The Via Consolare Project in Pompeii  
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Excavating in the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico
Current Research
For the past several years, the Via Consolare Project has undertaken archaeological research in the areas of Insula VII.6 and the the environs of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico. Our focus is the via Consolare, a major conduit of exchange, commerce, and traffic that runs from outside the Porta Ercolano directly towards the northwest corner of the Forum, cutting across the carefully planned orthogonal layout of the city and attesting to its early and continued importance throughout the life of the ancient site. A thorough understanding of the buildings and properties that developed along this avenue will allow the project to address a number of questions of vital importance to the study of the ancient city. These questions centre on the precise chronology and history of urban development both inside and outside of the city, the relative importance of proximity to the Forum and the layout of the early city itself, and the validity of preconceived notions of the difference between 'urban' and 'suburban' space in the ancient world.

Research Questions
We aim to document, interconnect, and interpret the detailed stratigraphic and chronological record of the properties along the entire length of the via Consolare, thereby providing answers to some of the longest held questions about the history and course of development of the ancient city of Pompeii, its early urban layout, and the changing character of its suburbs. By means of focused archaeological examination of buildings situated along this major roadway, it will be possible to trace the precise pattern and process of urban development from Pompeiiís socio-political core to its exterior, from the period of its earliest foundations until its destruction in AD 79. Furthermore, our approach will serve to combine the results of numerous other projects of archaeological research, permitting the extension of previously localised questions to a city-wide scale of analysis. Our results will therefore constitute a valuable insight into the factors controlling urban development in peninsular Italy during the primary period of Roman expansion and the early Empire.

Our questions are specifically:
  • How has the precise course and destination of the via Consolare changed through time?
  • As the city grew, did the nature, composition, and use of suburban areas change over time?
  • To what extent does the gradient of urbanisation from the central forum area of the city outward to the city gates and beyond effect the function and character of the properties and neighbourhoods along the trajectory of the via Consolare?
  • How valid is the generally-perceived difference between urban and suburban development in the city and surrounding environs of Pompeii?
  • What can we learn of the urban expansion of Pompeii from the evidence presented by the standing masonry preserved along this trajectory?
The Area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico
Views of Insula VII.6
Research Areas
Two areas of the city are particularly central to answering these questions: the city block known as Insula VII.6 and the area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico. Insula VII.6 preserves the history of urban development at the southern termination of the via Consolare in close proximity to the Forum and its civic amenities. During the final phase of the city, this block was the most urbanised area in our study. At the beginning of the city's history however, the area may have resembled a suburban zone of a smaller archic urbanised core. The area of the Villa della Colonne a mosaico, situated just outside of the Porta Ercolano, presents an area that is outside the official city limits and remained suburban throughout the history of the ancient site. Comparisons between the two areas will therefore reveal the changing nature of suburban zones throughout the history of the city and the effects and manner of urbanisation over time. Furthermore, similarities between the two areas in their final phases call into question modern assumptions about the non-urban nature of suburban areas. In VII.6 there were two large houses, shops, civic buildings, bars and even possibly a brothel, whilst the area of the Villa della Colonne a mosaico comprised a villa, metalworking and pottery workshops, civic buildings, bars, and tombs. The Project seeks to discover when this situation comes into being and how it relates to the role of the via Consolare itself.

In order to answer the questions posed above, it is necessary to reconstruct the precise building histories of our study areas and to obtain a solid understanding and comprehensive record of the development of these areas. Precise stratigraphic relationships between each building phase must be identified through careful examination of archaeological deposits and statigraphic sequence, standing wall structure, positioning, fabric and mortar composition. The documentation, coordination and interpretation of each piece of evidence allows for the understanding of each building and each area over time.

Our research methodology therefore involves a comprehensive program of scientific techniques including targeted excavation and cleaning, wall analysis, illustration and recording, topographic survey, and non-intrusive subsurface exploration. These form an integrated methodology designed to examine, document, and interrogate the archaeological remains of Insula VII.6 and the area of the Villa delle Colonne a mosaico and to provide the information necessary for understanding the complete building history and sequence of these areas.

Specifically our methods are as follows:
  • Modern stratigraphic excavation according to current British accademic standards
  • Recovery and analysis of artefact and ecofact data for every excavated deposit
  • Digital mapping and 3-D topographic survey linked to a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database
  • Complete stratigraphic analysis of the standing remains including mortar by mortar comparison and visual analysis
  • Rectified digital photography of all standing remains
  • Sequencing of complete building history linked to stratigraphic analyses, excavated data and construction histories as revealed via analysis
  • Continued review and synthesis of previous scholarship and research within our study areas including secondary research in the Pompeii site library and Giornali degli Scavi di Pompeii

The links above provide access to annual reports of the particular activities and results for each of our field seasons. These contain more detailed discussion of the individual areas of our investigations, our methodology, and the progress we made toward our research goals during each summer. Taken together, they also document the evolving process of our ideas, theories, interpretations and hypotheses regarding our study areas. There are also pages devoted to particular aspects of our research including planned methods of dissemination and advances in field methodological practice.

Our methodology in process
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