I almost literally cannot believe it’s almost December and finals…

First, general updates on things mentioned previously:

GRE went well, but I’ve pretty much decided to take a year between now and grad school to do a Post-Baccalaureate program for Greek and Latin. This will be good for me in many ways.

My abstract for CAMWS (the Classical Association of the Midwest and South) was recently accepted! I got the letter just before my birthday, which was amazing timing. So, I’ll be presenting “Shedding Light on Roman Social Practice: Artifact Assemblage Analysis at Pompeii and Karanis” in March at the annual meeting in Oklahoma City Oklahoma. Exciting!

Thesis-wise: I’ve limited the scope to just Pompeii and Karanis, which is MORE than enough material. This semester I’ve taken the paper I wrote for “Romans at Home” last semester and have been completely reworking it to be thesis-ready. Thus, I will have a complete chapter done by the end of finals, if all goes well. At the moment, I’ve got about ten pages of it that I consider to be pretty much done, and I have about 13 pages to rework (though, the part I’ve revamped involved INTENSE changes and additions, while at least half of the chapter remaining is fairly ok and requires less effort). I’m also working on the methodology and theory chapter.

I’ll try to actually update this from now on. This semester has been tough, but springtime should be a nice easy one (*fingers crossed*)

With the summer winding down, I’ve had a lot of stuff to take care of, and consquently, a bit less has gotten done as far as research goes. I HAVE been reading some more anthropological theory-type books and articles, which I thin kwill be enormously helpful in the way I think about my data. I’ve also been reading the Insula of the Menander artifacts volume (so useful!). In other news, I’m working on abstracts for possible conferences and studying for the GRE, in addition to looking at phd programs (so many of them are really good but really small, so I’m trying to look broadly). At the end of the summer, I’ll post a summary of what I’ve learned so far in my research.

I think I’ve chosen my Pompeii case studies! Yay! I started with the 30 atrium houses used by Allison in Pompeian Households. After having narrowed these down to about 6 that seemed interesting and were well-preserved, I had a bit of a problem getting any farther. All of these houses were relatively well-excavated and published, but I wanted more from all of them (an unrealistic expectation that I am getting over).

My next step was see how many of the important sources on each I could find. A few had been the subject of an entire volume of Hauser in Pompeji, but German is by far the worst of the languages I read (or pretend to read), so this was less exciting than it could have been. All of them had some treatment in the Notizie degli Scavi which are the Italian excavation reports from the 1870s to the present. Unfortunately, I was looking for certain volumes (1927, 1929, 1933, 1934) but could only find 1990-now in Swem and 1877-1930 online. (Italian is much easier to read)

Eventually I narrowed it down to four houses; Casa dei Ceii (I 6, 15) and Casa del Fabbro (I 10, 7) were “average” sized houses while Casa dell’Efebo (I 7, 10-12) and Casa degli Amorini Dorati (VI 16, 7) were in the largest quartile. I wanted to end up with one of each, and if possible, a small house which followed the atrium pattern less/not at all.

Without much more unnecessary detail, I finally (after a week or so) was able to choose! This is mostly because I stumbled upon another GREAT resource that I had not yet seen! Turns out, not only is Regio I Insula 10 being studied currently and the preliminary report is in Swem, but Allison has done a finds study on the entire area with another online companion! Not only did I get 200 more artifact records for the Casa del Fabbro, but I found a small house with no atrium that had records as well (no name, but I 10, 1).

So here they are:

  • Casa dell’Efebo (I 7, 10-12) is my largest house, with a ground area of 660m2. It has several entrances and an extra front hall (aka atrium).
  • Casa del Fabbro (I 10, 7) is the “average-sized” house for which Allison records more than 700 artifacts.
  • I 10, 1 is the small square set of 5 rooms at the top right corner. This plan, incidentally, shows the entirety of Insula 10, Region I; Door 7 leads to the Casa del Fabbro.

Every day I check the Archaeology Magazine News page (link in right side-bar) and usually there is not much of interest. Today, however, the very first blurb was this

Evidence of a planned Iron Age town has been found beneath the Roman site of Calleva Atrebatum, in southern England. “After 12 summers of excavation we have reached down to the 1st Century AD and are beginning to see the first signs of what we believe to be the Iron Age and earliest Roman town,” said Michael Fulford, director of the Silchester Town Life Project.

And here is the article. Calleva is the ancient name for Silchester, the site from Britain that I’d like to include. I say “would like to” because they’re only recently getting to the correct time frame (1st-2nd centuries CE) for me, and I’m not certain whether I can get the artifact-related information I’d need. This article points to the fact that the site is REALLY interesting, though, so I’m going to try my best.More of a general update later today or tomorrow.

