The first season of excavation and conservation at the necropolis of Porta Nola focused on three areas which had been surveyed during an earlier pilot season. The aim was to investigate a cross-section of burial types, from the elite tomb of Obellius Firmus to the poorer burials known to have been placed alongside the city wall.
The Tomb of Marcus Obellius Firmus:
The tomb of Obellius Firmus was first excavated in 1976, during which time one burial was identified together with a marble headstone and a blue glass cinerary urn. The tomb is square in plan, closed on all sides with a lower indent on the top of the rear wall, presumably to allow access by a ladder. The marble inscription on the front pediment records that he was an aedile and duovir under the reign of Nero, and that for his funeral the decurions gave the place of burial and five thousand sesterces. The 2015 excavation season discovered of a further cremation burial inside the tomb. The ceramic vessel was accompanied by grave goods including a coin (dating between AD 66-69), which together provide new information about the continued use of the tomb. The excavation inside the tomb also recovered hundreds of fragments of burnt worked bone, used to decorate the funerary bed. These fragments included representations of wings and forms of vegetation, some of which were covered in gold leaf.
An integral aspect of the project is the conservation and restoration of the funerary monuments at the necropolis of Porta Nola. In 2015, conservators from the Department of Conservation at the Museum of Prehistory Valencia, under the direction of Dr Trinidad Pasies, began work on the consolidation of the plaster and decorated stucco of the tomb of Obellius Firmus.
The second area of the necropolis investigated by the project in 2015 was the anonymous schola type tomb, opposite the tomb of Aesquilia Polla in front of the Nolan Gate. The monument was first cleared in 1907-1908 and has been traditionally described as belonging to a priestess of Ceres, on the basis of the relief representing a basket with sheaves of wheat. The project began a process of clearing the accumulation of soil that had built up along the Via Nola in order to re-expose the tomb. Excavation inside the monument in front of the benches revealed a thick layer of floor preparation for the pavement which has since disappeared.
In contrast to the monumental elite tombs of Obellius Firmus and Aesquilia Polla, the third area of excavation focused upon a series of inscriptions of Greek names carved into the city wall east of the Nolan Gate towards Tower VII. Traditionally, these have been interpreted as grave markers, possibly of poorer members of society as the area immediately outside the city walls was public land belonging to the pomerium, the sacred limit of the city. Excavations in the late 19th century recovered 36 cremation urns, although it is not clear how these may have related to these inscriptions. The 2015 excavations explored a 15 metre stretch alongside the city wall and the initial findings have revealed a different picture, suggesting a more structured burial area and a level of wealth amongst the deceased. Whilst many of the burial urns had been removed, their positions could still be recorded due to the pits that had been dug for their placement. The excavation discovered a far more complex necropolis, with more burials than inscriptions. Whilst some of these inscriptions may have been lost over time, the excavation revealed a built structure with a wall and floor surface that defined a regular funerary area alongside the city wall. The earlier investigations had failed to identity all the cremations as several more were discovered in 2015. Of particular interest was a cremation urn in which had been placed the burnt coin collected from the funerary pyre. Elsewhere, other funerary goods, such as small ceramic unguentarium were also recovered after being missed by the 19th century excavations. All these indicate that the burials along the city wall date to the late Republican – Early Imperial period. Finally a later burial was also discovered which cut through the funerary structure. The grave, covered and lined with fragments of amphora, was of a young infant, aged between 3 and 6 months.
A further part of the project is the study of the fifteen casts made of the victims of the AD 79 eruption discovered in the late 19th century and mid-1970s near the tomb of Obellius Firmus. The analytical study of the casts, conducted alongside the work of the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Pompei, Ercolano e Stabia, has allowed the determination of the age, sex, pathologies and activities of the individuals. Furthermore, the anthropological data, together with photogrammetry, x-ray analysis and 3D reconstruction has allowed the reconstruction of the original positions at the moment of death.
- Llorenç Alapont Martin
- Rosa Albiach Descals- Museo de Prehistoria de Valencia
- Stephen Kay – The British School at Rome
- Annalisa Capurso
- Vincenzo Sabini- Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Pompei, Ercolano e Stabia
- Trinidad Tortosa - EEHAR-CSIC
- Maria Pilar Mas Urtuna – Colegio Oficial de doctores y licenciados en Filosofia y Letras y en Ciencias de Valencia
- Letizia Ceccarelli – University of Cambridge
- Chris Siwicki- University of Exeter
- Eleanor Maw- British School at Rome
- Fabio Mestici- SAMA Scavi Archeologici
- Monika Koroniova- University of Brno
- Pedro Corredor Peinado- Colegio Oficial de doctores y licenciados en Filosofia y Letras y en Ciencias de Valencia
- Rebecca Salem- University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- Tomas Jirak- University of Brno
- Ilaria Frumenti- Università degli Studi Roma Tre
- Pasquale Longobardi
- Roberto Piccirillo
- British School at Rome
- Colegio Oficial de doctores y licenciados en Filosofia y Letras y en Ciencias de Valencia Museo de Prehistoria de Valencia
- Colegio Oficial de doctores y licenciados en Filosofia y Letras y en Ciencias de Valencia
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