Multidisciplinar research project on the archeological roman site of Somma Vesuviana

Tokyo University

With the Cooperation of:
Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation

The "discovery" of the dwelling
The first explorations near the Starza della Regina were undertaken in the 30s. The excavation, executed by Matteo Della Corte with the supervision of Amedeo Maiuri, brought back to light the rests of a monumental building, approximately 9 m height and destroyed, in the opinion of the same excavators, by "lava during the eruption of the ‘79".

In spite of the limited extension of the test carried out then (approximately 70 m squared), the monumental characteristics of the constructions brought back to light and their topographical positioning were considered sufficient elements in order to identify the dwelling, remembered many times in literary sources (Suet. Aug. 98-100; Tib. 40; Tac. Ann. I, 5; I, 9; Situated IV, 57) and situated near Nola (apud Nolam), in which the emperor Augusto passed his last days. The structures remained in sight until the late ’30-ies, waiting for new financing for the prosecution of the excavation; then surveys were definitively suspended because of the lack of funds for the next years, and were finished as the dwelling was abandoned and naturally buried again.

Campaigns of excavation 2002-2005
In 2002, the University of Tokyo started a new excavation campaign, the aim of which is not only to verify the above-mentioned hypothesis on the "Villa of Augusto", but also to reconstruct, using new methods and a multidisciplinary scientific approach, the cultural and environmental context of this zone of such a great archaeological importance. In the 2002 excavation campaign revealed some structures that had already been discovered in the 30’ies: a huge arch made of cement and the vestment in opus vittatum mixtum, leaning on pilasters quadripartiti in blocks and a wall consisting of blocks of tuff and tiles, hinged on rectangular and semicircular niches.

During the excavation campaign of 2003 there was discovered a lot of wall ruins with course parallel and perpendicular regarding the already known structures, among which there was another wall with three niches, equal and symmetrical to the one found in 2002, that delimits from the part of the west the structure with arches and pillars. In the course of the last campaigns of excavation there was found a portico, a place between the walls and on the columns made of African marble and with Corinthian capitals above, there were probably arches and regularly rotated platbands. The area between these constructions is covered with white mosaic.

Besides there was made a discovery of great interest: in one of the niches of the wall there was found a marble statue of peplofora. Moreover, at the foundation of the portico, in contact with the mosaic, there have been found some fragments of another statue, identifiable as one of Dionysus. In the western part of the same space there have been spotted a place with two big doors with signs N and S on the opposite sides; and in its centre there has been identified two features of walls oriented north-south, indicating the late constructive phase; the door oriented on the southern side of the room was closed during the followed construction of an apse, profusely covered with marble. Under volcanic remains there has been found the remains of the roof with numerous fragments of tile and pieces of burnt wood, one grinder for grain and many fragments of dolia; on the layer of ruins, some time before the abandonment, there was constructed an oven. All these elements leave to presuppose a change of use of the building, with a progressive substitution of the residential function with that productive one, as they reveal some bathtubs in “cocciopesto” implanted on the mosaic and, above all, the great "cistern" and the logline in 2005 in the angle of the excavation place. Acquired data do not allow to confirm or to refuse the traditional hypothesis of identification of this complex as the villa of Augustus by now. however The most part of the structures seem to be connected to the entrance of a building, as they also testify the monumentality of the pointed out structures and the great architectonic quality.

Research Project members:
Director: Masanori Aoyagi
Excavation Directors: Satoshi Matsuyama, Claudia Angelelli
Scientific Councilmen: Maria Giuseppina Cerulli Irelli, Antonio De Simone, Toshitsugu Fujii, Maria Luisa Nava, Umberto Pappalardo, Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Giuseppe Vecchio
Scientific Advisers: Takayuki Kaneko, Michiharu Watanabe, Setsuya Nakada, Annamaria Perrotta, Claudio Scarpati
Project members: Natsumi Araki, Girolamo Ferdinando De Simone, Tsuyoshi Fujimoto, Tsuyoshi Hirasawa, Katsushi Ikeuchi, Katsuhiro Iwaki, Goro Komatsu, Akira Matsuda, Masaru Miyawaki, Hiromi Moriya, Ryoji Motomura, Tomoo Mukai, Kenji Niihori, Takashi Oguchi, Giovanna Piacentini, Cohe Sugiyama, Yasunari Takada, Adriana Tripoli, Atsushi Yasuda, Minoru Yoneda, Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto

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