Proof of my previous assertion, found accidentally.

There is a publication about my British site called “Silchester, or the ‘Pompeii of Hampshire’: How to Get There and What to See” from 1879, which is taking the Pompeii thing a bit far, since Silchester was not even destroyed in any catastrophe…

I’ve gotten behind at doing exactly this, so as a break I thought I’d share it, since I’m the person I know who does this. It really is helpful and ends up saving time (I learned this the hard way last fall) to index your research in excel.

What on earth am I talking about?

Well, when I’ve got more than 3 or 4 books involved in a project, I tend to forget where I read things. Sometimes I need a specific fact that’s only in one place and I cannot for the life of me find it. Making an index solves this problem and has other benefits. For instance, it can help you track the frequency of certain topics.

It’s not difficult, as long as you don’t get too far behind. What I’m doing right now, because I’m using a lot of different sources is this:

  1. While reading, take notes. I include page numbers and quotations to make citation easier.
  2. Soon thereafter, if not before, decide what the important topics are, what things are likely to come up in other sources, whatever you think you’ll want to be able to find again. List these in the first column of an excel spreadsheet.
  3. Each source you are using gets a column to the right of the topics column.
  4. Simply note the relevant page numbers in the box which corresponds to topic and source.
  5. Alphabetize your topics (sort ascending)!

    I’ve actually made several of these so far. This is the index of sources on Italy in general and Pompeii in particular. I also have one for Britain (Silchester) and my Bibliography. The best part is that you can continue to add topics and sources and both reorganize and use the index easily.

I’ve been on vacation (at home on New York) for the last two weeks, and thus not really doing much of anything. My next step is to decide how many case studies to use per site, and whether to do more than the three sites on which I’ve already decided (Pompeii, Karanis, Silchester). This really boils down to a matter of space: how many pages would I like to devote to each case? It seems as though I’m limited to about 100 pages. I wrote about 10 pages of general site information and 4 pages of case study for my paper on Karanis, though this case was somewhat limited by the information available, and I could certainly have given more detail on the town of Karanis. I think that my three sites, which are after all well-spread through the empire and existed within the span of the 1st c. BCto the 2nd or 3rd c. CE, if each given about 30 pages, should be sufficient. I could then write up several (2-3) case studies per site, data permitting.

Once I settle this question, my job is to start picking houses. I’ll obviously keep the one I’ve already written up, the “House of Socrates” in Karanis (edited somewhat, but I’ll leave that alone for now).  Other than that, I may have trouble, as the site was never published as fully as intended due to the death of the excavator. The information I want exists, but I believe it’s only in handwritten form at the University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum, which is closed until October anyway. Hopefully somebody can help me with that one.

Pompeii will be easy, in that it’s generally well published and has been extensively studied for centuries (though it will be difficult because there are so many choices!).  There are several huge German volumes in Swem of all published material on certain houses, and Penelope Allison’s database should be a great starting point.

Silchester is currently being excavated by the University of Reading, who are participating in a new online archaeological database which should have all of the information I need, in somewhat raw form, especially as the current project is in a residential area of the ancient town. Hopefully I can get access to this, but there will probably be other sources from older excavations as well. I’ve done the least research here so far.

What I’ve been doing to start out is reading some books which will help me to determine how to approach my topic, what questions I’m interested in asking, and what data to collect. My goal in approaching this thesis is to integrate classics, archaeology, anthropology, history, etc. The field of classical archaeology tends to have a bad reputation, so I’m going to do what I can to include better techniques and modern concerns, as some of my favorite classicists have been doing recently.

Penelope Allison is one of the people doing her part to make classical archaeology more respectable (especially in the eyes of other archaeologists). Almost all of my big criticisms of the work I’d read before her are discussed in her 2004 book Pompeian Households: An Analysis of the Material Culture, which I finished reading last week.

A big issue taken on by Allison in this work, as well as her 2001 article from the American Journal of Archaeology, Using the Material and Written Sources: Turn of the millennium approaches to Roman domestic space, is that of the reliability of textual sources. Classicists have, for a long time, considered Latin literature to be the only legitimate source of information about Roman life, while archaeological evidence suffered from the “hand-maiden to history” affliction. This idea that archaeology can only confirm or refute written sources, only recently left behind in the similar field of historical archaeology, must be thoroughly dealt with by classical archaeologists as well. Archaeology can help us to understand things that we just don’t see in the literature. and, as Allison shows in her book, the information from Roman texts does not necessarily correspond to what we see in the ground. For instance, we may assume that the large, ornate front rooms seen in many Pompeian houses are atria, as discussed by Vitruvius, and were thus used for social ritual (i.e. salutatio) exclusively. Finds made in these rooms, however, frequently consist of mundane domestic material such as evidence for weaving, and even industrial/commerical evidence such as amphorae (which were used mostly to contain products for sale and shipping). It is important for classical archaeologists to use the available material evidence to obtain new and relevant conclusions, rather that making assumptions based on Latin literature (or analogy to modern life, another huge problem).

