The Via Consolare Project in Pompeii
Field Season 2019
During the summer of 2019 with the generous permission of the Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali: Direzone generale archeologicia belle arti e paesaggio and the Parco Archeologico di Pompei and with vital assistance from Prof. Osanna, Dott.ssa Stefani, Dott.ssa Toniolo, and Dott. Scarpati, members of the Via Consolare Project conducted archaeological excavations, survey, and documentation in the area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico and in Insula VII 6 as part of an on-going 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 undertaking a series of small trenches within the eastern core of the Villa Complex (AA022), in the area of the sacellum in the central courtyard (AA021), and by reopening two areas cleaned in 2018 (AA019W and AA019E), consisting of investigations under the western stairway and at the mouth of the northern entrance corridor. In Insula VII 6, two trenches were opened in the SW of the block, within a series of shops that occupied the area during the final phase. AA023 was undertaken on the eastern side of the shop at doorway 34, one of the two shops traditionally identified as a lupanar, while AA024 comprised the western side of the shop at doorway 31, including the footing of the stairway at doorway 32(Figs. 1 and 2). Structure from motion 3D data capture permitted long sections through the insulae to be produced. Analysis of materials continued to move forward at pace this year, with the completion of the study of large amounts of pottery from AA006, AA007, and AA017, as well as finalisation of AA012.
The overall goal of this season of excavation was to complete research on the Villa and to return the focus of research to the finalisation of the study of Insula VII 6. Within this general objective, the specific goals of this year were the following:
1. Exploration of the eastern side of the Villa core through excavation of the only area in that part of the structure where excavation was still possible. This was intended to provide a window onto the early history of the Villa, which as was suggested in 2018, may have included this area from its primary phase.
2. Exploration and investigation of the final surviving ancient surface of the northern corridor (doorway 15 North), in order to confirm the developmental chronology of this part of the Villa, as previously identified via wall analysis.
3. Similar investigation and exploration of the area under the western stairs of the central courtyard of the Villa, to explain the complicated deposits recovered through cleaning in 2018.
4. Excavation of a small area in front of the sacellum altar in the area of the Villa, which preserves the only surviving elements of the original soil level of the sacellum court prior to widespread investigations that cleared much of the area during the late 19th or early 20th c. This area holds the only evidence remaining on the precise chronology of the Villa’s expansion.
5. Excavation of several small trenches in the SE quarter of Insula 7 6, in order to explore the traces of opus Africanum or opus quadratum construction in this area, especially in terms of how these walls relate to possible early plot division markers present in the nearby sidewalk.
6. Cleaning of several related areas in the Casa di Petutius Quintio, in order to record the final phase floors recovered in 1910, but have never been fully published.
7. Correction and filling in details of the 3D model of the Villa and its dependencies produced in 2015, 2017, and 2018, 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.
8. 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.
9. Recording, analysis, and processing of pottery recovered in previous seasons (AA006, AA007, AA017) remaining to be studied systematically.
Many of these goals were achieved successfully during the summer of 2019. Excavation in the area of the possible bath suite produced evidence consistent with this interpretation, including two lead pipes, running at right angles to each other. The pipe running W-E is the missing continuation of a similar lead pipe recovered in the central core in 2018, helping to resolve difficult sequencing recovered in that area last year. Extensive damage also found in AA022 seems likely to relate to changes under way during the final moments of the Villa’s life. Excavations under the stairs (AA019E) produced evidence of a large drain, likely intended to carry water for the central core towards a large cistern in shop 13N, and serves to connect this area of the Villa to the core at an earlier phase that is otherwise extremely poorly known. Excavation in doorway 15N (AA019W) produced evidence of an earlier structure or feature, possibly to be interpreted as the opus incertum foundation of a tomb, seemingly removed when the Villa expanded to the south. Exploration of the subsurface in the corridor and the area of the sacellum produced not only the exact sequence of the sacellum with the viridarium walls (a sequence that runs counter to our conclusions based solely on analysis of the walls), but also direct connection of the expansion of the Villa to the natural volcanic soils in the area, testifying to a long period when the area would have been largely empty. Trenches and cleaning in Insula VII 6, produced vital evidence of early wall arrangements in the area, indicating that the property boundary markers in the pavement did not correspond to individual plot divisions but instead marked off a single large property that was later subdivided. Both AA023 and AA024 confirmed the absence of southern doorways in the initial phases and indicated the widespread lowering of soils during a later phase in order to create the shops that now occupy the area. The nature of the wall uncovered in AA023, built in Sarno stone stringers and headers, but seemingly filled in with large rough stones of pappamonte (at least at the base) suggests quite an early period for the earliest construction in this area that is concert with our previous publications about the insula development.
Archaeological Area AA019E
AA019 consisted of two different sondages, separated for convenience as AA019E and AA019W but sharing an overall chronological trajectory and many relationships with the standing masonry. AA019E was an area approximately 1.5m by 4m located at the base of a set of stairs on the southern side of the sacellum courtyard of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico (Fig. 4). The trench was excavated in order to re-examine features uncovered during a clean of the area in 2018, which had produced a confusion of building events. In particular, the goal of this trench was to establish the relationship of the walls of the viridarium and sacellum with respect to traces of early volcanic soils in the area and to provide chronological resolution to the expansion of the Villa itself during the final phases of its life. AA019W, similarly the result of cleaning in 2018, was situated at the opening of the long corridor at doorway 15N, an entrance generally seen to be the carriageway entrance to the Villa (Fig. 9). Cleaning in 2018 had produced evidence of a packed earth surface and serval deposits suggesting a sequence of changes to the doorway arrangements in the area, and providing another window onto the later chronology of the Villa and its expansion to the south.
AA019E Phase 1 – The ‘Natural Sequence’
Deposits seemingly deriving from the Mercato eruptive layer were recovered at a depth of ca. 1.3m below the modern topsoil within the Villa, forming the earliest attested natural phase. Overlying this was a thick layer of a dark yellowish brown loamy silt, possibly a thick palaeosol that did not correspond to the published natural sequence recovered in excavations in nearby Insula VI 1. This thick layer was capped by deposits of a distinctive pea-sized gravel, a grey silty pocked-earth surface, and a layer of fine black sand that were clearly of volcanic origin (Fig. 5). It was this natural stratigraphic sequence that experienced the first human activities in this area during the subsequent phase.
AA019E Phase 2 – Creation of the Access Corridor and Drain
The excavation of AA019E exposed two major construction events that can be attributed to Phase 2. A substantially constructed black lava opus incertum wall that defined the eastern and western extents of the access corridor, was built as part of a wider building campaign that established the first phase of shops attached to the lower villa structure. This north-east corridor wall, together with its foundation fill of loosely mortared opus incertum black lava stones, filled a large and deep linear foundation-trench cut made through the natural chocolatey-brown, silty-loam natural deposits below (Fig. 6). Since previous subsurface excavations undertaken by A. Sogliano between March 1905 and December of 19061 in an effort to locate ‘Oscan graves’ during the final campaign of primary excavation in the Villa long ago removed any upper soil stratigraphy in this area, it is unknown whether the cut for this foundation trench was made through the full natural sequence identified in other areas of this AA, beginning at the level of the black sand, or whether other ancient activity had previously truncated the top of the natural sequence. Also identified at depth, underlying but attached to the wall’s foundation fill on its eastern extent, was a deposit of hardened yellowish brown soil that had been truncated along its northern extent and underside by the same subsurface investigations in the Villa area. As such, it can only be presumed that this deposit was also a part of the fill used to raise the level of the foundation trench to the desired elevation during the construction of the walls themselves.
