3.4 Original excavation reports

In spite of the value of field research, it alone cannot yield all of the data that has been available since the site was first exhumed in the mid-18th century. Besides, my field survey was 'limited' to recording that which survives into the early 21st century. The original excavation reports potentially held much information about the original state of each property upon excavation, and detail that has not survived to the present day. Even so, this approach was not without its own set of obstacles. When lamenting the state of the archaeological record at Pompeii, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill complained that '[Pompeii] is at once the most studied and the least understood of sites. Universally familiar, its excavation and scholarship prove a nightmare of omissions and disasters. Each generation discovers with horror the extent to which information has been ignored, neglected, destroyed and left unreported and unpublished' (introduced in Wallace-Hadrill 1990, 150; repeated in Wallace-Hadrill 1994, 65; explained more fully in Wallace-Hadrill 1995, 40-3). His complaint is indeed fair, and resonates with the experiences of many who have attempted to pull together the excavation history of any particular building (Allison 2004). But if this experience is true for the study of the domestic assemblage, then it is even more emphatically so for the study of the hundreds of shops and retail outlets at Pompeii.

Yet, in spite of the difficulties and frustrations that unpublished excavation reports and poorly published accounts present, an examination of the available excavation records is essential for a site from which the volcanic debris of the 79 AD eruption was, in some areas, cleared almost two and a half centuries ago and whose excavated structures have since experienced rapid and increasing levels of deterioration. The excavation reports provide the observations and primary discoveries made for most of the properties in this study. Many describe structures and features that are no longer extant. For this study I systematically drew on all of this available information for each of the 158 properties to create a body of legacy data that could be added to the database and compared with the data from the field survey. These excavation reports, in spite of their minimal level of quality or detail, have proved invaluable to my research. The main objective of this study was to record and analyse the forms and features of the selected properties because I have argued that these can inform us of the activities of these properties. That many of the excavation reports lack descriptions of the finer detail of the archaeological features is bothersome, but even so they remain essential to this study.

Published excavation reports include the Notizie degli Scavi (NSc) and Giuseppe Fiorelli's Pompeianarum Antiquitatum Historia (PAH). The latter forms a compilation and, where necessary, a translation (from Spanish) of the unpublished excavation reports and diary entries from 1748 to 1860. The PAH consists of three volumes that were published from 1860 to 1864 (PAH I-III). Following the publication of the PAH, Fiorelli established the Giornale degli Scavi (GdSc) to document the excavation, clearance and conservation efforts of the SAP, a system which continues today. The volumes of the GdSc remain unpublished but are stored at the archive of the SAP; some parts thereof, however, are published in the NSc (for a general introduction to the value of these sources, see Laidlaw 2007). As part of the process of incorporating the information gleaned from these early excavation accounts into my database constructed from my on-site investigations, I also assessed the validity of the former in light of the latter. By this process I thus compiled the information from on-site investigations - information and detail that is sometimes missed or ignored in the original reports and subsequent publications - and ultimately produced descriptions of these properties that were consistent with all the information gleaned from both sets of data. Gustav Hermansen took a similar approach with his study of the bars at Ostia, relying on old plans, such as those of Gismondi, to identify six bar counters that were no longer visible to his field survey (Hermansen 1981, 127; Gismondi 1953).


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