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A New Excavation


The Background

Early Research

The First Season (2002)

The Archaeological Investigations of 2003



The as yet unpublished documentation of the remains of the Theater and the first two years of excavation in the Theater of Pompey have thus achieved several important results. With our new plans, sections, and digital views and our detailed study of the earlier reconstructions by Canina, Baltard, and Gismondi, we can locate the surviving remains more accurately than ever before possible. We can show precisely how they relate to the post-antique buildings on the site, and we can assess the considerable accuracy of the earlier reconstructions.

Baltard's map shows that the 2002 excavation took place in the zone immediately south of the substructures of the Temple of Venus Victrix, in Baltard's ambulacrum. At right angles to the ambulacrum, as Baltard clearly shows, the north facade of the Pio Palace stands on or near the north lateral wall of the temple foundations. With a width of 6 m, this ambulacrum is nearly twice as wide as that of the Theater of  Marcellus, indicating the more impressive scale of Pompey’s building.  The varied character of the small finds implies, moreover, that the beaten earth fill under the modern detritus is, in fact, the upper section of a rich sequence of archaeological strata that will document the post-antique fortunes of the theater. A descent through these strata may reveal additional architectural fragments (like the white marble impost block in the south wall) and the closed arcades of the Theater’s facade.

Baltard’s Archaeological plan
Fig. 15. Baltard’s Archaeological plan of the Theater of Pompey.
  Theater of Marcellus
Fig. 16. Theater of Marcellus, section.

In the investigations of  2003,  the pottery fragments from the exploratory trench around the SE court (Trench C) indicate an area undisturbed since at least the 15th century, and the fresco fragment uncovered in that Trench is the first evidence found in modern times for the ancient decoration of the Theater. It is also an impressive reminder of the apt character of the post-antique name for the curved street on the east side of Palazzo Pio – the “Via di Grotta Pinta,” the “Street of the Painted Grotto.”

 Pottery fragments
Fig. 17. Pottery fragments from Trench C (2003 excavation).

In short, while defining the course of future work, the documentation and studies of the Theater (the Pompey Project, 1996-2001), the first excavation season in summer, 2002, and the investigations of 2003 in Palazzo Pio’s SE court offer considerable promise for the important results to be achieved in subsequent studies of  Pompey’s Theater, one of the most innovative and successful creations of the architects of the later Roman Republic.

Pending a full report, see News for preliminary notes on the 2005 excavation.

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