The relevance of insula studies to our understanding of Roman towns no longer seems to be subject to debate: since the 1970s, an increasing number of research projects and scientific publications have treated the insula as the most appropriate unit of analysis for investigating urban development and living conditions in Roman cities. This is partly because it enables an intermediate approach, bridging the gap between large- and small-scale studies. For insula-based projects, the Vesuvian sites, still a key point of reference in classical archaeology, provide a wide range of case studies. Retracing the insula-based history of the research in Pompeii allows us to outline the state of the art of the block-by-block archaeology of a Roman town. This review shows how, experience by experience, over the last 100 years the focus of the insula-based approach has shifted from built spaces towards a more holistic analysis, and it sets out a possible agenda for future research. In this agenda, due to the special nature of Pompeii, an archaeological site with a long and complex second life, a leading role is played by “alibi archaeologies”, i.e. research aimed at reassessing both older excavations (which in many cases have never been the subject of scientific publications) and the second life of unearthed material remains. Aiming to retrace older excavations and write a comprehensive history of archaeological evidence after its rediscovery, this research is indispensable for any properly holistic study of the Pompeii sample. The current and future challenge, in Pompeii and elsewhere, is to achieve a careful approach to both agency and materiality: the ultimate goal is to move from an analysis of built, decorated and furnished insulae to knowledge of what it was like to actually live in them in ancient times and what has become of them since their rediscovery. In this regard, after revisiting the main chapters and episodes of the history of insula studies in the Pompeii sample, the paper concludes with a description of the state of the art of a project in which alibi archaeologies, as well as a focus on agency and materiality, have played a leading role. The “Pompei, Insula del Centenario (IX 8)” project has indeed adopted a comprehensive approach to insula studies since 1998: revisiting its various phases, results and objectives yet to be achieved allows us to take stock of the research agenda of a long-term and multi-dimensional project.

Insula Studies. From Evidence to Agency. The Making of the Pompeii Sample

A. Coralini
2023

Abstract

The relevance of insula studies to our understanding of Roman towns no longer seems to be subject to debate: since the 1970s, an increasing number of research projects and scientific publications have treated the insula as the most appropriate unit of analysis for investigating urban development and living conditions in Roman cities. This is partly because it enables an intermediate approach, bridging the gap between large- and small-scale studies. For insula-based projects, the Vesuvian sites, still a key point of reference in classical archaeology, provide a wide range of case studies. Retracing the insula-based history of the research in Pompeii allows us to outline the state of the art of the block-by-block archaeology of a Roman town. This review shows how, experience by experience, over the last 100 years the focus of the insula-based approach has shifted from built spaces towards a more holistic analysis, and it sets out a possible agenda for future research. In this agenda, due to the special nature of Pompeii, an archaeological site with a long and complex second life, a leading role is played by “alibi archaeologies”, i.e. research aimed at reassessing both older excavations (which in many cases have never been the subject of scientific publications) and the second life of unearthed material remains. Aiming to retrace older excavations and write a comprehensive history of archaeological evidence after its rediscovery, this research is indispensable for any properly holistic study of the Pompeii sample. The current and future challenge, in Pompeii and elsewhere, is to achieve a careful approach to both agency and materiality: the ultimate goal is to move from an analysis of built, decorated and furnished insulae to knowledge of what it was like to actually live in them in ancient times and what has become of them since their rediscovery. In this regard, after revisiting the main chapters and episodes of the history of insula studies in the Pompeii sample, the paper concludes with a description of the state of the art of a project in which alibi archaeologies, as well as a focus on agency and materiality, have played a leading role. The “Pompei, Insula del Centenario (IX 8)” project has indeed adopted a comprehensive approach to insula studies since 1998: revisiting its various phases, results and objectives yet to be achieved allows us to take stock of the research agenda of a long-term and multi-dimensional project.
2023
Insulae in Context, Proceedings of the International Colloquium, September 25th – 28th 2019
140
199
A. Coralini
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/906929
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