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Bottoms up! A closer look at the Stone in Pompeii’s Bars, Taverns & Baths

August 24, 2018
Stone in Pompeii’s Bars, Taverns & Baths 2

The marble-clad surfaces of the numerous bars or shops (so-called thermopolium) of Pompeii and Herculaneum are a vast and hitherto untapped source of information about marble use beyond the confines of public building and elite houses. Outdoor Stone in Pompeii’s Bars, Taverns & Baths limestonee stone old world

Since the 1800’s four field seasons of survey work have documented 49 bars at Pompeii and eight at Herculaneum, a few dozen public and private bath houses with over 20,000,000 pieces of stone, mainly marble.Stone in Pompeii’s Bars, Taverns & Baths 2antique-limestone-wall-claddingStone in Pompeii’s Bars, Taverns & Baths 1

The types of stones and marbles that were used on these bars were a combination of local marbles that looked like the elegant Carrara and Oro Nerro marbles used in Rome in order to project a bit of status symbol so the Roman elites that were vacationing in Pompei would feel as if they were back home. Stone in Pompeii’s Bars limestone
They were displayed and installed in a random polygonal field installation also knows at the time as ‘Opus Incertum’. Their distribution within these cities and on individual bars varied widely and helps us draw a clearer image on the pricing and quality of food and beverage sold within those bars.Stone in Pompeii’s Bars, TavernsOld-world-limestone-sinks-trough-bathroom-powder-room

The more luxurious marbles were installed in those bars, the more they catered to a more affluent elite clientele. This revealed the pervasiveness of the wider pan-Mediterranean marble trade especially when some of those marbles came from as far away as Spain, Greece and Cyprus. limestone-sink-trough-stone-hand-carved-ancient-surfaces-bathroom

What we can say about how these stones were acquired, and what this in turn reveals about the economics of reuse of architectural materials in the Vesuvian cities.Limestone Stone in Pompeii’s Bars

In one Tavern discovered tucked notes held the name of the owner, ‘Aulus Lucius Proculus’ indicating that this person was a freed slave who became very wealthy and had become a priest in the organization of the Augustales a Roman sanctioned cult of the era). Talk about upward mobility!Limestone Stone in Pompeii’s BarsOld-world-limestone-flooringPompeii-stone-flooring-limestone

Cut marble floors in that tavern were very elaborate and expensive! Even more expensive than mosaic floors used prolifically at the time! Note the wonderful variegated colors!Limestone-flooring-old-world-stone-ancient-surfaceslimestone-benches-indoor-beautiful
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