Research-2014

Pompeii - Recording and Analysis

Insula 9, covering an area of 3000 m.sq, comprises 8 discrete properties, formed of 13 separate units (including 5 dependent shops and workshops), made up of 116 rooms or separate spaces, totalling 560 wall and floor surfaces. Detailed recording of this quantity of data is a daunting challenge, and its publication correspondingly bulky and expensive. Such statistics by themselves are enough to explain why there is such a backlog in the publication of excavations at Pompeii. A prime aim of this project has been to harness the potential of the computer to store large quantities of data and images, and render interlinked information easily and cheaply accessible.

Every wall and floor surface in the insula has been manually measured, photographed, and recorded electronically as an AutoCAD drawing. Every wall and floor tells something of the history of its building, and any Roman domestic structure is a palimpsest of modifications, repairs and redecorations. A principle of the project has been to avoid reliance on the traditional criteria for dating construction – the use of different materials, from local limestone, lava and tufo to brick, the application of different styles of painting, or different types of flooring. Though each of these may provide important clues, the first step is to observe relative sequences, of what is built before what, and to string together these clues. Exactly the same principles apply as for excavation of the subsoil, of isolating and recording individual archaeological contexts (i.e. consistent areas reflecting a single episode of construction), and analysing their relative sequence (in a Harris matrix).

On this basis we can arrive at a picture of the main phases of construction of a house. In the Casa del Frutteto, a small room south of the cubiculum (13) shows signs of repeated remodelling. We can see four phases:

• first phase (c.100 BC). The rear wall is decorated in false marble panelling (first style); there is no upper room, and perhaps no division between rooms 12 and 13 in this phase.
• second phase (first half of first century AD). The adjoining room (12) is remodelled and decorated with scenes of a garden. A window is opened in the wall, allowing a view from the bed through room 13 into the real garden. Beams are inserted into the wall to carry an upper floor.
• third phase (second half of first century AD). The room is remodelled: the pavement is raised with a marble threshold and an inlaid marble floor pattern. A frame is inserted around the opening to the garden to carry a wide wooden door.
• last phase (after AD62). The doorway is further narrowed, the window is blocked, and the walls are replastered.