May 16, 2009
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!).