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5.1 Pompeian excavation archives

My research into artefact assemblages in Pompeian households involved the collection and analysis of the information held in the Pompeian excavation archives. I used, in particular, the archives of excavations carried out between 1870 and 1970 (Allison 1994; 2004, 28-32). From these archives, I compiled electronic databases of the contents from thirty Pompeian houses, and studied their assemblages and spatial distribution for information on both the use of domestic space in Pompeii and the processes of abandonment at this site (see Section 3.1). These excavations by no means employed the rigorous data collection and recording methods that are used today (not even the 1970s excavations). Nevertheless, the wealth of data which they have provided, and the fact that the artefacts recorded are those which would have been part of the 79 CE 'house floor assemblages' (Schiffer 1985, 18; cf. Allison 1992), has meant that a considerable amount of information about spatial and artefact function can be gleaned from the resulting artefact assemblages. Although it was not the objectives of the original excavators to carry out artefact assemblage analyses, but rather to hunt out interesting art objects, their need to inventory most of their finds has meant that they have indeed recorded a considerable amount of contextualised information from which we can learn more about social behaviour in Pompeii. As Cool and Baxter have pointed out, 'even "poor quality" data can provide useful insights into past societies' (2002, 365).

5.2 The excavation of Roman military sites in Germany

Many of the larger Roman military sites in the Rhine and Danube region were also extensively excavated in the late 19th and earlier 20th centuries (e.g. Saalburg - Jacobi 1897; Zugmantel - Jacobi 1937; Weissenberg - Kohl and Tröltsch 1914). Since the 1970s, such large-scale, open excavations have rarely been carried out. Rather, more recent excavations have consisted of more piecemeal excavation, often in the form of rescue archaeology within an urban centre, although there are exceptions (e.g. Ellingen - Zanier 1992).

1st and 2nd century CE military bases of the Rhine and Danube regions and their excavations have a number of characteristics that are comparable to Pompeii and its excavations, rendering them useful for a study of this nature. Firstly, they are similar in date and therefore offer comparable artefact types. More importantly, a number of these sites experienced rapid abandonment. This means that they have the potential to include considerable artefact assemblages with provenances that document their place of use, loss or immediate discard, rather than their relocation and redeposition. In addition, many of these military bases were short-lived and are therefore unlikely to show extensive reorganisation and reuse of space.

5.3 Vetera I

Like Pompeii, many of these military sites were excavated over a century ago, were fairly extensively excavated, and, like my work on Pompeian houses, some of these have also recently been reinvestigated and comprehensively published. An outstanding example in this respect is the double legionary fortress of Vetera I (Hanel 1995; see Section 4). For a site like Vetera I, I did not have to go back to painstaking archival research, as I had done for Pompeian houses. The data is already available in a systematic published form with good contextual information. In addition, while the first fort at Vetera dated to the Augustan period, the most extensive excavated remains within the stone fortifications can be dated to the Claudian-Neronian period.

As was a common procedure in early 20th century excavations, the Vetera I excavations concentrated on exposing the ground plan of the latest fort, and location of the earlier ones. The bulk of the excavation trenches consist of long narrow trenches (c. 1m wide and c. 1-1.5m deep) following the walls of the Neronian buildings, particularly the buildings of the central section of the fort. These trenches were often dug to the foundations of the structures of the latest fort and also found traces from the earlier forts. Sometimes stratigraphical information is provided about the contexts of finds but it is not always clear at what level within these trenches the artefacts were found. A number of pits have also been identified within these trenches, sometimes dating to the pre-Claudian periods of the fort but not always. Hanel has done what he can to extract more precise stratigraphical information (see esp. Hanel 1995, 286-320) and his analyses and chronologies have been used in this study. Also, because the trenches were dug along building walls, for many of the outer walls it is not absolutely certain whether an artefact was found within a building or immediately outside. In addition, many artefacts are listed as being from the 'Oberfläche' (surface), and some for the 'heutige Oberfläche' (modern surface) but it is not clear if there is any distinction here between modern and ancient surface (cf. Zanier 1992, e.g. 85, 140, 151).

