3. Approaches

3.1 Range of the study

Figure 1
Figure 1: Bar counter at I.2.18, Pompeii.

I have chosen the retail service counter in Pompeii as the first defining criterion by which to identify a food and drink outlet (Figure 1). The apparent utilitarian function of the counter for retail trade determined this decision: the counter facilitated the production, display, transaction, and consumption of goods and services. No other feature or installation remaining in the Pompeian archaeological record offers the archaeologist as clear a picture of retail activities as the counter. While it is certain that such activities could operate from buildings of vastly different forms, with or without service counters, to identify each of the particular types of these in a city of this size would be impossible. The nature of the construction of retail counters and their subsequent survival - even though several have been reconstructed in more recent years - further enables them to be identified with a good degree of certainty. I have combined the results of surveys I undertook on-site with the original records of the excavations to establish a list of properties that were once furnished with a retail counter, 158 in total (cf. MacMahon 2005). This list could not include, however, all of those properties that retailed their product from a wooden counter because most of these failed to survive in the archaeological record. Even so, the absence of wooden counters from the focus of this study does not reduce the value of the analyses, as will be argued in section 7.1.


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