Our Approach Print E-mail

PARP:PS is advancing the latest theoretical and methodological approaches in Roman archaeology by using modern digital technologies to help systematically unravel the structural and social history of a non-elite Pompeian neighborhood. The buildings chosen for excavation line one of the major thoroughfares of Pompeii, just inside one of its gates (the Porta Stabia).  Even so, no stratigraphic excavations have ever taken place here since they were first cleared of volcanic debris – then left to be consumed by vegetation – just over a century ago.  Our intention is to study the buildings as a group – as a neighborhood – and to monitor how developments from one building affected, or were limited by, its neighbor.  To penetrate the history of Pompeii in such a way is unusual in the tradition of Pompeian studies, and to focus on the development of a working-class city block especially so.  An essential aim of the Project is to contextualize the results into broader Pompeian and, especially, regional economic and social histories.


The Team
The PARP:PS team is a highly-qualified hand-picked team of scholars including archaeologists, historians, philologists, anthropologists, scientists, and conservators.  While a select group of graduate students from the University of Cincinnati and elsewhere are involved, the Project does not operate a ‘field school’ (for such programs see: http://www.archaeological.org/webinfo.php?page=10015).  Each year, however, a small number of graduate students participating in the American Academy at Rome’s Summer Program in Archaeology and Summer Program in Roman Pottery join our team for in-depth archaeological training.
The Excavations
The methodology behind the excavations is fairly traditional.  The trenches typically cover the extent of a room, and are excavated by stratified context as deep as the prehistoric volcanic lava and ash deposits upon which the earliest known human occupation developed.  By placing the trenches in strategic locations that relate to the standing architecture, however, we have been able to directly relate associated contexts and walls, and thus also their phases, from one trench to the next within a building, across neighboring buildings, and even throughout the entire insulae.

The Archival Research
The Archive Team investigates the first excavations conducted in insulae VIII.7 and I.1, employing holistic and interdisciplinary approaches that embrace archaeological evidence (architecture, material and visual culture), along with the relevant archival documentation dating back to the 1790s. The combined analysis of bibliographic sources, ancient artifacts collected during the excavations of the 1870s and early 1900s, and the archaeological ruins still in situ, allows us to re-establish the spatial context of the ancient material culture wherever possible, as well as to re-imagine the activities carried out in VIII.7 and I.1 during the last decades of Pompeii. Eventually, this research, in combination with PARP:PS current excavations, will provide the ‘final chapter’ in the social and structural development of these two insulae.

Preliminary results of this research were presented in a poster titled: “Disinterring a Pompeian Middle-Class Neighborhood,” which received the 2013 Best Poster Award at the Archaeological Institute of America’s Annual Meeting (Seattle).


Final results will be presented in the first volume of the final publication of the Project.

The Architectural Survey
Our architectural survey combines the traditional Total Station recovery of fixed points with more recent advances in 3D laser scanning technologies.  These methods deliver us very accurate ‘wire-frame’ digital models of the site for the production of architectural plans and 3D reconstructions etc.  All surviving walls are documented, drawn, and photographed. Mortar samples assist in the interpretation of phasing. Especially important, however, is our survey of the stratified relationships of and between the constructions of walls; this information is essential for relating the standing architecture to our understanding of the chronological development of the site, enabling us to directly link the architecture to the excavated contexts.
The architectural survey is led by Dr Eric Poehler of UMASS Amherst, and relates closely to our associated methodologies employed at the University of Cincinnati’s East Isthmia Archaeology Project (also directed by Steven Ellis).  For a published methodology for studying these types of architecture, see Ellis, Gregory, Poehler, and Cole 2008.

The ‘Paperless’ Project
PARP:PS is at the cutting-edge of technological applications in archaeological methodology.  For example, the team is fully equipped with iPads, meaning that all of the data collected in the field is done so using streamlined digital methods.  The use of digital technology trench-side, instead of scribbling notes into paper notebooks or drawing architectural plans in pencil on mylar boards, which have to later be digitized and data-entered, ensures the information is more accurate, more easily acquired, faster to produce, and links directly through an on-site server to the Project’s central database.  These new methods, and indeed the philosophies behind them, are helping to revolutionize archaeological field-work.

The Geophysical Survey
In collaboration with the British School at Rome, the Project has undertaken a comprehensive geophysical survey of the neighborhood to locate various subterranean architectures in areas that we have not, or could not, excavate.  Some of the features and ‘anomalies’ revealed by these surveys have subsequently been uncovered by our later excavations.  The geophysical survey has therefore enabled the further integration of the subterranean archaeological record into the surrounding, and complex, urban landscape.

The Material Culture
The archaeological excavations of this large district of Pompeii have produced many tens of thousands of objects, both artifactual and ecofactual: from the usual ceramics, coins, and animal bones, to wet-preserved fabrics, charcoal, and mineralized seeds. 5mm mesh sieves are used to screen all material recovered from the excavations. Select deposits undergo flotation sampling for the recovery of the biological remains.  The analyses of these objects are enabling us to determine the changing functional use of space over time, as well as changes in the use and adaptation of the local and regional environment.
  • Professor Myles McCallum (St Mary’s, Halifax) heads the study of the finds for insula VIII.7 and the Porta Stabia.
  • Professor Archer Martin (American Academy at Rome) heads the study of the finds for insula I.1.
  • Emily Holt (Michigan) heads the study of the ecofacts for the Project.

The Conservation Effort
The Project is committed to the conservation of the material record.  In collaboration with the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei, and under the direction of Alison Whyte (Oriental Institute, Chicago), the Project operates a conservation laboratory at Pompeii for the appropriate long-term storage and protection of the most fragile objects.
    Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 15:50
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