A NE to SW aligned drain, with sides constructed in opus incertum and bonded together with a medium brown mortar characterised by distinctive white inclusions, and with a base and cover constructed of tiles, was the other major construction event of Phase 2 in AA019E (Fig. 7). For its construction, a linear cut which was entirely filled by the drain itself, was made through the upper deposits of the natural sequence, beginning at the elevation of the black sand. The precise source of the water this feature evacuated remains unclear. A drain of a similar construction and proportions was identified in AA005 to the north at the villa core entrance, which exited to the south through the fauces of the lower villa core and may have had some connection to this drain.
AA019E Phase 3 – Creation of the Viridarium and Sacellum Courtyard
During this phase, the villa and immediate area experienced substantial changes that further defined and altered the viridarium and sacellum courtyard. First, a black lava viridarium perimeter wall was constructed in opus incertum, bonded with a yellowish-brown mortar with white inclusions. This wall, which formed the southern edge of AA019E, extended from the central span of the southern corridor wall to the east, creating an awkward and misaligned space that was filled by the creation of the newly quoined and plastered opus mixtum corner (SU 019.003) identified in the central area of AA019E. This quoined corner, constructed in brick with small blocks of Sarno stone and Nocera tuff, was created to help support the upper storeys that now spanned the immediate area above the corridor. This construction caused extensive damage to the upper build of the original drain. At this point, a stack of three load-bearing tiles was installed over the drain in alignment with the perimeter wall. The remaining extension of the upper drain was then rebuilt with large, irregular lava blocks, and encased in the same light brownish grey mortar. A levelling fill of a distinctive pale brownish-yellow silty-loam, was then deposited over the mortared surface of the newly reconstructed drain and opus mixtum wall footing. Located about 5 cm to the east of the north-eastern corner of the opus mixtum quoin, a circular cut was then made for the creation of a post pivot, securing access to the sacellum courtyard from the corridor and western street. A matching post identified on the other side of the corridor in 2018 means that this door consisted of two valves.
AA019E Phase 4 - Creation of the Staircase
This final phase of ancient activity is characterised primarily by the construction of an east-to-west staircase with an internal storage niche built against the northern face of the southern viridarium/sacellum courtyard partition wall, which provided a new means of access to upper storey rooms located above and to the west (Fig. 8). This staircase was built abutting the north face of the viridarium wall and against the plaster layer extant on the eastern face of the opus mixtum quoin that finishes the eastern extent of the original black lava corridor wall. A series of black lava stones were then positioned as the footing for the upper build of the niche, with the earthen grey mortar then levelling the newly created internal space. Its construction was completed using a poor-quality, light grey earthen mortar that was first deposited over the immediate area, and can now be identified only within the niche itself. A thin layer of plaster was then applied to the viridarium wall at the back of the niche before being applied to the sides of the niche.
As it stands in the present day, the outer build of the staircase is a mostly modern restoration. The poor preservation of this ancient feature is likely a result of the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius. However, it is probable that the core construction of the original staircase has simply been encased in the modern reconstruction, and that it represents a reasonably accurate portrayal of the ancient feature. Scoring visible on the plaster of the viridarium wall clearly mark the construction of the stairway. Furthermore, the two poorly preserved plastering layers extant on the back wall of the niche and the niche roof and sides further indicate that the core structure of the staircase was, in fact, preserved to some extent at the time of excavation.
AA019E Phase 5 - Modern Interventions
The previous sub-surface excavations of Sogliano have left clearly identifiable traces within AA019E. Deep cuts were made to expose the foundations of the primary black lava corridor wall, as well as those of the opus mixtum corner rebuild, the drain, and the original staircase construction. In the eastern extent, a cut was made from the top of the black sand and pea-gravel deposits, sloping downwards towards the north through the silty yellowish-brown natural deposit, exposing the ancient staircase and drain features. This cut appears to have removed the exposed upper construction and northern extension of the drain itself, and also to have cut down though the grey earthen mortar deposit and the upper elements of the drain within the niche. This was likely in order to identify any interesting finds or artefacts that might be recovered from this feature. A small handful of interesting finds, including a terra sigillata bowl rim, and a small earthenware flask handle, was found in the modern deposit that had since partially filled this recently created void, possibly finds discarded by previous excavators. In the western extent of the AA, a very deep cut, reaching the level of the Mercato deposit, was made to expose and partially remove the mortared foundations of the primary black lava corridor wall, as well as the opus mixtum rebuild of its eastern extent. This cut was then filled with a mixture of the soils that had been excavated to produce it, and raised to the modern surface level. Unfortunately, these historical excavations served to remove any evidence of the upper use surfaces in this area. Finally, the opus incertum staircase was rebuilt using large pieces of grey tuff and Sarno stone. At the eastern end, this reconstructed element of the ancient feature rests solely upon the layer of black sand and pea-gravel with the mortar spill at the base of this construction event still clearly visible.
Archaeological Area AA019W
Phase 1 – Natural Soils and Topography
The earliest phase recovered in AA019 comprises the natural soils in the area. In AA019W this consisted of a highly-characteristic, sterile, yellow soil, with frequent black scoriae and white flecks, that is generally associated with the Mercato eruption of Vesuvius (Fig. 9). The surprisingly high level of this deposit with respect to other areas of the Villa is indicative of the degree to which later deposits, better preserved in the area of the Villa were eroded in the area of the Via dei Sepolcri to produce the depression through which the street runs today.
Phase 2 – A possible tomb base
The earliest signs of human activity consist of a large base of loosely mortared black lava stones, filled with a consistent, fine, largely sterile grey soil (Fig. 10). Cut into the underlying natural soils, this feature, which at first seemed likely to be a drain due to the presence of the apparently water-washed silty soil, has now been re-interpreted as the opus incertum base of a small tomb monument. Comparanda for similar, though larger, monuments can be found near to the Porta Ercolano, with 6N, being an excellent example. While no upper structure of the putative tomb was recovered, the construction method is consistent with surrounding tomb bases found along the street. The surface of this feature was rough and had been coarsely removed to permit the construction of hard-packed earthen track way that was a part of the next phase. A considerable amount of the feature was excavation, largely due to the initial believe that it was a collapsed drain. However, when no drain channel presented itself, it became clear that an alternative interpretation was necessary. Other possible interpretations include non-funerary constructions, however the overall alignment of the structure, its size, and possible square-ness all tend to support its tentative identification as a small tomb monument. Dating from the excavation of this feature must await ceramic analysis, but a hypothetical date of somewhere in the mid-1st c. BC is supported by comparison to tomb 6N.
