Sunday, April 26, 2015

Follow Up

It has been a long time since I posted last. First of all, I finished my undergraduate thesis on this material in December and it was very well received. If anyone is interested in reading the material, I am excited to say it will be published through Stanford's Aisthesis Journal sometime soon. Although my final thesis was around 15,000 words, for this publication, it will be reduced to 10,000 (so a bit more readable).

Other things going on: this summer I will be returning to PARP:PS to keep working on masonry analysis. During this trip, I will continue to conduct research for The Iron Streets of Pompeii project that Eric Poehler, Ben Crowther, and I have been working on in the past year. We have already presented some of our findings at the AIA's this past January. I am also working as a Five College Digital Humanities undergraduate fellow on this material, working on creating an interactive map to display our data. The official website hosting the map is not up yet, but here are some other links involving the Symposium I will be speaking at as well as other 5colldh stuff. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Conclusions and Final Musings

The most noticeable conclusion that can be made on the previously examined traits is that these stones were most likely installed in groups. Throughout all of the maps, there are areas where there are long sequences of stones that have similar attributes to one another. Some of these groups persist through most characteristics, be it the relation to the curb or the extended distance from the curb. There are at least 14 groups based on proximity alone. Guard stones in many of these groups share physical traits such as size and shape. Due to the strong similarities of stones within these groups, it is easy to say that stones within a group were installed contemporaneously and by the same human agent.
One of the restrictions of this analysis is that these groups are usually only seen as stones in close proximity to each other. On the maps, it is hard to tell if there are groups beyond sequences. Further analysis of other possible groups needs to be done. A look at similarities of stones in intersections is one of them. By looking at physical traits of stones in intersections and trying to find congruities there, we may get a better understanding of how the stones functioned in intersections rather than on streets alone.


figure 1
This data also speaks to the use of these stones. Throughout this research, I have discarded many
possible uses these stones had. In one of my original posts on this blog, I proved how the stones were not traffic signs. Another original theory was that the stones helped protect carts from getting wheel hubs stuck on tall curb stones. This theory stated that the wheel would lose connection and traction on the pavement if its hubs rode up on top of the curb, as seen in figure 1. However, this theory was disproved by the data I collected over winter break. Although the stones were usually shorter than the curb and although their extended distance was close to the average length of the wheel hub, the curb heights themselves were too short for them to be a threat. Most likely, the wheel radii would have been significantly taller than the average curb height.

figure 2
Instead the leading theory I have now states that the stones are there to push the carts away so that the wheel hubs do not harm soft objects on the streets and sidewalks. Unlike other theories, this theory can be backed up by some of the raw data. As previously described, the distance that a stone would extend from the curb was 21.8 centimeters. One projected measurement for the length of a wheel hub was 20 centimeters. These stones effectively would have pushed carts almost exactly the distance needed to stop the tip of the wheel hub from scraping against shop stalls, pedestrians, the curb, fountains, and other soft objects that would have been on the side walk. They protected objects and people from damage. The high frequency we see stones in intersections is also part of this narrative. As drivers are turning corners, they may mistakenly take the turn too sharply and are thus more likely to hit objects at intersections.


There are a few things from this research that needs to be re-evaluated. For one, the embedded distances of stones need to be completely re-done. Although I am not convinced this characteristic relates to the function of the stones, I believe that it might have something to do with who installed them. It speaks to the desire to have sturdier stones as abutting stones are in danger of having more wear and damage. Time needs to be spent looking at interesting interferences on taller stones which may be markings from wheel hubs. More data on rut depth needs to be taken. A more accurate map of where re-paving has occurred is necessary to understand if and why the stones were being removed by the end of the life of Pompeii. The relation of the stone to the curb warrants more thought as well. Why were some of the curbs deliberately cut to accommodate for the guard stones? This has been a trait that has been bothering me for a while. In general, better access to region I will permit me to have a fuller data set. Also, the blocked street vicolo di Tesmo has a large group of stones I would like to have data on since that might have been a detour and had heavy traffic. However, unless the construction in that area has been completed recently, it is unlikely I will have access to that area.
I am returning to Pompeii to work on the Porta Stabia project in the summer. On my days off and in the hours after the work day is completed, I will be looking at these things which warrant more attention. I may also look at some other traits of the streets for my professor, Eric Poehler, as well as carry out some other personal projects of my own.

