Tuesday 23 June 2009

University of Maryland Summer 2009 Season

UM has begun their 2009 season at Pompeii and Stabiae and it's a pretty ambitious schedule at that. Under the direction of Prof. Lindley Vann (University of Maryland) and Prof. Ian Sutherland (Gallaudet University), this year's research will again focus on an ongoing site study at Pompeii and the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Garden Project at Villa Arianna.

Monday began with a lecture reviewing the history of Pompeii's site, critical markers in its history, geographical references, along with perspectives with regard to understanding its findings. This was followed by an overview of this year's research goals.

Since the garden's discovery in 2007, the University of Maryland has been involved with the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Garden Project. The garden lies within the so-called Great Peristyle of the Villa Arianna. Prof. Kathryn Gleason (Cornell), a pioneer in archaeology methods for exploring Roman era gardens is doing research to determine the composition of the garden including the plants and trees growing there at the time of the eruption. Plants and trees left root cavities much like the body cavities that were discovered in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The entire garden, now cleared of lapilli, has been gridded and work is in progress to document the locations of plant beds, large shrubs and trees as well as elements of the garden (ie wells, cistern, and curbing for beds). While plaster is used to make a cast for trees, a rubber silicone is being used for smaller plants. This year's focus at the villa will be to locate all of the trees in the garden and cast these. The second part of this study will be a water floatation analysis done on the lapilli excavated from the root cavities. Prof. Gleason is quoted as saying that identification of plants by the roots is very new and that research by root typology is not very far along. Plants grow differently in different climates, soil conditions and water combinations make plant identification from the root alone very difficult.

Excavation has been taking place in Pompeii for 250 years. There have been numerous drawings done in many ways with a great deal of inconsistency. The focus in Pompeii will continue this year to be the examination and comparison of existing drawings to existing structures and site conditions to achieve a balance of these which is concise, clear and up to date. For instance, Echebach, used an aerial survey in the 1940s to create the first general map of Pompeii. This enabled him to draw the map by the simply tracing the street lines from an aerial photograph. Consequentially his map includes considerable divergence and rotation due to shadows and camera distortion. In contrast plans by Wilhelmina Jashemski concentrate on garden areas often dismissing important structural features. Therefore, plans will be compared, verified and noted with careful documentation of all features and anomalies to the contrary. After each site visit, electronic drawings will be modified to reflect any changes that day.

The weather appears good and conditions favorable to successfully achieve the goals set forth. I will make other entries as there is time.

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