Phase 3 – The construction of the first phase of the Villa
Phase 3 witnessed the most extensive changes to the area, including the removal of the upper elements of the feature from Phase 2 and the creation of walls in black lava opus incertum creating a long corridor. Cut through the same natural soils are two foundation trenches for the southern and northern walls that flank the corridor (Fig. 11). While it is not entirely clear whether these should be sequenced together with the feature from Phase 2 or whether they represent a subsequent addition, their connection to the track way that passes over the earlier structure implies that they are secondary to it. The two trenches did respect the edges of the feature and do not penetrate it, but this may simply have been in an effort to reduce the work necessary to dig through the feature itself. The walls for which these trenches were constructed consist nearly entirely of black lava and would appear to be a component of the primary construction of the northern row of shops (of which the northern wall is also a component). As such, it seems likely that they should be sequenced with the primary construction of the Villa itself (which also features many deep walls primarily constructed in black lava) and its associated shops to the north. Explaining the presence of the southern wall is more complicated, as it does not coordinate with any other structure during this phase. Perhaps it formed the southern boundary of the whole complex. Dating from the foundation trenches may yet reveal more about the precise sequence of these events, but at the moment it would seem prudent to sequence these walls along with the Villa itself in the late Augustan period.
After the removal of the putative tomb monument and the creation of the walls, its footings were covered over with a very hard-packed earthen surface (Fig. 12). This surface, which was incredibly resistive to excavation and required pick-axing, was clearly intended to carry heavy traffic. No signs of rutting or other damage to the surface were visible. The construction of the surface entailed layering of pulverized black lava stones and the inclusion of elements of silty soil which appear to have bonded together to produce a highly-practical working surface, that stretched across the area from N to S directly over the top of the former feature from Phase 2. The walls to the north and the south were provided with black lava threshold stones, carved to receive roughly square jambs on either side. That on the southern side was also outfitted with an iron pivot point, suggesting that the original configuration of the door consisted of a large single door that pivoted on its southernmost point.
Phase 4 – Expansion of the Villa and changes to the doorway configuration
During the expansion of the Villa to encompass the area of the viridarium, the doorway at AA019W was modified. Two new mortar elements, each with square holes formed into the wet mortar were placed over the original lava stone threshold stones. These holes seem to have been intended to support new door jambs, which, in association with a limestone central threshold stone that was cut to permit the locking of two separate doorways implies the alteration of the doorway into a system with two valves locked in the centre. The threshold stone itself, which is strongly connected with later changes to the threshold in the modern period may or may not be original, and so it is possible that these two mortar elements were intended to produce a different effect, interpreted by the original excavators as a two value closing system (Fig. 12). A similar, two door system of doorways appears also to have been in use during this phase at the other end of the corridor in AA019E. Perhaps this indicates a desire to block off the corridor itself with a similar system at either end.
Phase 5 – Modern Interventions
Modern changes in the area fall into two main categories and appear to have been concentrated in two main sub phases of activity. The first consists of a long row of six postholes, situated roughly half a metre to the E from the entrance. Together with a broader cut that is probably related these cuts appear to derive from efforts to secure a temporary barrier across the corridor, probably during the original excavation of the site. Such a barrier was likely intended to hold back the lapilli within the Villa from falling into the Via dei Sepolcri, which was excavated long before the Villa itself. A series of posts, perhaps with boards between them, would certainly have left behind such traces, and the large number of very close postholes might indicate several period of repair or replacement of this feature. It was at this time that the threshold might have been ‘improved’ through the addition of extra threshold stones, possibly including the unusual limestone one that has fittings for the closure and locking of a two doorway system. It is equally possible that this particular stone was found in situ but was secured into place during this initial period of exposure. To the south of this stone, a modern mortar was used to secure additional stones into place in order to complete the threshold area.
After this, and probably in fairly recent times, two cuts were made against the northern and southern walls of the area. These cuts, which ran through some of the postholes, appear to have been intended to expose the foundations of the walls in preparations for re-pointing and repair of the walls that took place in the recent modern period. Finally, modern build-up filled in these cuts and over the area in a thin layer of soil and grass growth.
Archaeological Area AA021
AA021 consisted of a narrow ‘L’ shaped trench (1.17m x 1.7m x.5m) on the southern side of the second altar or statue base that sits in front of the shrine in the sacellum courtyard of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico (Fig. 13). Here, a modern retaining wall supports the only portion of the ancient final levels that survived the widespread and intensive investigations of A. Sogliano between March 1905 and December of 1906, whose search for Oscan-Samnite graves in the area has been mentioned above already.2 Two of these graves were reconstructed and presented to the public under glass cases in the sacellum court to the NW of AA021, and remains of several others were found by the VCP in AA004 having been consolidated in modern concrete. Accordingly, excavation in this narrow space provided the only opportunity to recover dating material on the viridarium walls, the sacellum itself and its altar/statue base. The area under the sacellum was cleaned in 2019 to the level of a plaster subfloor for what may have been a thin opus signinum surface during the final phase that has not survived, but was not excavated.
Phase 1 – The ‘Natural Sequence’
The excavation of AA021 this season identified the upper elements of a sequence of natural soils at depths comparable with those identified in other areas of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico. Consisting of a deposit characterised by dark-grey pea-sized gravel, capped by a thin layer of a light-grey silty pocked-earth, and topped by a thick layer of fine, purplish-black sand, this ‘natural sequence’ was identified at depth in the lower south-western corner of the AA apparently underlying and preceding all subsequent phases (Fig. 14). It is to be connected precisely with the natural sequence as identified in AA019E and in AA019W, the Mercato eruption layer of which, should be found at depth beneath these later volcanic soils. The fact that the Oscan graves and the earliest constructions of the Villa both appear to have taken place directly into these soils without intervening deposits suggests a long period of apparent disuse of the area between its earliest funerary use and the first expansion of the Villa across this area in Phase 2.
Phase 2 – Creation of the Viridarium
The creation of the opus incertum black lava wall defining the northern boundary of the viridarium is the first ancient activity identified in AA021. For its construction, a linear east-west cut was made through the black sand along the southern boundary of the AA, and was subsequently filled to the elevation of the black sand with the foundations of the black lava wall. This footing and upper wall was constructed entirely with black lava stones, bonded together with a distinctive light brownish-yellow mortar. Following this construction, the area was filled with a rubble deposit, characterised by a dark greyish-brown sandy-silt with a high concentration of inclusions within its matrix, including but not limited to mortar, brick and tile, plaster, and pottery. It was likely that, subsequent to this, a cut was made through this deposit in the south-western corner of the AA, down to the footing of the viridarium wall for the construction of feature that is now largely lost. Built in an opus incertum of black lava with some brick and tile, and bonded together with a similar light brownish mortar as that of the viridarium wall, this feature was truncated for the creation of the retaining wall in the modern period. As such, such a small extent of it remains, that it provides no hint of its purpose or function.
Phase 3 – Creation of the Viridarium
Representing the major construction event of this phase, the west-facing sacellum was built abutting the northern face of the north-eastern viridarium wall. The opus incertum foundations of the sacellum filled a deep cut made through the rubble fill deposit, visible in section below the western face of the southern sacellum wall. Atop these foundations, the upper portion of the sacellum was constructed in opus vittatum using Sarno stone and Nocera tuff blocks, with an upper arch in brick and tile supporting the sacellum pediment. Two altars or possibly an altar and statue base, one centred and fully engaged with the rear wall, and one freestanding in front of the sacellum, were both constructed during this phase.