Hanel's artefact catalogues is organised typologically rather than spatially and are not created electronically. With the exception of certain bone items, currently part of another study, Hanel published the findspots for as many artefacts as possible and extensive plans for the excavation trenches. Thus, it seemed that all that was needed, to carry out my analysis of the spatial distribution of artefacts within the Vetera fortress, was to create electronic versions of Hanel's and Lehner's plans of the various phases of the fortress, and an electronic version of Hanel's catalogue, and then to combine these. However, the process was more complicated than it at first seemed and there were a number of problems that needed to be dealt with as we proceeded. This applied particularly to the concordance between the trench numbers in the artefact catalogues and the trenches that we were able to locate on the GIS plan. Hanel (1995, 341-52) provided a list of approximate locations for each trench number based on Lehner's plans. This was extremely helpful but there were still some problems. These problems took three main forms.

  1. Two trenches sometimes had the same number. This was because there was no systematic numbering system between the two main periods of the excavations (1905-1914 and 1925-1933/34) and, in an area covering about 60 hectares, some trench numbers were reused. The relevant trenches were usually identified by Hanel. For example, he has noted that Trenches 152 and 153 occur twice. However, he provided only one location for Trench 330 in his list of trench locations but there are two trenches labelled with this number in his trench plans. In such cases we have followed the location identified in Hanel's list.
  2. In some cases where two trenches have the same number, the location in Hanel's list is not specific enough to identify which is correct. In this sample, trenches which still have two locations are Trench 529, which was either in Building J or in the street to the west of this building, and Trench 325, which occurs in both Building G and in the street between Buildings G and B. For the purposes of this article, data recorded in Trench 529 has been plotted to Building J as both trenches are in the region of this tribune's house. Data from Trench 325 has been plotted to the street between Buildings G and B. However, much of the material from this trench was found in pit 1 which is a pre-Claudian context and so is not relevant to this article.
  3. Some artefacts in Hanel's catalogue were provenanced to trenches which Hanel was unable to locate specifically for inclusion in his plans. For this particular sample, this applies to Trenches 115 (in the vicinity of east gate fortifications), 119 (in the area of Buildings Y and a), 308 (location unknown), 582 (Building J), 754-755 (location unknown), 1067 (in the area of Buildings P, S and F), 1294 (location unknown), 1323 (location unknown), 1332 (location unknown), 1512 (location unknown). Data from these trenches are therefore not included in the distribution plots, but are discussed in the analyses.

5.4 Using Vetera I data

Using data such as that from Vetera I for spatial mapping thus has its problems. Given the quality and nature of the recording of this site it is not always possible to ascertain precisely whether the artefacts recorded in each building belong to it, belong to an earlier phase of the fortress, or were redeposited. It is also sometimes possible that they were found in the street outside the building, rather than in the building itself.

The plots in this analysis do not distinguish the pits within the trenches, as this study consists of a horizontal spatial mapping rather than a vertical one. Some pits are specifically identified as pre-Claudian contexts and these are discussed in the analyses and taken into account. Consequently, this study analyses broad patterns of artefact distribution. It is concerned with the distribution of material that is most likely to date to the final, Claudian-Neronian, period of the fort, and to have been used within the buildings, or in the streets, during that period and during the abandonment of the fortress. Hanel has dated many contexts by the coins or ceramics with which they are associated and a number are dated to the Claudian-Neronian period (Hanel 1995, 303-14). Many individual artefacts can also be dated to this final phase. Interpretations in this study are therefore based on general impressions of distribution patterns of the artefacts most easily datable to the Claudian-Neronian period of occupation, rather than on the specific location of each particular artefact (see also Allison 2004).

Further problems and their resolutions are discussed in Sections 6 and 7.

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