5. Preliminary assessment of the archival materials concerning S. Omobono

Carlo Regoli

The documentation concerning previous work conducted at S. Omobono was acquired between March and July 2009 from the Archivio Storico of the Sovraintendenza Archeologica Comunale di Roma. This important site, which has been excavated intermittently since 1937, produced a vast and heterogeneous corpus of documents, which is still being analysed.

This work yielded approximately 4000 scans from some 2500 documents, for a total of over 56GB of data (excluding photographs and drawings, which were scanned at a higher resolution and/or in colour, documents were digitised at 300 dpi in grayscale). All the digitised material was then optimised. This material, largely unpublished, consists of elaborate written documents (journals and excavation diaries), administrative forms, notes and miscellaneous papers, correspondence, press releases, photographs, and drawings.

The most important documents for understanding the history of the work conducted at S. Omobono are the two excavation journals, referred to in the documentation as handwritten volumes (volume manoscritto). The first corresponds to the 1963, 1964, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988, and 1989 seasons (323 pages; AFSRCM, S. Omobono, b. 31, 1, c. 4051); the second, to the years 1964, 1965, 1968, 1969, and 1972 (142 pages; AFSRCM, S. Omobono, b. 70, 5, c. 16361). Each of these documents, identified by an inventory number followed by a numerical and/or alphabetic designation indicating individual pages, contains brief descriptions of the operations carried out each workday, together with photographs (both general and of specific features) and numerous drawings of the excavated stratigraphy, artefacts, and hypothetical reconstructions (this documentation, particularly the graphic portion, results from the care of G. Ioppolo, who had been involved in fieldwork at the site since 1959; Ioppolo 1972, 5).

Little information is available for the period between 1936 and 1938 (though some data are contained in the published notes of Colini; Colini 2000) and for the first systematic excavations conducted between 1957 and 1959, both in the sacred area (Gjerstad's excavation behind the apse of the church, conducted between February and May of 1959; Gjerstad 1960, 378-437, 457-463, and 1962) and within the courtyard of the adjacent building formerly of the V Ripartizione of the Comune di Roma (between November 1957 and June 1958; AFSRCM, S. Omobono, b. 35, 3, c. 4245; also a plan in the Archivio SDO, n. 4288).

Quite numerous are the Studi (Studies), over 600 in all, mostly written by A.M. Colini and G. Ioppolo and limited in scope, which include simple annotation, handwritten and typed notes, sketches and bibliographic references.

Also important are the 450 'pratiche amministrative' (administrative forms), which cover most activities carried out on site. This group of documents includes estimates for the cost of archaeological work conducted in the area, charges, payments, restoration work, and other activities and transactions, such as those concerning the exhibition Il viver quotidiano in Roma arcaica (Daily life in Archaic Rome), held at the site between 24 May and 2 July 1989. In addition there are approximately one hundred articles detailing important discoveries at the site published in newspapers and magazines (e.g. the excavation of layers containing Bronze Age materials; AFSRCM, S. Omobono, b. 29, 5, c. 3476; AFSRCM, S. Omobono, b. 29, 5, c. 3475; AFSRCM, S. Omobono, b. 30, 15, c. 3734).

Equally significant, though numerically less substantial, is the corpus of drawings and photographs. The former include some 80 plans, 60 sections, approximately 280 pottery profile drawings, and numerous sketches and transparencies (primarily of brick stamps) relating to the excavations at S. Omobono and the adjacent Vicus Iugarius and the courtyard of the former V Ripartizione. Among these documents, particularly important are those recording the work carried out in 1937-1938, which document features that were then or have since been destroyed or are no longer identifiable (e.g. AFSRCM, S. Omobono, b. 33, c. 4032-4034, 4036-4037), as well as stratigraphic sections relating to the 1959 and 1962-1964 soundings, which are essential in co-ordinating all the various categories of documentary evidence available (e.g. the excavation diaries, artefacts, and photographs). The latter, of which some 330 are stored in two folders and at least 200-300 are included in excavation diaries and elsewhere, are essential for reconstructing the work carried out in the area. It is only thanks to photographs that much of the evidence unearthed in the excavations of the 1930s and more recently can be reconstructed with any degree of certainty.

After its acquisition, the material was organised chronologically in order to understand the sequence of the work conducted in the area. The material was thus divided according to year and then subdivided by type of document (e.g. Administrative, Excavations, Materials, Reports, Studies, Photographs, Drawings).

The two excavation journals were divided into two separate folders, which, though containing information relating to different years, were kept together as unitary documents; the process of duplicating the data they contain according to year in order to undertake a complete reconstruction of the work conducted in the area is still ongoing. Undated photographs, administrative forms relating to more than one year, an archaeobotanical study and a folder containing the most salient bibliographic references pertaining to the area were all classed separately.

Finally, other undated documents, which it will only be possible to assign to specific phases of the work as the study of the archive progresses, were assigned to a folder named Historical Archive (Archivio Storico).


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