The centrally aligned, freestanding altar, located about 80cm in front of the sacellum, was constructed out of a single block of carved Nocera tuff, and was situated atop a bed of mortar that filled a shallow cut made into the rubble fill. A layer of plaster was then applied to this feature, now extant only along the base of its eastern edge, overlying the mortar footing. Remnants of mortar are also evident physically overlying the top of the tuff altar block. It is likely that the decorated plaster surface still extant on the internal sacellum walls was fashioned in this phase, though this cannot be determined conclusively. Phase 4a – Creation of Staircase Overlying the Sacellum
The continued expansion and development of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico was reflected in the creation of an opus mixtum staircase that incorporated the sacellum structure as its principal supporting element. Within AA021, this final-phase activity is characterised primarily by the installation of a fragmented plaster fill that extends from the eastern internal sacellum wall, to the west past the external altar construction, where it has been since truncated by historical excavation activity (Fig. 16). It is likely that this eventually recieved a thin opus signinum surface that has not survived. The external altar also received a second layer of plaster (SU 021.006) during this phase, preserved only on the southern base of the altar: a brightly painted with a yellow fresco with a red and green confetti-like splatter across its surface.
Phase 4b – Creation of Staircase Overlying the Sacellum
Now surviving as only two sheets of plaster resting against the eastern and southern sides of the altar, this final plastering event came later than that the previous Phase 4a. This plaster was likely originally coloured a red, matching that of the internal altar, however, has now faded to a very pale reddish-pink colour. The repeated plastering of this altar or statue base indicates a long period of continued reuse and redecoration consistent with on-going and active cult practice that is particularly striking given the relatively short period during which the sacellum was a component of the Villa complex (Fig. 17).
Phase 5 – Modern Interventions
The removal of the modern overburden revealed the extent to which the earlier sub-surface excavations served to truncate the western and southern ancient deposits and features within AA021. Two steep, linear cuts were made by these previous investigations, the first of which truncated the plaster sub-flooring and upper rubble deposit adjacent to the viridarium wall in the southern AA area. These were likely intended to investigate the lower build of this wall. The second cut, truncating the same plaster sub-flooring and rubble deposits together with the black sand, pocked-earth, and pea-gravel, to the west of the external altar, exposed and largely destroyed the unidentifiable feature in the south-western corner of the AA, likely in preparation for the construction of the modern retaining wall that wrapped around the western extent, protecting this now-elevated area. That the original floor level of the sacellum courtyard should have been left only in this restricted area was probably due to the presence of the altar base and a desire not to undermine the sacellum and its features. The retaining wall meant that the level of the rest of the court could be left at a reduced elevation, so that Oscan-Samnite graves recovered directly to the W of the sacellum could be left exposed for public display.
Archaeological Area AA022
AA022 was situated in the first of a series of rooms on the eastern side of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico core that have been interpreted as a bath suite on the basis of possible traces of hypocaust systems in a few of the back rooms in combination with their overall shape and size. This trench was planned as a direct outcome of the results of excavations in 2018 in the so-called "villa core," which suggested that, contrary to the conclusions of previous research, the original Villa must have also included this area in its primary construction. This trench was also excavated in order to trace the final use of space within the Villa and to gain an insight into the northern and north-eastern adjoining rooms. As such, the goal was to excavate to the level of the sterile fills of the villa platform that were extensively removed in the core area in 2018, while also looking for any confirmation that the area had, at least during some point in its history, functioned as a bath suite. Given the position of this room in the complex, such a space should have served as a manner of apodyterium, but it was clear from a study of the walls that the area had also witnessed considerable transformations throughout the history of the Villa. The area of excavation, roughly 6.5 m by 2.3 m was intended to focus on the western side of the room, but due to the discovery of intact elements including a well-preserved drain and lead pipe in the centre of the room, excavation was adjusted to accommodate these features (Fig. 18).
Phase 1 – Creation of the villa core
This phase was witnessed within AA022 by the construction of deep foundation walls for a raised platform that spanned the area of the Villa core, meant to provide support for the main floor of the Villa in the first phase. The lower portions of these retaining walls were constructed primarily in an opus incertum of black lava and Sarno stone, and finished later at height with an opus incertum of cruma, Sarno stone, and Nocera and yellow tuff. Abutting these walls was a grey, sandy-silt deposit that, although not fully excavated, seemed to continue to considerable depth as part of the earth-filled platform intended to support the ground floor of the Villa. This deposit bore a striking resemblance to the earliest floor levels located in AA017, AA018, and AA020 in 2018, and its depth and sterile nature implies that it likely also represented the final filling layer of the platform upon which the Villa was built.
Overlying this grey deposit was the earliest floor surface recovered from AA022, a differential brownish-yellow deposit of silty sand and rubble that was found throughout the southern and eastern areas of the trench. Abutting the foundation walls, this deposit was interpreted as the top of the levelling layer that signified the end of the Villa’s first phase of construction. This yellow surface also abutted the build of a platform in the north-eastern corner of the trench extent, constructed from a number of bipedalis sized tiles and patched with pottery fragments that seemed to repair damage to the platform’s edges or be a part of its finishing (Fig. 19). This relationship clearly shows that the platform pre-dates the yellow ‘sub-floor’, and therefore should be included within the Villa’s original construction phase. Additionally, the formation and size of these tiles suggest either that they possibly formed part of the base of a hypocaust system, correlating with the interpretation of AA022 as the Villa’s bath suite, or as a sort of entrance court to the primary rooms of the bath beyond. Also possibly included in this phase is an expanse of opus signinum flooring found within the extended northern trench extent and underlying the northern wall and threshold.
Phase 2 – Lead pipe and drain, changed access, and pilaster
This phase witnessed a considerable transformation in the Villa, which included changes related to the support of the upper storeys and access into the bath suite area. The simultaneous installation of a lead pipe together with a tile-lined drain attests to additional modifications to systems for the delivery and evacuation of water, which involved a cut into the yellow sub-flooring running north-west to south-east throughout the entire trench. The pipe and the drain were mortared together on this alignment throughout the area, with another section of the pipe branching off to the west from a junction box situated at the northern threshold (Fig. 20). The creation of these features perhaps implies that the original Villa core lacked the ability to easily transport pressurised water in and around the bath suite area. A cut for the creation of a south-eastern doorway was also present within the yellow sub-floor deposit, showing a change of access into AA022. The construction of this doorway into the adjoining room is additionally attested to by damage to a mortared wall structure that possibly served as a step, and by a small patch of mortar attached to the eastern wall above this doorway that suggests the likely placement of a threshold stone. A similar steep, linear cut in the yellow sub-floor was found to the north of this, running parallel to the central eastern doorway, which suggests that a similar action was undertaken in this area to create additional access into the room.
These cuts were filled with a differential rubble deposit that radiated from the central western area of the trench, made up of large stones and brick/tile, and containing a moderate amount of pottery and plaster. This rubble fill was perhaps an attempt simultaneously to fill the cuts for the eastern doorways and the pipe and drain, as well as to raise the floor level to a desired elevation. This deposit is bonded in several places to the yellow mortar opus incertum pilaster base in the centre of the eastern wall, demonstrating the degree to which the construction of these features was concurrent. The addition of the pilaster reflects the increasing need for architectural support for the expansion of the Villa’s above storeys in this phase. This necessity is emphasised further by the finishing at height of the southern wall with an opus incertum of cruma, Sarno stone, and Nocera and yellow tuff, and the construction of the northern wall over the tiled platform using a varied opus incertum of yellow tuff, Sarno stone, lava, brick and tile, and cruma. This northern build also included a step up into the adjoining north-eastern room and a mortar threshold leading into the northern room, the latter of which directly overlay the build of the pipe and drain (see Fig. 21). The level of this threshold is comparable to that of the south-eastern threshold suiting a now-missing floor level throughout AA022 above the rubble fill.
