House of the Geometric Mosaics
RESTORATION OF THE HOUSE OF THE GEOMETRIC MOSAICS AND MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS COMPLETED
The northwestern sector of insula 2 of Regio VIII reopens to the public after a complete restoration of the buildings and wall and floor decorative elements. The sector overlooks the Forum with three Civil Buildings and on Via delle Scuole with the grandiose residential complex of the so-called House of the Geometric Mosaics.
HOUSE OF THE GEOMETRIC MOSAICS
Already noted since the first half of the nineteenth century, and brought entirely to light in the first decade of the twentieth century, the House of the Geometric Mosaics more recently presents itself as a huge complex, complete with over 60 rooms joined by terraces which, resting on and against the walls, overlook a panoramic view over the Sarno valley. The complex arose from the fusion of several originally distinct domus, with entrance via the Via delle Scuole, connected by the construction of a grandiose porticoed garden on the ground floor, as a well as by corridors, ramps and stairs to the lower floors.
Archaeological investigations conducted since the 1930’s until the stratigraphic tests carried out during the now completed restoration document the various construction phases of these structures, the earliest of which dates to the 2nd century BC, and in the area set against the boundary walls, until now considered to be much more recent.
The traditional name of the house, the Domus of Floor Mosaics or Geometric Mosaics, is due to the notable quantity of preserved mosaics, both white monochrome and and white on black or black on white geometric decoration, such as the splendidly ornate meandering patterns of the two alae opening onto the atrium. The mosaics, belonging to the final period in the life of the house, lay alongside numerous white limestone grit and, above all, opus signinum floors, dating to a previous phase; some - particularly precious - examples are decorated with tesserae arranged to geometric designs, such as in room divided by a partition wall, or plant designs, like the central rose design of a large, northwestern room.
The three large halls with an apse at the bottom and opening on the southern portico of the Forum, severely damaged by the earthquake of AD 62 and still under to process of renovation in AD 79, constitute the headquarters of the duoviri, the principal town magistrates (east building VIII 2, 10), the Curia, seat of the local Senate (central building 2, 8) and the Tabularium, the archive of public documents (western building VIII 2, 6). The importance of these structures, devoted to the performance of basic functions of public town life, is emphasised, not only by the close proximity to the Civil Forum and by the size, but also by the precious covering of the floors and walls in marble sheets, particularly well preserved in the Tabularium.
The now completed restoration work has proven to be of great interest, since it has allowed the carrying out of archaeological investigations which have shed new light on the earliest history of this important district of the city, starting from the 6th century BC, which the identified building has been dated to, in which at least three rooms with areas utilised for craftsmanship, delimited by pappamonte walls, have been identified.
The archaic building was likely abandoned during the 4th century BC. Other discoveries hail from two wells connected to the workshops, as already noted on the western side of the Forum, in use since the middle of the 2nd century BC when they were closed and the area was destined for other purposes. The bringing to light of small partition walls, whose function is not easy to interpret, leaves us to hypothesise that the active workshops in this area were directly replaced, such as on the western and eastern sides of the Forum, with public buildings, perhaps with a layout similar to the present one.
The works on the two domus of Championnet at numbers 1-2 and 3-5, the second connected to the House of the Geometric Mosaics in AD 79, are scheduled to be completed soon, with their opening to the public to follow.