Since 2005 the ‘Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia’ (PARP:PS) has been uncovering the structural and occupational history of what had been a largely forgotten corner of Pompeii (insulae VIII.7 and I.1). Through the full range of archaeological inquiry, we have uncovered a working-class district (modest houses, shops, workshops, and hospitality outlets) which had an intimate urban connection to several adjacent and monumental public buildings, city fortifications, and other major civic networks. The project was established to measure the structural and social relationships over time between working-class Pompeian families, to determine the role that sub-elites played in the shaping of the ancient city, and to register their response to city- and Mediterranean-wide historical, political, and economic developments. Close to 50 trenches have been opened which, combined with architectural, artefactual, and geophysical studies, have revealed the full sequence of human occupation in the area – from identifying the important layering of geological events (both natural and artificial) to charting the developmental history of each of the ten properties through to 79 AD.
An important chapter in this preliminary understanding of the development of this neighborhood is that the entire area operated small-scale industry from its inception in the 4th century BC. Some kind of abandonment followed and urban activities did not resume until the mid 2nd century BC, when the area was swept up in the city’s ‘Golden Age’ of urban development. Industrial activities now dominated the landscape of our neighborhood 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 have centered on fish products, but we have also uncovered only the second tannery ever to be recorded at Pompeii (Ellis 2011). A massive change then swept across every building 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.
PARP:PS is directed by Steven Ellis, and is principally funded by the Louise Taft Semple Fund through the Department of Classics at the University of Cincinnati. Additional (and generous) support has been received from the National Geographic Society, the Loeb Classical Library Foundation, and several private donors.
For a list of publications, see: http://classics.uc.edu/pompeii/index.php/reports/publications.html
The web site for the Pompeii excavations is: http://classics.uc.edu/pompeii/