Every archaeologist’s dream…Pompeii.
Every archaeologist’s dream…Pompeii. As with all careers, you seek greater challenges and responsibilities in the field of archaeology. Between 1997 and 2001, I was head of a small team of pottery specialists working for the Anglo-American Pompeii Project led by Rick Jones and Damian Robinson. Working within a novel framework of investigating below AD 79 levels, the AAPP sought to excavate a city block (VI.I – around House of the Surgeon) in order to elucidate the construction history of this part of Pompeii. By 1998, I developed a great team with former colleague Janne Ikaheimo and younger students – Julie Hales, Jaye Pont, Loise Parkinson, and Soren Tillisch. We were primarily responsible for providing dating information to the excavation team and also had an opportunity to study Pompeian pottery in a more detailed manner than previous teams had. One of the great fortunes of the project was to conduct our work on the site – so we were in constant contact with the excavators and could help very directly with interpretations of site formation.
The AAPP team stayed at a camping ground, Camping Spartacus. The routine was wake up, breakfast, walk to site at 8 a.m., lunch back at Spartacus, work in the afternoon, dinner and “hanging out” in the evening. Evenings were fun, but also productive – we would have one large meeting per week with all 50-100 team members and smaller, mostly informal meetings among specialists. There were many more middle-managers, like myself, and information exchange was fluid. The pottery team did a great job of classifying and each of the team members were responsible for studying, recording and publishing particular classes of pottery. By this time, I was heavily engrossed in debates about the nature of the Roman economy (Finleyan “primitive” model vs. Rostovtzeff/Carandini “imperial” model) and published an article – one of my 2-3 favorites – with Janne in the European Journal of Archaeology. The article supported a middle-ground interpretation, leaning toward Finley whereby we claimed that most areas of the Empire, including the Bay of Naples, had an inward focus, although there were long-distance commerce when the State or high-level private traders had strong interests in a particular region. We found that despite being set along a major trade route, the people of Pompeii relied largely upon locally produced goods (a great model for the modern age…).
The AAPP was a tremendous learning opportunity for me. It was the first time that I developed and led a great team. Because there was a more nuanced hierarchy within the project, I learned to break away from being too much of a specialist who only focuses on his/her subject and to interact with everyone on the team from students to the directors and even the overall scientific directors of Pompeii – the Soprintendenza Archaeologica. All of the graduate students (like me) could publish and present lectures as we saw fit and, so this was a wonderful lift into the realm of professional archaeologists.