Pompeii – Porta Nocera – 2017

© Mission archéologique de Porta Nocera 2

The excavation campaigns
(by years)


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

Archaeological investigations

The 2017 campaign ran from August 21st to September 30th. The first week was mainly devoted to material studies (glass, worked bones, oil lamps…). A training course on the study of cremations took place during the second week under the direction of Henri Duday. The archaeological investigations were therefore mostly done over the last four weeks, as well as the artefact studies (ceramic, fauna, carpology).
The investigations were divided into two areas: area A in the west and area B in the east.

In area A, the excavation of the enclosure discovered in 2014 continued. Seven tombs are now attested there, among which three were found and digged this year. The first one is the tomb of Aphae, the marble stele mentionning a child who died at six. A funerary ceramic container filled with burnt bones and a small glass vase containing other bones were associated to this stele. The osteological study revealed the presence of two immature individuals, one about six years old, the other − the most strongly represented − about two years old. The two other graves were those of adults. Only one had a rather discreet surface marking.

Despite the excavation of the entire area within the enclosure and the identification of a complete surface marking (stele, sealing plate and a libation conduit), no remains of a bone deposit were found in asssociation with the SP 307 tomb. The latter was associated with an earlier libation device notched by the construction of the enclosure’s monument: either this tomb corresponds to a cenotaph or the urn is slightly outside the enclosure. This second hypothesis would suggest that the area occupied by the funerary structures has evolved with the construction of the monument. Thanks to the osteological study of Poppaea Cypare’s grave identified by the inscription on the stele, it is indeed proven that this family used this funerary space prior to the construction of the enclosure. Before the enclosure was built, her burned bones were first placed in a sepulchral grave. Afterwards, the tomb was reopened, most of the burnt bones taken and placed in a glass urn placed in a niche located in the bottom wall of the enclosure, in the center of a pediment. Part of the first deposit remained however at the bottom of the original sepulchral pit, which was then covered with a complete funerary device: sealing plate, libation conduit and engraved stele.

The volcanic substrate was identified in several places in the road area. First used as a quarry, the place has been backfilled and partially flattened for the construction of the roadway. The enclosure 26A was partly built on the first refills of the roadway, slightly below the circulation surface. Deposits of burnt food remains (fruit and meat) were found on the top of several archaeological levels of circulation leaning against the outside of the enclosure. Some commemorative ceremonies must thus have taken place outside the enclosure, probably due to the lack of a door or stairs to access downstairs.

In the northern part of area B, the excavations have proven the existence of an early road passing underneath the funerary monuments, the current road being the result of a remodelling of this part of the site. This transformation, still poorly dated, could be linked with the founding of a new burial area.

Several funerary monuments were excavated this year. The enclosure 1D is located in the north. According to an inscription, it was meant to recieve a freed couple. However, only a woman’s grave was found. It is placed in the center of the monument, in a small niche accessible from a narrow corridor at the back of the mausoleum. A rich deposit of drinking vessel surmounts it. The whole was sealed by an ancient embankment penetrating very far inside the corridor.
Enclosure 1E is located close to 1D. The exacavation of the two cremation areas spotted the previous years was completed. Several tombs were also excavated and are currently under study. In total, at least nine tombs are housed in the enclosure. At present, the oldest tomb seems to be a bonfire tomb covered with a gabled roof. An oil lamp, probably dating from the middle of the 1st century B.C, was found in it. This tomb will be excavated in 2018.

The enclosure 1F was founded by a freed woman, C Verania, for her chief family and her own. Thirteen graves have so far been identified, but the entire surface has not yet been searched and not all graves have a marking system. In the duumvir tomb (roman magistrat), the libation conduit had the particularity of containing bone remains of a ca. two years old child. The tomb of the dedicant, identified thanks to an engraved stele, never received any bone deposit. These bones are probably in the tomb nearby the one of Caius Veranius. Along this year’s discovery is the tomb of a little child aged around two. He was inhumated in a simple pit, the body covered by an amphora fragment. A similar structure was spotted last year; it was found empty of any bone remains and could thus be a tomb prepared in advance and never used.

In enclosure 3E, located on the other side of the road, four tombs were excavated. In every instance, the buried bones were placed in ceramic urns. A cremation area was found in the center of the enclosure. Research will proceed next year.

These excavations reveal, beyond certain recurrent features, the diversity of the funerary practices in use: ceramic, lead or glass containers; deposit of the burnt remains in a pit; bones collected in a bag or not ; coin placed at the top or at the bottom of the urn, mixed with the bones or even absent; complementary deposits; presence or absence of steles, sealing plates or libation devices…
Furthermore, the large number of tombs studied year after year helps gathering precise information on the gestures practiced during the three main stages of funerary rituals : the cremation, the burial and the commemoration of the deceased.

Finally, a team from the Vienna Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut came during this campaign to carry out a series of geophysical prospections. Their results will be used in our future research.