Phase 3 – Raised floor level and western wall
Phase 3 saw the construction of the western wall in an opus incertum of lava, cruma, and Sarno stone, along with the creation of the western threshold. The foundations of this wall clearly are bonded to an element of stone from the rubble floor-raising level of Phase 2, demonstrating clearly that its construction postdates the fill of the drain cut (Fig. 21). The elevation of the foundation at the base of this wall suggests the installation of another raised floor level in this phase, which corresponded with the level of the western threshold. This level also matches an elevated patch of opus signinum flooring observed against the eastern wall in room to the north of AA022, perhaps indicating that this floor level stretched throughout the whole area.
Phase 4 – Removal of floor level and preparation for pipe installation
Phase 4 can likely be situated after the earthquake of 62 CE, appearing to consist of repairs in the Villa’s bath suite. While no evidence of the floor installed within Phase 3 was recovered, its removal can be attributed to Phase 4 due to the need to undertake repairs to the piping and drain below it. The original lead pipe showed signs of damage, and was broken along its east to west alignment approximately 0.45 metres before it reached the western wall. The absence of the pipe in this north-western corner is further evidence of damage that probably occurred during the process of repair. Within AA020 in 2018, a section of lead pipe that once connected directly to that within AA022 was torn out forcibly by the ancient workers during this process of rebuilding. Preparation for the installation of a new pipe may have been underway, as suggested by the cut of a long, rounded linear passage running east to west under the drain and extending approximately one metre under the western wall (SU 022.014) (Fig. 22). The installation processes appears to have involved the excavation of small trenches that were subsequently interconnected via lateral "burrowing" in order to minimize damage to drain and to reduce the overall amount of work involved. The intended pipe was however, never put into place, nor was the cut generally filled by another deposit. Rather, the earth above it was so compacted that it was able to span the considerable voids caused by its creation.
Phase 5 – Eruption
A lapilli deposit that filled a small collapse of the drain cap near the northern doorway was evidence of the 79 CE eruption of Vesuvius. This suggests that the northern portion of the drain was left open through to the end of Pompeii’s existence. However, the southern portions of the drain generally lacked any lapilli, presumably due to a blockage to the north (Fig. 23). This blockage is perhaps linked to the post-earthquake repairs occurring in the bath suite and the installation of a new pipe. A grey, ashy deposit overlying the entire trench extent may also be evidence of eruption residue, if the the copious amount of brick, tile, pottery, plaster, and charcoal found within it derive from the collapse of upper storeys in the area. However, it is also possible that this ashy grey deposit represents the final use of the room as a dumping ground for remains from a nearby kitchen. Recovery of ecofactual remains from this deposit was so rich that it might represent kitchen debris transported from the Villa core. It is clear that works in the two areas were interconnected during the final phase. Phase 6 – Modern overburden
The modern detritus and topsoil found in AA022 covered the exposed trench extent, overlying the whole area, with a heavily concentrated rubble deposit in the south-western corner. This rubble was likely related to the damage the villa received from Allied bombing in 1943 and the subsequent rebuilding of the upper sections of many of the surrounding walls. The large amounts of construction material such as brick, tile, and mortar within this deposit suggests that this was debris belonged to the western and southern walls, the construction of which generally consists of the same materials.
Archaeological Area AA023
AA023 was the first of two trenches in 2019 undertaken in the SW corner of Insula VII 6 (Fig. 24). At 8m by 1.5m in size, the trench was located against the eastern wall of the shop at doorway 34 in order to investigate the presence of final-phase flooring in the area and if absent, the history of the development of this zone of the block and in particular the eastern wall, which displayed clear indications of original construction in opus Africanum in Sarno stone blocks. The presence of a series of Sarno stone markers in the southern pavement suggested the likelihood that this wall might have been one of the original dividing walls in the primary plot division of the area and could therefore yield important dating information for this first phase as well as significant information about the subsequent development of this area of the block. One of the goals for the 2019 season in AA023 was to understand the relationship between some of the shop-fronts in Insula VII 6 and the Casa di Petutius Quintio, which stands behind the shops on the northern side. The excavation of AA023 originally spanned the entire eastern side of the room; but, upon encountering substantial sub-flooring fills, the trench was sectioned into 3 segments, where only two zones - the northern section and the southern section - received further excavation.
Phase 1 – Construction of the eastern wall
AA023 is believed to originally be a component of a large property located on the western side of the Insula, which later came to be divided into the Casa della Diana, the Casa di Cipius Pamphilus Felix, and the Casa di Petutius Quintio. Construction of the eastern wall of the room appears to have been the earliest activity in the area. In order to create the wall, a foundation trench was cut into natural soils below. The eastern wall was then built up from the bottom of the cut, with foundations in an unusual opus Africanum in which the posts and stringers were of Sarno stone, but the infill consisted (at least at the foundation) of pappamonte blocks (Fig. 25). This wall originally included a doorway at its northern end. At the southern end, it appears to have butted against a Sarno-stone opus quadratum wall that delineated the southern boundary of the property. A row of Sarno stone blocks visible under the later threshold demonstrate that this wall was removed in a subsequent phase. The floor level that pertained to this earliest phase must have been at a much higher elevation, equal to the areas of the Casa di Petutius Quintio to the north with which this room communicated at this time. Any such floor level would have been removed with the lowering of the soils during Phase 2.
Phase 2 – Transformation of AA023 into a shop
Phase 2 of AA023 saw the separation of the room from the residence to the north and its transformation into a shop. This period is divided into two sub-phases: 2a, when it was a shop with some indications of light "industrial" or craft activity, and 2b, when the function of the shop appears to have been altered.
Phase 2a – Light industrial or craft shop construction
Phase 2a was the transformation of Room 32 from a component of the Casa di Petutius Quintio into a separate unit facing onto the Vico dei Soprastanti. Because the original level of the room appears to have been equivalent with those spaces to the north, the first stage in this process was to build a new retaining wall on the northern side of the room, which would separate the new planned commercial structure from the residence. To build the wall, a deep east-west foundation trench was cut through the floors and into the underlying natural deposits. The cut was then filled with a wall of black lava opus incertum. From comparision of the mortars, it is clear that the northern doorway in the eastern wall remained open and in use during this phase, and was not sealed until later. After this, any primary flooring would have been removed as the elevation of the shop area was lowered to correspond with that of the southern street outside. Presumably, this would also have entailed the removal of much of the southern opus quadratum wall. After its removal, a foundation in opus incertum was placed into the cut in order to support new quions in opus vittatum mixtum that would serve to create the wide shop doorway. A threshold of lava stones was placed against this quoin, cut with the long grove and night-door typical of shop architecture. The construction of the rest of the northern wall. Beam holes in the northern walls primary construction imply that the shop had a second story already during this phase. The stair base on the western side of the room and its associated stairway were therefore also likely put into place at this time.
After this construction had been completed, the area of AA023 would have been structurally independent from the house to the north. The nature of the intended business of the shop is suggested by several features with which the shop was first provided. In the southern section of the trench, a large cut for sluice was made that penetrated into the natural soils and also through the original foundation trench of the eastern wall. The sluice descended below a lava stone threshold stone and disappeared under the pavement of the southern sidewalk. It may be suggested that this feature was intended to evacuate waste water or other liquids into the large sewer that runs down the Vico dei Soprastanti. Such a function, especially given the location of the sluice directly within the southern entrance is suggestive of some sort of craft or production activity, such as metal working. Rubble and stone fill was packed in to the area around the sluice, which aligned its entrance with a layer of hard-packed, beaten earth. This completed the first phase of construction for the shop (Fig. 26).