This research has been gradually developing and soon I hope to have a full and complete narrative of these stones. I am very pleased with this research and am excited to see what the completed results look like. 

The Stones and their Human Agents

For one of my Anthropology classes this semester I decided to write my final paper on this research. Originally, I was stuck between two topics: the debate revolving around the growing use of technology in the field, or my research. In the beginning I was leaning more towards the debate on technology because I saw no common themes between the class and my work. This research did not discuss power relations, modes of production, or any other major topic of the class. And then I realized how utterly silly that thought was. City infrastructure largely relates to discussions of power relations. Infrastructure talks about how the city works, and thus talks about who gets what. The issue revolving around my research and relating it to power struggles was the lack of knowledge of the “who” involved. Who installed these stones? Who did these stones benefit? And although I have no answers to this question, and I fear I never will, it is something that should really be addressed fully.
As post-processual archaeologists frequently emphasize, agency is an important lens in understanding the use of things. Ian Hodder, a brilliant thinker of things, discusses the network and web that encompasses all of things and their relations to other things. In the case of these stones, the pavement stones, guard stones, curb stones all interact with each other; whether it be that the stones are interlocking or just resting against one another or if the presence of one stone prohibits the continuation of another stone, etc. They all also interact with the carts. These carts then, based on their interaction with the stones of the streets then interact (or actively avoid) pedestrians and soft objects on the side walk. The stones within the street also interact with rain water and waste removal which lead to further interactions. All of the interactions between these stones and other things begin to create a large web we can see as part of the city’s infrastructure. The major issue is that the origin, the person who installed those stones and put that web into motion, is completely unknown.
Agency is also important because just as objects are the physical manifestations of our cultures, they are also drivers of it. Late last semester, for another class, I wrote a mock Fulbright grant proposal requesting to apply my research in Pompeii to other cities in order to analyze how Romans asserted their culture through city infrastructural practices. What I didn’t realize back then was just how much I was relying on this theory. When Rome spread across the Mediterranean, various cultural practices were passed on throughout the world. Monty Python did a funny sketch on this in The Life of Brian and the comedy discussed many tangible structures the Roman Empire left behind in Israel. The crew of Monty Python called these buildings part of the “apparatus of the Roman Imperialist State” and yes (there are many discussions of hegemony that could be had here), but the fact of the matter is that these structures are representations of Roman culture- particularly their beliefs of sanitation and order. By instituting these buildings and other public works in foreign lands, they are perpetuating their culture for future generations. The guard stones in Pompeii are another example of this. They represent some function of order and the desire for traffic systems. By being made, they teach future Pompeians that order and structure ought to be kept.
So, basically, after that long tangent on the importance of agency, let me discuss how I do not know who was responsible for the maintenance of the guard stones. Even though I do not know who, I can provide evidence for two different theories. These two theories state that there are two likely human agents behind these stones: property-owning citizens or the aedile. The main origin of this debate comes from an inscription from Rome dating back to 44 B.C.E. which stated that “it shall be the duty of all people before whose building any road will run to maintain that road to the satisfaction of the aedile to whom that part of the city will be assigned by this law” (Humphrey et al. 2006:412).
It is totally possible that, as Romans were encouraging their wealthier citizens to maintain the costly habit of road construction of maintenance, property-owners took up the responsibility of upholding the streets adjacent to their properties and thus were responsible for installing the stones. One of the best pieces of evidence to support this is the instances of stones around private dwellings. In the case of the House of the Vettii, for example, the owner of the house most likely installed these stones, acting in his own interest, in order to maintain the exterior aesthetic of his house. Another piece of evidence that points at individual property owners being responsible for the stones is the fact that groups of stones can be along property lines. Although there are different types of buildings that one group can relate to, most frequently the groups are next to a private dwelling and shops which that dwelling would have rented out. The last piece of evidence that shows that property-owning citizens are responsible is the fact that some of the stones are cut into the curb. The act of cutting the pre-existing curb stone to fit the guard stones would have been more costly and more work. The majority of the stones do not do this; they are installed in a cheaper, more efficient way. If property owners were responsible, they would chose the manner in which the stones would be installed based on their needs and their budget. There would be variation in the ways in which a stone is installed. There is very clearly variation in these stones.
Alternatively, it is also possible that an elected or appointed official could have been responsible for the installation of the stones. There are a few main reasons why. The groups present throughout the city are also a piece of evidence supporting the aedile. Assuming that the stones in groups were all installed contemporaneously by the same person, there are a few groups that cross over property lines. The group on the southern end of via Consolare is one of these groups. There are a few shops and a workshop that relate to this group and it is impossible to tell if one citizen would have owned these properties, or many citizens. Also, an official in charge of city infrastructure is needed to maintain the stones and streets next to public buildings. There are a few stones near public buildings which could not have been maintained by one land-owning citizen. Most likely, an official was in charge of the upkeep of those stones. The last main example proving the agency of an elected official is the systematic removal of the stones in the later period of the life of Pompeii. Although there is some debate about this, if there was a large scale rejection of the use of guard stones, it would not have been done by the people as a whole. It would have been done by a central figure who was responsible for multiple if not all of the streets in Pompeii.

