A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Ancient Pompeii Was One Big Garbage Dump

Here is one more example of how we cannot excape the assumptions we bring to any context.
The 19th century excavators at Pompeii assumed that the excavated tombs filled with ancient refuse and garbage (as well as covered in graffiti) must have fallen into decline and disrepair almost two decades prior to the AD 79 catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius. They (and later excavators) theorized that Pompeii's tombs were covered in garbage due, in part, to a powerful AD 62 earthquake at Pompeii and that the tombs were abandoned and neglected after the earthquake as the city must have been in decline and inhabitants focused on more pragmatic concerns.

It was a theory... that was likely adopted because the 19th century researchers working at Pompeii (as well as later excavators) would have found it unthinkable that cemeteries were places appropriate for tossing out the trash.

However, recent scholarship of the last 15 years or so has proven that Pompeii had rebounded after the earthquake of AD 62 and was in a period of rejuvenation by AD 79 as an important city in one of the wealthiest regions of the Roman Empire.

"Which," according to UC's Emmerson, "Left the question of why so much trash was found in the cemeteries. These were not abandoned locales as of AD 79 . People had not abandoned the maintenance of their burial spaces and structures any more than they had abandoned public spaces."

...researchers have commonly found that garbage was casually deposited on the floor of homes, in the streets and alleys outside of homes (sometimes at significant layered depths) and at the urban edge, along city walls (in large quantities over time).

In fact, there is no evidence that Pompeii had any centrally managed system for garbage disposal, and so, it's likely people lived in very close proximity to their refuse as an accepted part of life.

And Pompeii's cemeteries and tombs were simply another place for trash – as were almost any part of a home's interior or exterior as well as alleys, streets and major roadways.

Tombs and cemeteries were certainly considered appropriate for the placement of "advertisements" of the time, everything from political "for me" material, promotions for sporting events or boasts of sexual conquest.

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