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EXCAVATIONS OF INSULA V 1
2005 Vicolo delle Nozze d’Argento: finds
Pottery and small finds from the excavation in Vicolo delle Nozze d’Argento


The street excavation provided plentiful evidence of a prehistoric settlement situated on the site of ancient Pompeii. The pottery both below and above an ash layer from a prehistoric volcanic eruption was classified as Palma Campania pottery, i.e. a Campanian variety of a material culture dated to the Early Bronze Age. The pottery fragments were numerous, but there were also other types of artefacts and materials of which a general outline is presented here.


FINDS FROM BEFORE THE EARLY BRONZE AGE ERUPTION

Pottery
There is a diversity in the ceramic material, ranging from serving vessels to containers and possibly cooking pots (burnt interior). Some pottery, often red in colour, is very crude, negligently or amateurishly shaped and with only basic surface treatment of the interior. Other pieces, especially those of cups, are well-made. These cups are red, pinkish buff or black in colour, they are well-burnished, carinated and equipped with slightly flaring rims and vertical strap handles. A few cup fragments of the type with indentations along the rim and "knobs", plastic decoration on the body near the rim, were encountered. One body sherd with greyish brown, burnished exterior has a horizontal impressed pattern of 11 dimples placed in two rows.
Total no. of pottery fragments: 2,399
Total weight of pottery fragments: 11.41 kg

Bones
The animal bones of the first Early Bronze Age phases included adult pig, juvenile pig, adult sheep/goat, juvenile sheep/goat, dog, juvenile rodent, frog, unidentified bird, both larger and smaller unidentified mammals, and unidentified fish. No cut marks were registered, but some bones had been burnt. Many bones were preserved only as small and large splinters, as if crushed, and the bones of the lowermost levels were not crusted as much as the uppermost bones, i.e. those exposed to the volcanic ash. Of the identified species, the majority are domesticated animals or, like rodents, animals living off the debris of human settlements.
Total no. of bone fragments: 478
Total weight of bone fragments: 0.39 kg
(Analysis by C. Liebe-Harkort.)

Shells
Due to the acidic character of the soil, the excavated sea shells had turned soft and crumbled easily when collected. However, after exctraction and cleaning, the remaining shell fragments returned to their original solid state. The marine species included Glycymeris glycymeris (dog-cockle, bittersweet clam), Arca noae (Noah’s ark shell), Scrobicularia plana (peppery furrow shell), Cerastoderma edule (common cockle), Mytilus galloprovinciales (Mediterranean mussel), Donax venustus (wedge shell), Columbella rustica (rusty dove-shell) and Dentalium vulgare (common tusk). Glycymeris, Scrobicularia, Cerastoderma and Donax are found in shallow waters (0.20-1.00m deep) and some, particularly Scrobicularia, are attracted to the areas of river mouths. Arca and Mytilus are found in the deeper parts of the littoral zone, while Columbella and Dentalium subsist in even deeper waters. All species, except the Columbella, are edible species, but some specimens were too small to have been collected for food. Many of the Glycymeris specimens show traces of fire, but whether they were exposed to heat before or after consumption is impossible to say.
Total no. of shell fragments: 68
(Identification by E. Pinto-Guillaume.)

Bronze
Two of the bronze finds are clearly rivets of the type used for knives/daggers at this time. The other seven small lumps are plausibly the remains of rivets too.

Chert tools
Two chert tools were unearthed, but no flakes. The complete find of a grey, tanged arrowhead shows careful and skillful craftsmanship. The honey-coloured blade was a discard already at the beginning of the settlement’s history since its edges had been naturally worn blunt by water on a shoreline or river bank.

Miscellaneous
Charcoal, stones, samples of the preserved ash-crusts of possible roots, lumps of white clay, lumps of clay lining or mudbrick and soil samples were collected. One small metal lump has a resemblance to oxidized iron.
One of the mollusc bivalves, a Glycymeris, appears intentionally perforated and was probably used as personal adornment.


FINDS FROM AFTER THE EARLY BRONZE AGE ERUPTION

Pottery
The pottery includes fragments of both containers and serving vessels, the latter being more frequent. Of the diagnostic sherds, cups seem to be most common and there are two distinct types of cups. There are the burnished, carinated cups, with vertical strap handles, that range in colour from brownish red to black, whereas the other type of cup is more crude in its execution, but frequently decorated with "knobs" and indentations along the rim ("toothed"). One body sherd is very different from all other fragments: it has a grey burnished exterior and interior and it is decorated with impressed dimples in the pattern of triangles. Of the containers, two body sherds are decorated with imprinted cordons, one rim fragment has indentations and one sherd is furnished with both types of decoration.
Total no. of pottery fragments: 1,171
Total weight of pottery fragments: 8.45 kg

Bones
Animals included adult pig, adult cattle, adult sheep/goat, adult rodent, juvenile rodent, possible hare, and both larger and smaller unidentified mammals. Again, no cut marks were registered, but some bones had been burnt. Some fragments are large, but many others are splinters. Also, many of these post-eruption bones are covered with a grey, hard crust. Of the identified species, domesticated animals and rodents clearly dominate. It is noteworthy that neither fish bones nor birds were recovered in the post-eruption material.
Total no. of bone fragments: 144 (+ numerous bones from juvenile rodents)
Total weight of bone fragments: 0.40 kg
(Analysis by C. Liebe-Harkort.)

