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The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii: Volume 1: The Structures$
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Roger Ling, Paul Arthur, Georgia Clarke, Estelle Lazer, Lesley A. Ling, Peter Rush, and Andrew Waters

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780198134091

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198134091.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 14 June 2021

Problems of Interpretation and Dating

Problems of Interpretation and Dating

(p.17) Problems of Interpretation and Dating
The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii: Volume 1: The Structures

Roger Ling

Paul Arthur

Georgia Clarke

Estelle Lazer

Lesley A. Ling

Peter Rush

Andrew Waters

Oxford University Press

Working out a relative chronology depends upon judicious observation of wall abutments and anomalies in plan, combined with variations in building materials and techniques; it is necessary, however, to emphasize the problems of interpretation, and the difficulty of arriving at absolute dates. The position of many walls in the chronology cannot be firmly resolved. An obvious problem is that large tracts of the insula, especially In the Casa del Menandro, but also in the Casa del Fabbro and the Casa degli Amanti, still contain well-preserved wallpaintings which totally conceal the fabric of the walls beneath. Another is that building materials were reused, which means that walls erected at different periods (especially in opus incertum) could be similar in appearance; it is therefore hazardous to assign dates on general appearance. Conversely, building styles of varying appearance can occur in a single phase: the south-eastern quarter of the Casa del Menandro, as already noted, appears to have been built in one operation but incorporates both incertum and reticulatum and employs three quite different types of quoins. Moreover, while every other incertum wall in this quarter is faced with only Sarno stone, lava, cruma, and tuff, the north wall of the stable (room 29), which is of one build with the wall dividing the north portico of the yard (34B) from the adjacent corridor P, contains also some fragments of tile. Even butt joints can be misleading. Where two walls meet in a straight joint, it is often difficult to tell which was built first. Sometimes a wall which seems to abut against another may have been cut back to accommodate the second wall and any resulting gap plugged with new material which is difficult to distinguish from the old. The presence of a butt joint is, in any case, not always significant, since contemporary walls were not necessarily bonded together, or were bonded only at a high level. The safest criterion for recognizing two separate phases is the presence of a plaster facing on one of the two contiguous surfaces. Further problems have been caused by the restorations of the 1930s.

Keywords:   brickwork, cruma, dating, lava, mortar, opus incertum, pavements, tiles, wall-paintings

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