Field work 2009

After a two year break, EPUH returned to its insula where almost everything had changed due to a massive restoration project. The wall paintings in the House of Marcus Lucretius had been cleaned, the walls re-enforced and the roofs renovated. The biggest changes occurred in the ground level since the atrium floor is now covered with cement and the impluvium pool suggested by our research is outlined. The thick soil layers covering the floors – or rather the sad remains of them – elsewhere in the house were removed and a chemical substance protecting them from moisture was applied to them. The aim is, of course, to provide visitors with more things to see, but it is worrying to think about the fragile plaster structures suffering from the mechanic wear visitors’ shoes as well as from the impacts of weathering. How long will the structures survive without the protecting soil layer?

Fieldwork had finally moved out of the House of Marcus Lucretius and the theme of the season was to finish what we had started. This included analysis of the rest of the excavation finds as well as working in house IX 3,1-2 in the northwestern corner of the insula. Buildings archaeology in the house had been started with three rooms in 2006 and now the remaining ten rooms were analyzed. No excavations were conducted this year, but the wall paintings were documented at the same time. The season was financed by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

House IX 3,1-2 is an old domestic building until the last phase of Pompeii when one of the rooms in the front range was turned into a shop (room 45) and the atrium (room 43) was changed into a dyer’s workshop specializing in redyeing of old fabric. Three masonry vats that could be heated were built in the atrium for this purpose. The other rooms seem to have been used for living even in the last phase and a series of finely decorated rooms can be found in the north part (rooms 46, 47, 48, 52). Room 52 in the northeast corner was a dining room with two couches (biclinium). The house features also a garden flanked on two sides by roofed corridors (rooms 49–51). The northern part of the house had a second floor which could be reached via a masonry staircase in the eastern edge of the house (room 53). In the southeast corner, two small rooms had been annexed to the house and these have been regarded as a kitchen (room 54) and a toilet (room 55).

The house has a long building history, reaching at least the 2nd century BC. A handsome First Style painting covers the south wall of the garden and its plaster has been laid over a wall with several building phases. In room 52 in the northeast corner, remains of early building techniques can be found. The ground plan and room divisions remained were, however, very stable until the destruction of Pompeii and the greatest changes can be seen in the rooms around the atrium and the garden. The rooms north of the garden were extended slightly towards the open space probably at a fairly late date. The façade of room 45 was completely rebuilt probably when it was turned into a shop.

The most interesting changes occur in the eastern part of the house where the floor levels have varied over time and the rooms have changed ownership. Room 52 had a door to the street north of the insula, but before it was turned into a dining room, the door was blocked and the floor level was lowered for 70 cm to match the garden area. Scant remains in room 53 may indicate that this area was originally part of the adjacent house IX 3,25. Rooms 54 and 55 were connected with room 12 in the House of Marcus Lucretius as there is a blocked door between them. The floor level in those rooms would have been 80–100 cm lower at that time. The current floors cover a cistern in room 54 and a possible cesspit in room 55.

The atmosphere in the field was slightly sad since it appeared that the project’s funding would end in 2009. Happily, the Emil Aaltonen Foundation decided to fund the project’s next three years’ work. In that time, the fieldwork in the remaining part of the insula can be completed!