Shells
The few finds of marine molluscs in these contexts included the species Glycymeris glycymeris (dog-cockle, bittersweet clam) and Spondylus gaederopus (spiny or thorny oyster). Glycymeris is found in shallow waters whereas Spondylus can live on both shallow and deep sea beds. Both are edible. A single land snail, the large specimen of a Papillifera papillaris/bidens (papillate door snail), was retrieved. The species is today commonly found among the ruins of Pompeii, but its find context seems to preclude that it is a modern intrusion.
Total no. of shell fragments: 4
(Identification by E. Pinto-Guillaume.)

Bronze
In the post-eruption levels, only three miniscule lumps of bronze were found. It is probable that they were rivets originally, like the pre-eruption finds.

Miscellaneous
No other small finds were retrieved, but charcoal, stones, lumps of clay of which one has a possible leaf imprint and soil samples were collected for further analyses.


FINDS FROM THE STREET

Pottery: Diagnostic pottery was collected in the hope of dating the two street phases. Results are pending. One pottery fragment was presumed prehistoric: it was burnished and had one red and one grey side.
Iron objects: Numerous oxidized lumps of iron were collected from both street levels. Most of the objects that can be positively identified are nails. There is, however, one larger fragment of an artefact that could possibly constitute part of a small pickaxe. This was found in the earlier street layer.
Bronze objects: From the paved street level there are two well-preserved bronze nails, one probable boss for a street door, one half of a possible coin and several pieces that cannot be identified. One flat fragment is tentatively identified as bronze, but it is an enigmatic piece since it appears dark silvery in colour and has a high finish, but with marks of copper/bronze oxidation. In the lower wheel-ruts were four nondescript bronze coins, one larger than the others, and a few unidentifiable fragments.
Other small finds: The contexts associated with the stone-paved street contained the following small finds: two fragments of lamps, one terracotta loom weight, one finely worked round, flat bone object, one bone button, two glass beads/counters and one small, white glass plaque with dark brown palmette pattern. The latter is an artefact of excellent craftsmanship. In the lower wheel-ruts were plaster fragments of First Style date (identification by C. Pettersson) and part of a bone pin.
Bones: Animal bones included adult pig, juvenile pig, adult cattle, juvenile sheep, sheep/goat, smaller and larger unidentified mammals, and unidentified fish. Cut marks were noted on some bones of smaller mammals. From the wheel-ruts of the older street level were the bones of adult pig and unidentified species of both smaller and larger mammals. No. of fragments: 166; weight: 0.35 kg. (C. Liebe-Harkort)
Molluscs: The marine species of Donax (serrula) truculus (wedge-shell), Scrobicularia plana (peppery furrow shell) and Columbella rustica (rusty dove-shell) were recovered. The single specimen of land snail, Helix (Cryptomphalus) aspersa (brown garden snail), is most likely a modern intrusion since these land snails are frequently found over the ruins of Pompeii where they dig their way down into the ground. From the wheel-ruts of the older street level, was a Glycymeris violascens (dog-cockle). No. of fragments: 6. (E. Pinto-Guillaume)


FINDS FROM THE CESSPIT

The finds from inside the Roman cesspit included pottery (of which at least three are prehistoric body sherds), oxidized iron objects, animal bones and plaster fragments of the First and Second Style periods.
Bones: Pig and smaller mammal. No. of fragments: 12; weight: 0.01 kg. (C. Liebe-Harkort)


FINDS FROM THE ANIMAL BURROWS

Some small intrusions have been interpreted as animal burrows, dating in all likelihood to the time when urban Pompeii prospered, since miniscule fragments of painted wall plaster have been found inside. In the intrusions few finds were found. Soil samples were collected, however, and may contain more evidence of fauna and manmade artefacts.
Bones: Animal bones included several bones of a young rodent (rat or mouse) and unidentified fish. No. of fragments: 55; weight: 0.003 kg. (C. Liebe-Harkort)
Molluscs and echinoderms: There were three collected land snails of the species Oxychilus cellarius (cellar glass snail) and, although modern Oxychilus are common on the site today, these are assumed ancient specimens. The spike of a Paracentrotus lividus (common sea urchin) was also found. No. of fragments: 4. (E. Pinto-Guillaume)


CONCLUSIONS OF THE EARLY BRONZE AGE FINDS

Finds connected to a marine environment are evidently more common in the pre-eruption contexts: fish bones, riverbead/ seabed pebbles and the find of the strongly water-washed chert blade are unique to the strata under the ash layer. Also, the sea shells are much more numerous compared to later. From the beginning and throughout the settlement history, domesticated animals and rodents were numerous, indicating that the economy of the population was based on agriculture and pastoralism. The great number of finds of similar character from post-eruption levels demonstrate continuous habitation by the same group of people.


Monica Nilsson




Photo/drawing:
Black carinated cup.

Photo/drawing: M. Nilsson
Red carinated cup.

Photo/drawing: M. Nilsson
Animal bones of one pre-eruption context.

Photo/drawing: M. Nilsson
Pre-eruption sea shells.

Photo/drawing: M. Nilsson
Pre-eruption probable bronze rivets.

Photo/drawing: M. Nilsson
Chert arrowhead.

Photo/drawing: Lois Lecareux
Chert blade.

Photo/drawing: Lois Lecareux
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EXCAVATIONS
2000-2008 EXCAVATIONS
2005 Vicolo delle Nozze
    d'Argento

2005 Vicolo delle Nozze
    d'Argento: finds

2006 V 1,14-16 atrium
2006 V 1,23 d'
2006 V 1,23 q
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