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6. The systematic cataloguing of the archaeological materials in the storerooms at S. Omobono

Graziano Mantiloni and Hilary W. Becker

Starting in 2009, archaeological materials excavated during earlier fieldwork at S. Omobono were 're-excavated', not only in order to evaluate what materials were present in storage but also to provide a better storage environment. While the site of S. Omobono is well known, some excavated materials have never been published and it was important to assess just what materials were present. As described below, all the materials have been reorganised in order to facilitate further examination that will lead to their publication (see 4.3).

This investigation was headed by Hilary Becker and Graziano Mantiloni who were assisted by Marco Pallone, Monica Butelli, and Manuela Cosenza. Many of the finds are housed in storage workspace that lies in the same building as the church of the same name. The storeroom contained stacks of artefact trays that needed to be re-examined and there were serious issues with environmental conditions in the storage area that affected the finds themselves (e.g. accumulations of mould, dust, dirt) to the detriment of the usability of the space; handwritten notes included in artefact trays were, in some cases, difficult to read as a result of mould growth. During the 're-excavation', the team did its utmost to scan and photograph all written documents (even the mouldy ones) in order to preserve the data they contained. In addition, mould was removed from the finds, and materials were subsequently stored in clearly labelled archival plastic containers.

┬áIn total, there were 292 trays of finds from the following excavation campaigns: 1938, 1939, 1950, 1959, 1961-1965, 1967-1969, 1971, 1974-1979, 1981, 1983, and 1984. While all labels and documentation present on or contained within each of these trays were retained, at the same time a new, comprehensive system of numeration for the trays was implemented in order to unite all of the material presently stored in the laboratory under one system. The methodology adopted involved opening each of the trays and photographing the contents, making sure to note the tray and finds bag of the objects in each case. An inventory and count of all the different classes of ceramics and other materials found in each of the trays was also complied. The inventory, created in MS Excel, has links to photographs of each tray—for a total of 3410 photographs— so that researchers can easily access them. The materials in the trays covered a wide range of object categories with material ranging from the Late Bronze Age to the modern era. A complete listing of all the object classes encountered is not possible in this forum, but some of the more notable materials include: impasto wares dating from the Late Bronze Age to the Orientalising period, Apennine ware, imported Greek vessels, Italo-Corinthian vessels, bucchero, black gloss pottery, worked bronze and iron, metal slag of all varieties, worked ivory and bone, miniature, votive vessels of different fabrics, and architectural membra disiecta.

This systematic inventory was extraordinarily valuable for several reasons. The goal in 2009 was to understand just what was stored in the laboratory so that exactly what materials were stored elsewhere (e.g. the Capitoline Museums) could then be ascertained. In addition, this opportunity to understand clearly the range of materials found at S. Omobono was very helpful because, after such a broad survey, it was possible to glean the range of activities that once occurred at the site during different periods of occupation and use, especially votive and commercial activities. Ultimately the creation of an inventory was vital so that finds could be correlated with the site's stratigraphic records; the inventory is important for identifying those materials that remain to be published. This initial survey has already led to the division of this material among a diverse group of researchers whose responsibility it is to carry out publication by artefact class and/or by year of excavation.


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