VIII.7 Print E-mail

ps03555Insula VIII.7.1-15 is located in the southern half of ancient Pompeii near the city's entertainment and theater district. Relatively little archaeological research had been carried out in this area prior to our arrival. The buildings were first brought to light in the 1870's. Further clearance of the volcanic debris occurred in the early 20th century. More recently, some general cleaning and conservation work on the standing architecture was carried out in the early 1980's. PARP:PS began scientific stratigraphic excavation of the architectural and spatial arrangement of this neighborhood in 2005. These activities are now in the process of being published as a four-volume monograph.


Our research has produced the following brief synthesis of the development of the insula:

 The very first buildings were located in the centre of the insula and date to the 4th century BC; they operated as small-scale industry, but too little survives of them to know much more. Some kind of abandonment followed and urban activities did not resume until the mid 2nd century BC. This hiatus that was followed by a resurrection of activity in the 2nd century BC has also been recognized from recent excavations in the north of the city. It is a fascinating phenomenon that was likely experienced across most of Pompeii, and it is one that demands explanation. What is abundantly clear is that the resurrection of activities in the middle of the 2nd century BC follows the economic boom that transformed many of Italy’s urban centers following Rome’s ascendency to power at that time. The industrial activities that resumed dominated the landscape of our city block from this period, and all appear to have been of a small scale, and all part of small households – a veritable ‘cottage industry’. The specific industrial activities that we can so far recognize centered on salted-fish products, but we have also uncovered only the second tannery ever to be recorded at Pompeii. A massive change then swept across every building of the insula in the first years of the 1st century AD. Most of the industrial facilities were destroyed, new floors were laid over old, and new walls were built while old ones were torn down or redecorated. Industry was replaced by commerce. Instead of small-scale factories, we now find shops and restaurants. This urban makeover was by no means equitable, for some families grew their economic portfolios – if still of a rather modest scale – while others downsized. This wholesale transition from industrial to commercial activities for so many neighboring properties likely reflects broader economic patterns across Pompeii and the region, if not the entire Mediterranean itself; indeed it is now that we see the greatest number of foreign imports to Pompeii and the region. This was clearly a fundamental episode in Pompeian and Roman history that we hope to better document and understand, and a very effective reminder of the value of investigating the more modest spaces of the ancient city. The next sweeping change was brought about by the earthquake/s of 62 AD. Hardly a wall was left standing. The rubble was used to rebuild the surviving stubs of walls, for the most part in the same configuration of what had stood prior to the destruction.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 May 2010 15:54
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