She also takes on the “Pompeii premise,” the reason for so many sites around the world being called “the Pompeii of ________” (just google that phrase if you don’t believe me). This is the idea, which originated very early in the history of pompeian study, that since Pompeii was covered by volcanic ash and abandoned, that it represents a “frozen in time” glimpse at day-to-day Roman life (as Allison points out in her conclusions, “frozen” is an interesting term to use for Pompeii…”). Pompeii is not a snap-shot of the past. As laid out in Pompeian Households, Pompeii was in flux after the earthquake of 62 CE (and possibly several earthquakes from that date to 79 CE), and residents most likely returned to attempt to retrieve valuables. What should have been even more obvious is that people were not caught instantaneously off-guard by Vesuvius; the Pompeii captured for us to see was in the midst of panicked evacuation. While these ideas should not be taken to say that research at Pompeii is pointless, they should be considered when one is doing work on the site as possible explanations and factors.

What Allison does in this book, to try to overcome the bad conclusions that can come from too many assumptions, is to examine carefully every “type” of room (out of22) from the 30 atrium-style houses in the sample. The types are based on position and relationship with other rooms. Thus, all so-called atria fall in the same entry-hall type, but triclinia are separated into two types along with some rooms generally called other names. She then looks at the materials and characteristics of each type to try to determine use, activities, etc.

I hope to use her work extensively, as part of her project is an online database of the data and plans she collected for all 30 houses, thus freeing me from extremely difficult research (for THIS section of the thesis). I will also use her room categories. My focus, however, will be on the individual house level; I want to chose several case studies from each house and analyze the entire house together (as opposed to comparing all of the entranceways or kitchens).

After a few days off, I’m ready to get started! So, here’s an explanation of what I’ll be doing.

My project is “Relicta: A Comparative Artifact Analysis of Pompeii and Other Roman Domestic Sites.” The idea came to me after reading Joanne Berry’s article “Household Artefacts: Towards a Re-interpretation of Roman Domestic Space (1997)” and Penelope Allison’s “Using the Material and Written Sources: Turn of the Millennium Approaches to Roman Domestic Space (2001)”and (as a bit of trivia) while cat-napping. These authors particularly have suggested paying attention to artifacts in the study of Roman homes, which would make Roman archaeology more thorough and should allow us to get closer to the real lives of real people.

At Pompeii and many other Roman sites (see discussion of Karanis, which is to come) at which excavation began early, focus was placed on certain elements (e.g. plaster casts and paintings at Pompeii or papyri at Karanis), while mundane objects were often ignored (sometimes not even recorded!).This has likely created very flawed picture of life at these sites. By careful attention to every artifact with its location taken into account, the use of rooms and houses and the activities of those living within may be determine. Rather than limiting our knowledge of Pompeiian life to elite entertaining based on decorative elements (paintings, sculpture, room layout), for example, we may be able to uncover more day-to-day aspects of life, as Berry hinted at when she noted the large amount of amphorae (large storage jugs) in the atrium of a Pompeiian house (an area associated almost exclusively with the social ritual of salutatio and the person of the paterfamilias).

My study will attempt to apply the approach of giving strong consideration to the artifacts from a given house in conjuntion with any other evidence (decoration, layout, documents, etc) to houses at several different Roman sites in various locations throughout the empire. This method should allow greater insight into life at each site as well as the variation in different areas. The sites involved with definitely include Pompeii and Karanis, as well as several others (Silcehster, Ephesus, etc?).

I’ve written a paper on Karanis already, which will become the basis for a chapter of the final thesis. This paper was quite successful at displaying the utility of the artifactual approach. I will summaraize it in my next post (knowing how often I skim long blog posts, I’m going to try not to put any readers in a similar position!).

My thesis, which I will be working on all summer, thanks to a Dintersmith Fellowship, will be some variation of “Relicta: A Comparative Artifact Analysis of Pompeii and Other Roman Sites.”

Just to give you a taste of my…extreme Classics-nerd-iness: I proposed the project as “Things Left Behind” and could not stop thinking about how awkward that sounded and WISHING I could get that point across elegantly in one word. Then I realized: LATIN!

Check back soon for an actual introduction to my project and maybe a taste of one of the chapters! (I’d do it now, but I’ve still got one final left: Roman Art and Archaeology.)

header photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Forum_in_Pompeii_2.jpg