Following the 2015 excavation of the tomb of Marcus Obellius Firmus, the anonymous schola-type tomb and a number of burials alongside the city wall, the 2016 season (between 18 July – 19 August) focused upon two other areas within the necropolis: a rectangular shaped structure alongside the monument of Aesquillia Polla and the area surrounding the tomb of Obellius Firmus.
A funerary precinct, garden or bustum?
The rectangular structure, immediately to the west of the tomb of Aesquillia Polla and opposite Porta Nola, was first discovered between 1908 and 1910 and preliminary excavations and later studies have been inconclusive as to its function. The aim of the 2016 season was to better understand this structure: following the removal of layers dating to activity of the early twentieth century (including the burial of a dog and the loss of several terracotta smoking pipes) the work revealed large deposits of construction material used to raise the level beneath the structure. However the new excavation (limited to the northern sector) did not record any cremations, perhaps supporting the theory of a late construction unused before the eruption of AD 79 or its association as a garden with Aesquillia Polla.
The ustrium of Marcus Obellius Firmus?
The second area of excavation lay to the north and west of the tomb of Marcus Obellius Firmus. The aim of the 2016 season was to understand the tombs relationship with a smaller gateway and road into the necropolis, as well as see if a wall to the north formed part of the funerary precinct or delimited the pomerium of the city. The excavation discovered a number of deposits alongside the wall possibly resulting from the cleaning of ustrinum. Indeed, at the eastern limit of the trench, directly behind the tomb of Obellius Firmus, a well preserved ustrinum was discovered, complete with burnt human bone, ash and large pieces of carbon. This will be investigated in the final season of excavation in 2017.
Further updates can be found on Twitter @PompeiNecropoli or on the BSR blog.