William Van Andringa (University of Lille III – CNRS, UMR 8164 – HALMA-IPEL)
Thomas Creissen (Éveha International – François Rabelais University, Tours, CNRS UMR 7324 – LAT)
Henri Duday (University of Bordeaux – Anthropological Laboratory of Bordeaux)
How Eveha Participates
A new excavation season took place on the Porta Nocera necropolis from 14th August to 26th September 2015. 26 people took part, including 3 interns. A new excavation zone was opened in the eastern part of the Necropolis (zone B), while work continued in the area already explored the previous year (zone A).
Zone A (Fig. 2 and 3) :
In zone A, deep sondages have confirmed that before the establishment of the necropolis, the area served as a quarry for the extraction of the volcanic subsoil, and perhaps also layers of silt. Later, the necropolis appears to have developed gradually from east to west. The earliest monument situated within the excavated area is the mausoleum 27 OS, which may date to the third quarter of the first century B.C. No graves associated with this structure have been identified. We have been able to demonstrate that the layers associated with the building of this mausoleum were cut by the construction of monument 26a, located approximately 3 metres to the east. The latter is therefore more recent. This monument, already identified last year, had been interpreted as a small mausoleum. In fact, it seems more likely that it was an open enclosure, the end wall of which was surmounted with a pediment. In the centre of this wall, an alcove contained a glass funerary urn, found broken and partly emptied of bone remains during the 2014 season. At least three new tombs were identified within the enclosure. They were sealed by several abandonment levels, natural (colluvial deposits) or anthropogenic (mixed waste deposits). One of these tombs is marked by a lava column while the other two are marked by inscribed marble steles. One epitaph mentions the young Aphe, deceased age six. The other is that of Poppaea Cypare, a member of the Pompeian Poppaei family – the same family which produced Poppaea Sabina, wife of Nero (Fig 4). Under the layers associated with the abandonment of the site, the final occupation level of the enclosure is characterised by the presence of several balsamaria associated with the graves. The graves have not yet been excavated, but the funerary structures appear to be exceptionally well preserved. The sealing slabs, steles and libation tubes are still present (Fig. 5). The last funerary ensemble consists of enclosure 25c, which occupies the most westerly part of the excavated area and may date to the Augustan period. Four steles are present, along with the corresponding cuts, parts of which were dug into the volcanic subsoil (Fig. 6). Only two ceramic urns were found within this structure. These contained bone remains which have yet to be studied. A few grave goods were found, including a ceramic balsamarium and coins. An unmarked grave was also identified in the same area. Later in date than the others, it is notable for the absence of an urn; the bones were deposited directly in the pit. Finally, part of a funeral pyre was also identified underneath the funerary alcove 25A. Only a small part this feature could be excavated.
Zone B (Fig. 7) :
In zone B, the necropolis is located on both sides of the road linking Pompeii and Nocera. This road, still covered by a layer of lapilli in parts, was investigated within a trench of 15m² (Fig. 8). The road and its northern verge, which contain numerous complex modifications, were partly explored. The road surface is very irregular, and many wheel ruts and filled in holes are visible. Work stopped at the level of an extremely compact road surface which will be excavated in 2016. Located north of the road, enclosure 1E was uncovered for the most part in the early 1980s. It contains five graves, two of which were excavated this year. One of these, located at the foot of a small funerary monument carrying inscriptions, had been almost entirely explored during the first season. The presence of a modern superstructure prevented completion of the excavation of the second grave, attributed to Cnaeus Turranius Primus, according to the inscription on the marble stele. In this enclosure, work concentrated principally on a cremation zone which was fully excavated, after the installation of a grid system (Fig. 9). Analysis of the bone remains is ongoing. Nearby, enclosure 1F appears to contain eight graves, two of which were excavated this year. One of these is the grave of the duumvir C. Veranius Rufus, contained within a casing of tegulae and decorated with a heavy inscribed marble stele. The bone remains have not yet been examined. To the south, several funerary enclosures occupy a raised terrace which overlooked the road. In one of these (enclosure 3E), one grave was partially excavated. The urn was uncovered, but left in situ due to time constraints. It is worth noting the presence in the same enclosure of three child graves grouped together in the same area. Further to the west, enclosure 3D seems to contain eleven graves concentrated within a very confined space (Fig. 10). Only two could be more or less fully examined. One of these displayed a particularly complex construction: the bone remains were placed together in a cloth receptacle, before being deposited in a ceramic urn, which in turn was placed in a lead chest and inserted into a reused amphora.
Overall, only a few graves were excavated this year, but this sample is indicative of a large diversity of burial practices. At present, the bone remains have not yet been studied; this analysis, in addition to further excavation of the various enclosures, is planned for 2016.
As for the first season, photogrammetry was used extensively in zone A, to complement the excavations. Full coverage was obtained after the excavation of each context layer, almost systematically. In zone B, this method was used to document the excavation of the road and some of the graves more comprehensively.