In the end, it may be any variation of those two theories. Citizens could be responsible for the streets next to their land and when they did an unsatisfactory job maintaining it or were financially unable to maintain it, the aedile stepped in. Or perhaps, the aedile is in control in all areas of city originally but in isolated incidences where it would behoove one individual to have stones against his property as seen in the House of the Vettii, citizens could also be responsible. 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Interesting little GIF

Google, without my knowledge, took all of the maps I made and made them into a .gif which turned out really neat. This expresses just how diverse the collect of stones is. In this research, I have been constantly trying to find patterns and make sense of the ones that I have found. But this .gif almost throws all of that away. There are a few collections of stones that have similar properties throughout each characteristic, particularly on via della Fortuna and via di Nola. But as a whole they are diverse and different. The challenge then becomes figuring out what those differences mean and if there are patterns in those differences. Or maybe I am just reading too much into it. This .gif encompasses the entirety of my research. It encompasses all of everything we know about these stones that can be represented visually.


Although I am a bit peeved Google took my images and did that without asking me, I am more impressed that it knew to take these images and these images alone for a gif. And the end result is really cool. I guess, thanks Google? 





EDIT:
So I realized it didn't make a .gif with ALL of the images, so I made one myself. More patterns are visible with all of the images. 

Interactions with the Curb Analysis

Level with the Curb

There is little to say about the data speaking of the height relations between the curbs and the stones. The majority of the stones (which I have data for and which are not abutting against a fountain) are lower than the curb. This percentage is fairly high at 42%. This may be due to the fact that many stones are heavily worn down by cart traffic in many areas of the city. It may also be due to the fact that this is a byproduct of their function.
What is important about this attribute is the fact that the stones can be put into groups because of it. It is clear on the map that there are areas where common traits are consistent within sequences of stones. One of the clearest examples of this is on the western most portion of via di Nola. This collection of stones is a common example of groupings because the stones found here are shockingly similar in many ways. In this section of the street, there are 14 stones which are lower than the curb which are all in close proximity to each other. There are other noticeable groups on vicolo dei Soprastanti. These groups help us figure out when the stones were installed as these groups of stones which display similar physical traits most likely were installed together.

Relation to the Curb

This data also serves little function in figuring out what purpose the stones played in the infrastructure of Pompeii. Instead this most likely is a reflection of the desires of the workers installing them and the people who are responsible for paying for them. There are a significantly higher number of stones that are abutting against the curb compared to being embedded into the curb. When looking at stones that are only relating to curbs, only 38 percent of them are embedded. This is most likely because of two reasons. 1) If the stone is wedge between two stones, that means that the stone was installed at the same time as the curb stones. This can be debated in some cases, particularly on via Consolare, where some of the stones are loose and are falling out of place. There, a guard stone could be placed in the growing gaps. However, this is also a place where many curb stones are being replaced with lava-stone and so it would also be easier for them to install the stones while they are re-installing the curb stones. It would be easier, if during the changing political or economic atmosphere of the city someone needed a stone installed after the curb was already in place, to install the stone against the curb rather than within it. Hence, there are fewer embedded stones. 2) In the cases where the curbs are cut so to accommodate for the guard stones, this would consume more labor and be more costly than abutting the stone against the curb. If citizens were responsible for this, they would choose the easiest and most cost-efficient option available to them. Thus, this trait of the stones becomes a marker for understanding who and when these stones were installed contrary to why they were installed.
 Similarly to how the stones relate to the curb in terms of height, this characteristic of the stones can also identify or add better understanding to the groups seen in the map. Since this characteristic is binary, a stone is either embedded or abutting the curb, it is clearer to see groupings. The group on via di Nola previously mentioned is seen here. Its opposite, the group on the other side of the intersection on via della Fotuna, which could be seen in the map depicting the level with the curb, can also be seen here.

