Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE, Pompeii remains one of the world’s most celebrated archaeological sites for the record it preserves of urban life under the Roman Empire. Despite Pompeii’s modern fame, marble sculptures found in the city’s houses and public buildings have received relatively little attention from scholars. This lecture explores the archaeological practices and documentation that, over more than two centuries of excavation, have complicated the study of sculptures and other moveable finds from the site. Taking as case studies statuettes and reliefs from two houses and a tavern in Pompeii and the nearby seaside villa at Oplontis, I draw on archival material and early published reports to reconnect these works with their ancient contexts. This reinterpretation sheds new light on the sculpture habit in Pompeii, on the value these works held for their owners, and on the frequent practice of reusing or recycling carved marble.
[This lecture includes discussion of sculptures with explicit depictions of sexual activity that may not be suitable for some audiences.]