The tomb of Obellius Firmus

2015 Excavations

The tomb of Obellius Firmus, whose inscription on the front pediment records the funeral of M. Obellius Firmus, aedile and joint magistrate during the reign of the Emperor Nero, was discovered and partially excavated in 1976. The excavation recovered the funerary stele and a blue glass cremation urn.

The new research of 2015 discovered a further cremation burial inside the tomb. The ceramic vessel was accompanied by grave goods including a coin dating to between AD 66 and AD 69, which provides new information concerning the use of the structure. Furthermore, over 200 fragments of the ornately decorated bone covered funerary bed have been recovered, some of which have traces of the gold leaf decoration.
A key part of the project, working together with the Soprintendenza (under the supervision of Dott.ssa Annalisa Capurso), is the conservation and restoration of the funerary monument. Experts from the conservation department of the Museum of Valencia, under the direction of the head conservator Dr Trinidad Pasies, have worked to consolidate the plaster and decorated stucco of the monument.

Tomba Schola

The area immediately outside of Porta Nola (the Nolan Gate) was first cleared in 1907–8. Since then, soil has once again accumulated opposite the gate, re-burying an unknown ‘schola’ type tomb. The project has cleared the basalt block roads and brought back to light the monument.

The third area the excavation has focused upon this year lies immediately alongside the city walls where in the mid-19th century excavations discovered 36 cremation urns. Traditionally these tombs have been interpreted as graves of the ‘poor’.
The 2015 excavations have revealed a different picture with the discovery of a further two urns and an inhumation burial, covered in fragments of amphora, of a baby, aged between 3 and 6 months. The urns, as well as containing the ashes of the deceased, also contain a coin, as well as funerary goods, usually a small ceramic unguentarium. The project has been able to date these burials, through the stratigraphic excavation to the late Republican – Early Imperial period.

A further part of the project is the study of the casts made of the victims of the AD 79 eruption discovered in the mid-1970s near the tomb of Obellius Firmus. The analytical study of the casts, coordinated by the Soprintendenza Pompei (Dott. Stefano Vanacore and Dott.ssa Annalisa Capurso), has allowed the determination of the age, sex, pathologies and activities of the individuals. Furthermore, the anthropological data, together with photogrammetry, x-ray analysis and 3D reconstruction allows the reconstruction of the original positions at the moment of death.