It is in the comparison of both attributes that these groups become more noticeable. Just relying on the relation with the curb, the viewer sees grander collections that are vague and broad. By incorporating both in that map, we can see that the via di Nola group and its opposite on via della Fortuna are very noticeably groups. We also see that there are two groups on either side of via della Fortuna on the western stretch of the road which are not as visible before.

Curb Height

One thing to realize about this data in particular is that this set includes fountains as curbs. There are a noteworthy number of stones protecting fountains and although those are technically not interacting with curbs, for the purpose of this data set, the heights of the fountains were taken. This is also lacking a significant portion of data. Much of the stones are missing this type of data. Out of the 370 stones, only 242 have data on the height of the curb (or fountain) they relate to. Therefore, it is hard to come to any solid conclusions as this data set is varied and incomplete.
Curb height on its own does not speak much to the purpose of these stones. Instead, it the comparison of the curb height to the stone height that is moderately important. Although the graph given in a previous post essentially represents what is seen in the discussion on how the stone is level or not with the curb, it still has some things to say. The majority of the stones do not differ from their respective curbs more than 20 centimeters in height. And those that differ significantly are differences between fountains and stones rather than curbs and stones. This may be a reflection on how the curb height is irrelevant in the discussion on the purpose of the stones. Instead, it is other characteristics of the stones that is more important. 

Interactions with the Curb Visualized

I have previously discussed the ways in which a stone would interact with its curb. There are two main categories for this. The comparative level of the stone with the curb is one category. This shows if the stone is lower than, even with, or higher than the curb. The relation the stone with its curb is another. This shows if the stone is embedded or abutting against the curb. These categories have changed since I last discussed it on this blog. “Flush” is no longer an option for the relation to the curb because it just did not make sense. And “fountain” has been added as an option for the level with the curb. Although this is not technically an expression of how high a stone is in comparison with its curb, all of the stones abutting against fountains were previously labeled as “no curb” and greatly skewed the data, making it seem as though a large number of stones had nothing they were associated to.
This post will examine these two features and then will look at the combination of the two data sets. That is to say, how many of the stones that are lower than the curb are abutting against the curb? Or how many of the stones that are next to fountains are abutting against the curb? Etc.

Lastly in this post I will visualize the various curb heights. And similar to other data sets, Region I is severely lacking data, and all the measurements are done in centimeters. 


Level with the Curb
click to enlarge

In the characteristic of how level the stones are with the curb, there is an uneven distribution. There is a higher concentration of stones that are lower than the curb compared to the other categories. This attribute of the stones shows pretty clear groupings on the map. These groups can be seen on via della Fortuna, via di Nola, and vicolo dei Soprastanti.
Below is a graph representing all of the stones which have curbs to relate to. In parts of the streets around the city, there are places where no remaining curb exists yet stones are present. The stones which have no curb data or are abutting against a fountain (since that is not technically a curb) are removed from this data set for this graph. Of the stones that relate to a curb, more frequently, the stone is lower than the curb. This is consistent with the previous graph.




Relation to the Curb
click to enlarge

At first the graph of how the stones interact with the curb (being embedded or abutting) felt skewed. Like the level graphs, it should include a separate category for the stones abutting against fountains. However, I think I did not do that because there are no fountain stones that are not abutting. This may be skewing the graph since there majority of the stones are abutting. Regardless, it is interesting that most stones are abutting against the curb rather than embedding. Just with the level characteristic, the relation to the curb trait can be seen in patterns on the map. Those groupings are similar to the ones seen in the level map. 
Below is an edited map that better represents the data of how the stones interact with the curb. In this graph, stones that had no curb to relate to and stones that were abutting against fountains were removed. Abutting the curbs is still the dominant relation. 


            The following graph that looks at an interesting attribute of the stones that warrants more research. Periodically, the curb stone will have a portion of itself cut out to accommodate for the guard stone. This is unusual because it would take more effort for the worker to carve out chunks of the existing curb stone (we know that in many cases, due to the type of the stone the curb was made out of, that the curb was older than the guard stone). Although this only happens about 17% of all stones relating to a curb (stones against no curb and stones abutting fountains were not included in this graph), this attribute becomes a better diagnostic tool for groupings. We can see that this phenomenon happens frequently in groups and very rarely in cases of individual stones. 




