a campsite steps away from the front gate of the ancient city of Pompeii and conveniently situated next to the Circumvesuviana train station. All participants are expected to bring and live in tents in the campsite for the duration of the summer. Due to constraints of space and luggage restrictions, Project members use small, 2 to 3 person-sized tents. The campsite is provided with numerous shower facilities and is a former orange grove, making it one of the more comfortable places to rest your head during the hot summer months. Any deviation from this pattern must be approved by the Director in advance.
Breakfast, taken at the nearby cafe, often consists of a pastry and coffee. Lunch, eaten on site, is normally a sandwich containing a mixture of meats (prosciutto crudo or cotto, salami), greens, cheese (normally mozzarella), and tomato; or one of several types of salad or pasta ordered from a local cafe for pickup at midday. Dinner is most often prepared on the campsite and generally takes the form of a buffet-style selection of salad, meats, cheese, olives, bread and fruit that we purchase daily from the nearby supermarket. For variety, we occasionally grill, order out for pizza, bake potatoes, or go into town for dinner at a local restaurant. Team members doing the shopping can also purchase specialised foods from the supermarket to supplement this pattern, though no refrigeration facilities are available for storage. This lack of fixed arrangements allows us the greatest flexibility in our schedule and the ability to handle the unexpected.
All members of the Project are expected to help with food shopping, preparing and cleaning up after meals on a rotating schedule (yes, we all do the dishes, even the Director!).
It should be noted that all our meals are in keeping with local southern Italian fare, centring upon cured meats (prosciutto, salami, etc.), cheeses (especially mozzarella di buffala!), local vegetables (peppers, eggplant/aubergine, mushrooms, rucola/rocket, squash), pastas, pizzas, fruit (olives, bananas, peaches, melon, tomatoes), and wine. Vegetarianism, while certainly sustainable with the local offerings (especially with foods purchased from the supermarket) can be a difficult concept for local chefs. A certain degree of flexibility (and a deal of patience) is necessary, but be prepared for more difficulty than you might encounter at home. More restrictive eating requirements, such as veganism, lactose intolerance, and gluten intolerance, can be accommodated (there are increasing options available at supermarkets), but not without some difficulty, since the number of food options that qualify are quite limited, and are often non-existant when eating out. If you have very specific food requirements and/or allergies, it is strongly recommended that you consider whether archaeological work in southern Italy will be the best choice for you.
Many of our evenings are spent sitting around camp or the bungalo, eating, having a beer, playing card games, and laughing together. Project participants use whatever free time there might be to do laundry, explore the site, visit other nearby cities, or relax. However, there is often little unscheduled time, and this time is normally spent in the company of the rest of the team, so there can often be little "alone time." In all matters, the needs of the Project and the research we are undertaking always come first.
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