Phase 2b – Re-purposing of the Shop and Eruption Period
Phase 2b witnessed construction that altered the original use of the shop space and seem intended to prepare it for a new purpose. Although the precise second function of the shop during the 2b period is still unclear, further analysis of this season's finds, such as a ceramic dice cup and intact glass teardrop flask may help to provide a more conclusive interpretation of the shop’s function at the time of eruption (Fig. 27). However, many insights can already be gathered from the results of reconstruction efforts: the southern threshold and opus-mixtum quoins remained in place from the original shop construction, but the doorway in the eastern wall was filled, making the shop an independent unit. In addition, the sluice that had been in use during the shop’s earlier phase, was now filled with small fragments of rubble and debris. In the northern section of the trench, the original earthen flooring was removed for the excavation of a cistern or cesspit that would partially collapse during the next phase. Afterwards the entire room was covered with a thick layer of pottery, loose earth, tile, stones, loom weights, and bone fragments (Fig. 25). This served as the sub-floor for a thin opus signinum surface that, when complete, would have covered the entire room. Thereafter, the walls were provided with a waterproof plaster socle that ran down on top of the opus signinum surface (Fig. 27), and also over a section of the staircase base.
Phase 4 – Eruption and early excavations
During the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD the cistern/cesspit in the centre of the room appears to have collapsed. This destroyed the opus signinum flooring save for the north-western section in the northern half of the trench; and it pushed a section of the floor down into the void, which was subsequently filled completely with lapilli. The initial excavations of the area in the late 18th c. do not appear to have explored this collapse, but simply exposed the remaining opus signinum flooring. Thereafter, the room was gradually filled with a thin layer of modern debris and finally during the 1990s was capped with a layer of blue-grey gravel placed by the SAP to protect the underlying deposits and prevent dust.
Archaeological Area AA024
AA024 was a trench located on the western side of the shop at doorway 31 in Insula VII 6. Roughly 2m wide and 5.7m long, it also included the masonry and Sarno stone foundations of a stairway leading up from doorway 31 (Fig. 28). Similar to AA023, this trench was focused on a wall that aligned with one of the Sarno stone markers present in the southern sidewalk that might have indicated a primary division of the Insula during its earliest phase. However, since the wall in question, clearly a thin and likely opus craticium divider wall, did not show signs of early construction techniques, this trench was intended to serve as a direct comparison with AA023. In addition to providing a window onto the earliest phases of development, the trench, situated at the base of an opus testaceum pillar, was intended to elucidate the development of the zone as a whole, particularly during its later phases.
Phase 1 - The ‘Natural Sequence’
No evidence of this phase was identified in this AA this year.
Phase 2 - An Early Sarno stone Structure?
Three large, irregular, but well-fitting Sarno stone blocks were identified in section below the final-phase lava stone threshold in the southern extent of AA024. This visible element of a likely larger Sarno stone construction in opus quadaratum is attributed to an early phase of the insula’s development, when opus quadratum and opus Africanum in Sarno stone was commonly used in the construction of property walls, like those witnessed in AA023 (shop 34) and throughout the Casa di Cipius Pamphilus Felix. This suggests that the southern boundary of this space was once sealed by a solid façade in opus quadratum, and makes it clear that the markers in the sidewalk did not indicate the divisions between individual plots.
Phase 3 - Casa di Petutius Quintio
This phase is predominantly represented by the construction of two perpendicular opus incertum walls with a doorway in opus vittatum located about two-thirds along the western wall to the north. These two walls, forming the western and northern boundaries of AA024, are constructed primarily in Sarno stone, with a small number of cruma fragments present within the wall matrix. Constructed together in a single event, these walls were coated with a layer of plaster that contained small amounts of crushed ceramic, likely providing some waterproofing properties to what might have been a ‘service’ area of the house. This plaster layer is preserved only at depth at the base of the walls, protected by a subsequent fill layer that raised the level of the shop in the following phase (Fig. 29). This plaster lipped onto a thin mortar floor that abutted the adjacent walls, and which is now only preserved in the north-western corner of the AA.
Phase 4 - Transformation from a Domestic Space to Shop
During this phase, a coordinated and extensive campaign of cuts and construction events transformed this domestic space into a shop orientated towards the Vico dei Soprastanti, complete with toilet and upper storey. To begin the construction campaign, an extensive cut was made, removing the mid- and southern extent of the western opus incertum/vittatum wall. This cut also truncated the thin mortar floor in the north-western corner, leaving only the north-westernmost corner adjacent to the walls. This wide-ranging cut removed a considerable amount of material across the AA, even cutting against the previous southern wall to the depth of at least 1m and removing its upper portion to just below the current threshold, where the foundations of the earlier Sarno stone construction yet remain. It is unclear why it was necessary to excavate such a wide area to such a depth, since unlike shop 34 (AA023), no great amount of material needed to be removed in order to lower the shop to the correct level of the street to the south. Exposure of the Sarno stone wall meant that the subsequent shop thresholds of this phase rested directly on these solid foundations. A cesspit for the intended toilet was also then created midway along the western extent of this room (Fig. 30). Perhaps it was this cesspit or the piping that ran towards the street that motivated the deep excavations in the area. Following this, a series of interconnecting features were constructed in opus incertum using a light brownish-grey mortar with notable black inclusions.
Following the creation of the cesspit, a ceramic water pipe was first installed above and along its eastern edge, carrying the water used in the northern toilet's sponge stick basin to the south where it evacuated the water to the lava street pavers of the Vico dei Soprastanti. A pan tile sluice was then installed that linked the fine waterproof coating of the toilet sluice to the cesspit below and to the south. An opus incertum construction of Sarno stone, lava, and tile flooring was then installed above the cesspit, although the poor preservation of this flooring now renders it difficult to determine the full extent to which the cesspit was covered, and whether an access point was left for the intermittent removal of its contents. Just to the north of this central cesspit area, a thin partition wall was constructed perpendicular to the central break of the original opus incertum wall. This extended eastward to the centre of the AA, where it terminated at the location of a large, square wooden support post that rested upon a carved Sarno stone block at its base. With the doorway to the adjoining western room now sealed, a water-wash basin that sloped gently from the west to the water drain in its east could be constructed. This abutts the newly-created partition wall dividing this immediate area from the cesspit to the south. A mortar bracket for a wooden toilet seat was also formed against the partition wall in this space, although nothing of the upper structure of this toilet is now preserved. To the south of these features, the foundations of the opus incertum wall overlay the foundations of a pillar in opus testaceum that not only formed the western end of the new shop doorway, but also provided support for the installation of an upper storey above the shop and the adjoining rooms of the Casa di Petutius Quintio. A stairway designed to reach these spaces was situated to the west, opening directly onto the Vico dei Soprastanti.
