Thursday, 12 March 2009

Mansions In Pompeii: Ideal Measurements Of A Pre-Roman Model

An interesting article about Noor van Krimpen’s research at Pompeii has just come out in Science Daily. Her metrological analysis of eighteen houses demonstrates that architects in Pompeii were working according to geometric figures and proportions, resulting in a standard set of ratios. This means that, despite common features in the houses, each was able to maintain an individual character. Adaptations to each house could then be made according to particularly circumstances. It’s an interesting – but short – article. (Source and citation.) Let’s hope for proper publication of her research soon. In the meantime, congratulations to Noor on her recent and successful defence of her Ph.D at Leiden!

Just noticed that this article was picked up by Rogue Classicism, too.


Francesca Tronchin said...

You beat me to it! I was going to mention this article as well.
It will be interesting to see the actual research. I don't get a sense from the article of how many houses she studied. To really be convinced, I'd hope for a large sample.

Jo Berry said...

Us Europeans are eight hours ahead of you!!! But I agree with your comment, I would also like to see a few more details. I really hope she plans to publish in the near future.

Steven Ellis said...

Noor put something out on her metrological studies in BaBesch 2006 (I think back then she was going by 'van Winckel'.

Eric Poehler said...

The article Steven mentions is:

Title: Pompeian Twins
Subtitle: Design and Building of the House of Philippus (VI 13,2) and the House of M. Terentius Euxodus (VI 13,6)
Journal: BABESCH
Volume: 81 Date: 2006
Pages: 135-168
DOI: 10.2143/BAB.81.0.2014426

Abstract :
This article presents an analysis of the building history and a reconstruction of the design of two Pompeian atrium houses with a longitudinal peristyle-garden, the House of Philippus (VI 13, 2) and the House of M. Terentius Eudoxus (VI 13, 6). The results of the analyses will be used to search for new insights in the social context of these houses at the time when they were constructed and during their history of occupation and use. The social history of Pompeii and the role of the house therein is a popular and fruitful research topic of many studies that are concerned with the ancient city of Pompeii. The fact that the actual layout of a house, the design by an architect, also carries in it many ‘social signs’ that are not immediately visible, but can be discerned by a metrological analysis, will be demonstrated by the following study.

My hope for metrological studies are they publish the specifics of the precision and accuracy of the study Thus, the precise measurements taken (to at least the cm or better), the rules of how measurements were taken (e.g., inside of wall to inside of wall) and what thresholds of accuracy are imposed (i.e., how many cm from an Oscan or Roman foot before the identification is unconfirmed).

Perhaps Astrid, another expert in this area, can give us a few pointers here? Are there rules that understood to those in the business that non-"metrologists" should know to fairly evaluate metrological arguments? What data do we need and how do we read it?

Miko Flohr said...

As small as Holland is, it is full of metrologists. There even seem to be two 'schools' - one in Leiden and another one in Nijmegen. As to Eric's comment (and being from Nijmegen and not from Leiden) I can only say that the best methodological discussion on the issues he brings up may be in the work of Richard de Kind on Houses in Herculaneum (Brill, 1998). Written in German, there also is the work of Kees Peterse (Steinfachwerk in Pompeji), which discusses the design of opus africanum houses.
In Nijmegen, we usually took .5 cm as our smallest unit and corrected it when the wall was covered by plaster. As to the accuracy, it always is speculative as you never know which exact measure they used; this may vary and has to be reconstructed on the basis of measurements from the field. See De Kind for the resulting variation (which b.t.w. has evoked some criticism from 'Leiden'). This also goes for the precision of foot measures: we don't know what the smallest unit was commonly used by Roman architects; I personally tend to assume that it often was a quarter foot (see my discussion in RstPomp 2005), but more precise measures are possible.

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