The use and misuse of 'legacy data' in identifying a typology of retail outlets at Pompeii

Steven J.R. Ellis

Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati, PO Box 210226 Cincinnati, OH 45221-0226 USA. Email:


The mouths of various earthenware containers in the counter at VII.1.38-39, Pompeii.

This article commences with a summary of the ways in which various types of retail outlets have been identified at Pompeii. The conventional approach has been to identify them, and to determine their supposed activities, by the Latin terms that were casually attached to them on their discovery in the 18th and 19th centuries, even though these labels have no corroboration in the archaeological record. Subsequent scholars have commonly treated this interpretative compilation as 'primary data'. I propose a different approach to the identification of Pompeii's different types of retail food and drink outlets, one that draws on the available primary archaeological data, as well as to the use of excavation records to create 'legacy data'.

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Last updated: Mon 30 June 2008