As a component of this construction, a rubble fill that contained significant amounts of highly-fragmented and degraded plaster was used to fill areas of the shop, raising the levels as appropriate for each new feature. In the toilet area of the AA, this rubble fill was used to raise the surface level above that of the previous mortar floor. It was upon this fill layer that the mortared primary construction of the toilet water-wash/sponge stick basin was formed, with a second filling event then raising the level again (Fig. 31). A final waterproof, fine opus signinum surface was then added to the toilet water-wash basin and sluice, which also spilled down and over this rubble fill to the north. To the south, this fill levelled the area to an elevation ca. 20 cm above that of the opus testaceum pillar foundation. At this level, and overlying the rubble fill, the lava threshold for the sliding shop doors was mortared into place. It was also at this level that the new staircase, leading from the Vico dei Soprastanti to the upper storey (doorway 32), was constructed. The partition wall, likely a construction in opus craticium that divided the staircase from the western shop was created directly overlying this rubble fill, largely without foundations.
The transformation of this domestic space to a shop was finalised with the creation of a substantial Sarno stone block and opus incertum staircase base placed over a layer of black sand, likely deposited along with the rubble fill in order to create a smooth surface to better support it. Two beam holes at ascending heights in the northern wall, reveal the grade of the wooden staircase that ran from the Sarno stone base to the room to the north or east above. Evidence of a layer of waterproof plaster that coated the walls with a protective finish is also visible on the lower southern face of the northern wall, and is likely the same as that identified on the eastern face of the same wall outside of the area of AA024.
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.
Phase 5 - Modern Interventions
Modern interventions within AA024 appear to have been minimal, with only the final-phase floor surface appearing to be absent from the archaeological sequence of this area, possibly removed or damaged during the first clearing of the area or degraded due to prolonged exposure. The subsequent accumulation of modern soil and debris across this area contained inclusions of modern glass, plastics, and metals, and the residue of a small bonfire of modern vegetation in the area of the toilet basin.
Finds Processing, Ecofactual Recovery
According to our normal procedure, excavation in 2019 was carried out along with contemporaneous processing, analysis, and recording of all artefacts recovered from this and previous seasons. This produced a database of recovered materials that will serve to help coordinate further study by specialists.
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. Finds included terrestrial and marine bones ranging from mouse to fish, shells, sea urchin and charcoal, including several seeds.
In 2019, the Via Consolare Project continued the extensive and detailed study of pottery recovered in previous excavation years. 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 still a work in progress. This study contributes to 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 Insula 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. The 2019 field season recovered approximately 50 kg of pottery, roughly 59 litres in volume, from the trenches identified AA019, AA021, AA022, AA023 and AA024. 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. This excavation season witnessed the recovery of some interesting finds such as an intact fritillus (dice cup), sherds with residue of coloured pigments (eg., yellow and pink) in addition to the commonly identified types found across the ancient city of Pompeii.
The season of 2019 saw the completion of this work for the archaeological area AA017 and initiated the analysis of the ceramic assemblage from AA013. The first (AA017), is associated with the kitchen area in the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico, while the second (AA013) is associated with the triangular room behind the garland tomb (Tomb 6) (cf. report 2017). These specific areas were chosen to gain insights into the construction phases of the Villa and the deposition processes that took place to create the respective assemblages. 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.
The assemblage of AA017 showed no extraordinary finds. The different classes and types present in this dataset are very similar to the datasets in other deposits such as the Granario del Foro for instance. However the performed study added to our knowledge of the consumption patterns of the population within the city of Pompeii. Furthermore a better understanding of the market economy in Pompeii can be approached through more studies of the ceramic deposits in the different archaeological areas. Lastly the identified ceramics, though expected to be similar to the other types in the city, are still a useful product to gain more insights into the different phases of the Villa. Fabric-wise it can be noticed that the local produced wares were well presented within the deposit. The ceramics, being imported into the city, can be attributed to Italy, Spain, Africa, and the Aegean area. Though imported products are present, the amount is considerably less than the locally (i.e. Pompeii and the Vesuvian area) and regionally (i.e. Cuma, Bay of Naples) produced ceramic wares.
The study of the ceramic dataset from AA013 is still at an early stage but hints that it will be able to provide some key answers to questions about the triangular room and the overall development of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico. The initial study of AA013 mainly focused on restoring a vessel that was identified as a cremation urn (cfr. report 2016). The vessel was able to be refitted and reconstructed in its original state (Fig. 32).
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 and Insula VII 6 in 2014, 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 greater detail and to document interpretations, Total Station survey supplements these plans and provides the overall framework into which they may be fit, ensuring the highest level of fidelity and precision. In addition, particularly for simple planning of deposits, Total Station survey can provide an expedient alternative that can speed up the process of excavation. This was the most frequent use of survey this season. 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 AA019, AA021, AA022, AA023, and AA024 was accompanied by complete recording in 3D using Structure from Motion technology3. 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. Structure from Motion reconstruction is performed employing free use and open source software. As mentioned above, the resulting meshes are geo-referenced and coordinated by means of the Total Station survey, which provides necessary known points for these processes.
Conclusions and Current Interpretations
Completion of sub-surface investigations in the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico has helped to solidify and finalise our understanding of the development of this important residence, confirming several theories that were previously unsupported and providing valuable details that served to complete the narrative of the Villa’s construction and subsequent expansion. Our return to the study of Insula VII 6 equally has provided a wealth of new information about the areas of the block about which we were the least informed, highlighting the deep necessity for continued small-scale investigations and area-wide cleans to the 79 AD level. From the earliest layout of the block and its primary property divisions to the minute changes and subdivisions that were taking place during the final phases, these investigations have already illuminated our understanding of the block considerably – and it will be necessary to return to them in 2020 to learn all that we can from these important trenches. As a result, it is possible here on the one hand to provide additional observations about the Villa that augment and refine the narrative of our previous reports, and to present preliminary interpretations about the new investigations in Insula VII 6 in terms of what they might mean for our understanding of the block as a whole.
The Original Villa and its bath suite
Excavations in the bath suite area of the Villa produced striking evidence not only that the long-held interpretation of the area as a primary bath suite was correct, but also that this zone of the Villa was constructed together with the so-called Villa core to the west, rather than being a later addition. At depth it was clear that the bath suite had been built atop an identical set of casemate walls filled with sterile-earth, just as was recovered to the west in 2018. This leaves no doubt that the whole Villa, not just the square-shaped core, was built from the start atop a raised platform with a complicated internal plan. While many of the walls on the eastern side received changes and reworking at later dates (not to mention damage from WWII bombs), it is clear that from the outset, the Villa was provided with a small bath suite and a wide entrance on the eastern side. The secondary changes to this space, including the provision of lead piping to supply water and a drain intended to carry it away, suggest that the first phase of this bath suite may have been somewhat austere in nature. That the provision of pressurised water to the bath suite might have been the major motivation behind the addition of lead pipes observed in a number of locations throughout the Villa also presents a valuable explanation of this secondary phase. This would imply that the addition of a large, raised cistern on the western side of the Villa, together with the vaulted second storey that surrounded and surmounted it, was not simply a part of the addition of upper stories, but was also an element of a coordinated expansion of luxury including improvement to the bathing facilities.