Comparison of both
click to enlarge

It is interesting to see that the comparisons of level and relation are decently even. There are some noticeable uneven categories but for the most part, there is not one dominating group. Of the categories that have a curb, it is interesting that stones which are lower than the curb and are abutting against the curb are the highest frequency. This map, however, makes me take back my previous statement that the relation and level traits have similar grouping based on spatial data. It seems like some of the groups are the same between the two, but not all of them. 


Curb Height
click to enlarge


        The following graph represents the difference between curb height and stone height. The x-axis, 0 centimeters, represents the level of the curb. The stones on the right are the stones that are taller than the curb; the stones on the left are the ones that are shorter. The reason there are some dramatically different lengths between stones and curbs on the left is because, in some cases, fountain height was taken as curb height. Occasionally, fountains had relatively short stones compared to the height of the fountain. 


Extended and Embedded Distance Analysis


Extended Distance

In a previous post, I explored how the depth of a stone relates to the distance a stone extends from the curb. The average distance a stone extended from the curb was 21.8 centimeters. This measurement is slightly smaller than the depth of stone due to the fact that some of the stones are embedded and the embedded distances plus the extended distances equal the depth of a stone. Since I am not convinced the embedded distance factors into the understanding of the function of these stones, I do believe that this distance is the most important distance. Similar to the depth numbers, the majority of the stones are in the 20-29 range; however, there is a large jump in the number of stones in the 0-9 range. According to the map, there is no noticeable difference between stones found on stretches of street versus stones found at intersections. Although, like many other characteristics of these stones, the extended distance may be a contributor for groupings. On via della Fortuna, on the western stretch of it just north of the forum, the stones have similar extending distances.
This is a trait of the stones which is a hint to the function and purpose the guard stones had in Pompeii. Before I can go in depth on this, understand first that there is no solid consensus on the average dimensions of a Roman cart in Pompeii and elsewhere in the empire. This makes my analysis a bit harder. In a few interpretations of the dimensions of a Roman cart, the wheel hub extends 20 centimeters from the wheel itself as an extension of the axel. These hubs might have been part of the cart a driver would have forgotten about and would not have been mindful of them as they are driving through the city. These hubs could then damage city installations and soft objects on the sides of the street. The amount a stone extended from the curb was the amount that the stone would push the cart away from the curb and from things those wheel hubs could damage. Since the average that a stone extended from the curb was 21.8 centimeters, it is in the realm of possibility that these stones functioned as so. Stones which extended farther than this became more of a hassle for drivers. Stones that are significantly smaller, such as the 44 stones in the 0-9 centimeter range, may not have perfectly protected the curb and soft objects found on the sidewalk, but would have lessened the damage.
  

Embedded distance

figure 1
Due to the high percentage of stones that are abutting against the curb rather than are embedded into the curb (197 out 370), it is hard to believe that the stones’ function had to do with this attribute. The average distance a stone was embedded into the curb, excluding the stones that were abutting, was 16.9 centimeters. It is interesting that for those that are embedded into the curb, the amount in which they do so is decently long. However, this data may be slightly skewed. In certain circumstances where a guard stone was the corner stone at an intersection as seen in figure 1, which distance should be counted as the embedded distance? The distance along one curb? The average distances of both curbs? The diagonal distance from the outermost corner that juts into the intersection to the opposite corner? Should these stones be labeled as something other than embedded even though they technically are? Since there are a few stones which are as such, it is hard to say what the more accurate embedded distance is.
This data might actually be skewed slightly more than previously thought. For stones that are embedded in between two curb stones in a straight line or cut into one or more curb stones, the data set is incomplete due to human error. This issue developed when cleaning up the data after being in the field. For many stones, it was hard to get the embedded distance due to visibility issues or because there were stones on top of these stones as seen in vicolo del Farmacista and vicolo dei Soprastanti. In some cases, particularly in the beginning, I may have totally forgotten that this type of data was supposed to be taken. Because of this, there are some stones which mistakenly have 0 as the embedded distance. They should have been marked as “nodata” in my spreadsheet, but something went wrong. According to the graph from this post, there are only 55 stones that are abutting. According to my original data, where I sifted through images looking at which stones were abutting and which were embedded, 96 stones were labeled as being embedded. That is 41 stones which have inaccurate data. This is a serious error that needs to be reevaluated. This summer, while back on site, I will reevaluate the embedded distance of those 96 stones.