August 1, 2007

My Site in the News

On the front page of Il Messaggero today was an article about a fullery discovered last month in the neighborhood of Casal Bertone in Rome. This happens to be the same area from which 150 skeletons were excavated in 2000, and which I studied earlier this year. The fullery dates to the 2nd-3rd century AD, same as my skeletons. In the Italian article, the first sentence was about how bad the smell must have been in antiquity - fullers routinely used urine to work thread and cloth, and there were pots set up all around fulleries in Rome to collect - ahem - donations. I am pretty excited about this news, as my skeletons are thought to have been buried according to guild status in a mausoleum and thus could have been fullers and their families.

You can read the AP article in English here are the Washington Post (whence comes the photo). Oddly enough, this article mentions that they have found the largest tannery in ancient Rome. The article in Italian (which I found here, without a byline) calls it a fullonica or a fullery. The English article also fails to mention that five new columbaria were discovered as well. These are brick structures with little archways in which people placed the inurned ashes of their deceased family and friends. I actually think the picture above is of one of the columbaria and not of the fullery. There are pictures of the huge number of very large vats in the Italian article, but the Post and other AP sites only posted this one.

Whether it's a tannery or a fullery, it's super duper interesting (at least to me), and it's unfortunate that a railroad has to go through this site. Stefano Musco, who's leading the project (and who's been quite nice to me), wants to physically move the site so that they can finish excavating it. I guess I can no longer teach intro to archaeo students that architecture is a feature and features can't be removed from sites!

Update: Just kidding, my Italian is pretty bad. It's actually a tannery, not a fullery. But the Italian article does comment on the vats of organic liquids that were present. Erika told me that they used urine and feces in leather working, so I'm going to have to read up on this!

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