The Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia

The Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia

University of Cincinnati and the American Academy in Rome

Since 2005 the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia (PARP:PS) – a project of the University of Cincinnati and the American Academy in Rome, and under the direction of Prof. Steven Ellis – has undertaken archaeological excavations of a large sub-elite neighborhood in Regiones I and VIII of Pompeii.  The goals of the project have been to reveal the structural and social relationships over time between Pompeian households of variable economic portfolios, to determine the role that sub-elites played in the shaping of Roman urban networks, and to register their response to city- and Mediterranean-wide historical, political, and economic developments. An additional and especially important aim has been to unravel the complex connections between urban infrastructure (especially waste management) and the making of long-lived, complex urban sites. 

With excavations extending over 4000m2 of the ancient city - covering two town blocks filled with houses, shops, and workshops, as well as urban infrastructure from fountains to fortifications, and from main streets to one of the city’s busiest gates - the scale of the project is unusual in Roman archaeology, and to focus on the development of a sub-elite city block especially so. The depth and detail of recovery from these excavations have helped to unravel the full sequence of human occupation in the area: from identifying the important layering of geological events (both natural and artificial), to charting the seven centuries of major episodic growth spurts in habitation and urban infrastructure, to recognizing the dynamic social history of each of the several properties that stood here when the city was destroyed in 79 CE. 

By broadening the focus to include multiple, neighboring buildings of a more sub-elite character, the project has been able to measure meaningful differences - from sharp to subtle - in the living conditions of one neighbor to the next.  At one level this approach can yield new information on local economic networks and competition, and on another it can lead to wholly original insights into the response of sub-elite groups to social, economic, and historical (and other) developments over time; indeed, over generations or even centuries.  The project’s overall aims are therefore to challenge, or at least question, the range of living conditions of the Roman urbanite, sub-elite or otherwise, and to restore some necessary complexity to our definition of Roman and urban social status. 

With eight seasons of excavations now completed, the project is now undertaking study seasons on the data and materials to produce a landmark series of publications that will connect and contextualize - spatially and chronologically, but also economically, socially, and culturally - the study of Roman cities. 

For more information on the University of Cincinnati excavations at Pompeii, see:

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