Expansion over tombs, Oscan and otherwise
While our previous reports have emphasized the importance of the growth of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico and its southern expansion directly over an area of Oscan-Samnite tombs, excavations this year have highlighted that these might not have been the only tombs to be subsumed into the viridarium and sacellum court. Opus incertum footings found directly in the middle of the carriage-way access corridor at doorway 15N are suggestive of the core of a base for a modest grave monument of the same type still visible closer to the Porta Ercolano. Though initially thought to be a large drain, this solid foundation, 1.3m in width, is possibly more in keeping with the base of a tomb monument, which likely acted as a base for other materials, perhaps in Nocera tuff. While the alignment of this tomb does not match those to the south, it does align with northern side of the Via dei Sepolcri, which begins to split into two roads at this point. Its core, loosely mortared and intermixed with a light grey silt that might have been water-washed from the time when an earthen surface ran over these remains, consists largely of broken fragments of black lava, just like tomb 6N, dated by Kockel to possibly the mid-1st c. BC4. It is likely therefore that this tomb too would have been a post-Oscan addition to the cemetery. That this tomb, like its earlier Oscan-Samnite neighbours, should also have been lost in the expansion of the Villa provides an even more interesting perspective on the power of the Villa owner and the ability of those with enough political influence to build over even those sacred zones dedicated to the dead. The comparison with Maecenas in Rome and his horti, built directly over the graves of Roman poor and middling classes, as memorably immortalised by Horace, becomes even more compelling with this new evidence. Clearly the owners of the Villa della Colonne a mosaico had the power and influence necessary to overcome a number of cultural prohibitions and could imitate the activities of the most powerful figures in Rome.
These changes also bring new focus on the sacellum situated at the eastern end of the corridor and in a small court. Long thought to be a primary feature enveloped into the Villa, it is now clear that this structure was, in fact, built after the viridarium walls, and as such, should be seen as a part of the overall expansion of the Villa. Could the sacellum have been a means of exculpation for the destruction of so many tombs, or was it yet a further statement of cultural dominance and usurpation? The front altar or statue base received no fewer than three layers of decorated plaster suggesting highly active use and redecoration and warning against the idea that it served as a token gesture. Nevertheless, the structure is entirely invisible from the street and clearly was intended as a private shrine for the use of the household of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico alone.
The Villa in Flux – changes during the final years
Excavations in the bath suite also uncovered dramatic evidence of the degree of disruption that the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico was experiencing at the time of the eruption. Here, it was clear that a previous, higher floor surface had been removed, including any evidence of flooring above the level of the drain and lead pipe. Around this feature a series of long narrow trenches had been excavated, which, just as in AA020 in 2018, were found to burrow sideways under features and deposits, producing an unexpected and unusual stratigraphic situation of laterally running voids. It seems that such efforts were directed towards the running of a new lead pipe through the area, which would have run from the NW to the SE. However, this pipe was never put into place. A grey, ashy deposit that overlay much of this activity and was initially interpreted as modern or eruption period build-up, has subsequently produced as wealth of ecofactual materials from the sorting of its flotation heavy residue. It is therefore possible that these rebuilding activities had been abandoned and the room was gradually being filled up with kitchen refuse taken from the central courtyard. Further analysis and comparison of these deposits will be necessary, but it is clear that the Villa was not only undergoing significant change during its final years, but that these changes were interrupted and possibly even abandoned at the time of the eruption.
Insula VII 6, the large western property
Results from excavations in the SW corner of Insula VII 6 reopened a number of interesting questions about the urban development of this block. In the thresholds of shops 31 and 34, Sarno blocks indicated that no doorways had run across this space in the first phase. Instead, a long Sarno-stone opus quadratum wall seems to have sealed the southern side of the block, supporting an initial soil level roughly 1.3m higher than the current elevations in these areas. This southern façade supports the idea that the western side of Insula VII 6 was, from the start, occupied by a single, grand property that would later become subdivided into the Casa della Diana, the Casa di Cipius Pamphilus Felix, and the Casa di Petutius Quintio. Traces of well-preserved lithostroton flooring found in AA002 inside the Casa di Petutius Quintio, coordinated with similar flooring in the decorated room of the Casa di Cipius Pamphilus Felix, as well rooms and wall-paintings discovered in AA006 all point to a large, well-appointed property, possibly with two peristyles arranged perpendicular to each other. Foundations of the walls of this earlier grand property, constructed in opus Africanum and pappamonte were recovered in AA023, while further elements of the southern boundary wall also appeared in AA024. Any flooring or decoration associated with these primary phases however, was lost when the rooms were separated on their northern side and lowered to the level of the street in order to be transformed into independent shops. Significantly, a row of several Sarno stone marking stones are present in the southern sidewalk coordinate with these walls. While such markers have been seen as indicators of the original plot divisions and the layout of the Insulae in Pompeii, in this case, several plots appear to have been combined into a single, large property from the start. Such a conclusion will transform our understanding of the original property boundaries and while the module of the plots nevertheless seems to have determined the overall division of the block, it is clear that properties could also be combined. This means that some of our long-standing ideas will now need to be reconsidered.
Insula VII 6, dynamic shops and changing businesses
While the conclusions about the early layout of Insula VII 6 are of vital importance, they are not the only results from our investigations in the area. Both shops produced evidence for later changes as well, suggesting a neighbourhood that was not only densely occupied but in considerable flux. In shop 34, a unit which together with shop 35 has long been identified as a lupanar due to a high concentration of sexually charged graffiti, has produced evidence of two major phases after its separation from the larger house to the north. During the first, the doorway of the shop was outfitted with a small sluice that drained downward below the threshold stone and presumably towards the long drain that runs down the Vico dei Soprastanti. The sluice, built into a hard-packed earthen surface, seems to have been for the evacuation of water, possibly connected to a light industrial process of some sort. The second phase, witnessed the closing of this sluice and the construction of either a large cess-pit or cistern, which collapsed during the eruption. From the top of this collapse, a glass teardrop flask and a dice-roller, perhaps hint that the area had, in fact, changed form, away from craft and industry towards some sort of service activity, possibly involving entertainment and perfume. Perhaps given these finds, a temporary or short lived lupanar in this spot is not out of the question after all.
Similarly, in shop 31 changes were afoot during the final years. Here, shop 31 could be seen to have been separated from shop 33 via a thin, opus craticium wall that flanked a stairway. Under the stairway two sluice features (probably both toilets), drained into a single cesspit, but also channelled "grey water" through an individual pipe to the street. A second stairway departed from the back of shop 31, suggesting a complicated division of the few and not sizeable upper storey spaces above, and a high-density of inhabitation in the area. The construction techniques employed in this work are indicative not only of the late period of the activity, but their connection to the widespread transformation of the Casa di Petutius Quintio to the north.
Overall, the results of the 2019 field season have served to conclude our subsurface research in the area of the Villa della Colonne a mosaico and to reinitiate our on-going subsurface work in Insula VII 6. As always, we remain deeply indebted to the Parco Archeologico di Pompei; the Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali: Direzone generale archeologia, belle arti, e paesaggio; Soprintendente Prof. Osanna, Direttore dott.ssa Stefani, dott.ssa Toniolo, dott. Scarpati 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 generosity and friendship toward the Via Consolare Project and its members since its inception.
1. Spano, G. 1910. Notizie degli Scavi. 253-261; Sogliano, A. 1913. Memorie dell'Accademia di archeologia, lettere e belle arti di Napoli Pars I. 207-30.
3. VisualSFM by dott. ChangChang Wu and PMVS2 by dott. Yasutaka Furukawa and dott. Jean Ponce are normally employed by this Project.
4. Kockel. V. 1983. Die Grabbauten vor dem Herkulaner Tor in Pompeji. Beiträge zur Erschliessung hellenisticher und kaiserzeitlicher Skulptur und Architektur. Mainz.
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