A First Pompeii: The Early Bronze Age Village of Nola-Croce del Papa (Palma Campania Phase). (News & Notes)

Article excerpt

In May 2001; in the immediate outskirts of Nola (an important city some 25 km from Naples), an Early Bronze Age village was discovered buried by an unexpected eruption of Vesuvius (the Pomici di Avellino eruption of 3550 BP). Three huts were found 6 m from the surface, originally part of more extensive settlement, next to an enclosed area which included a threshing floor, some covered structures and an animal pen made out of wattle and daub (FIGURE 1). The humidity of the soil had conserved not only human footprints, but the hoof marks of domestic animals (sheep, goats, cows and pigs) in the enclosures whence they had fled at the time of the eruption (FIGURE 2). Nine 4-months pregnant goats were discovered in the animal pen, and four others were tied to the fence. An adult dog had taken refuge under the eaves of the thatch of one of the huts. All other inhabitants had fled at the time of the eruption, perhaps taking with them their most precious possessions, since some personal items were not found (bronze arms in particular); one exception was a headdress made from plaques cut from the distal end of young pig tusks (FIGURE 3). This must have been a typical local style, as other partly finished plaques were found in the two other huts or abandoned in the animal enclosures.


The discovery recalls Akrotiri, Pompei or Ceren (Salvador)--three sites devastated by a volcanic eruption, where the image of daily life has been captured. At Nola, after the fall of grey pumice that covered the huts without causing their collapse, a wave of mud penetrated slowly within the structures, providing a counterforce to the pumice accumulated on the outside and allowing their preservation to a height of c. 1*30 m (FIGURE 4). The consolidated mud has produced a cast of the inside of the huts and a negative of everything found there: some wood and wickerwork containers, some cloth or the ties which either suspended containers or linked together the elements of construction. Additionally, the bundles of straw which covered the huts, the leaf impressions of oak and fern and the casts of cereals and other vegetable remains (including mushrooms) were perfectly understandable, all fossilized by the mud of the eruption.


The living structures, orientated northwest-southeast, had a horseshoe shape, with the opening in the straight side, partly projecting above the entrance in a sort of porch. They had varied dimensions: hut 4, 15.6x4.6 m and 4.3/4.5 m high; hut 3, 15.2x9.0 m and 5 m high; hut 2, 7.5x4.5 m and 4.3/4.5 m high. The door, hung on the south wall, opened inwards. The walls were continuous with the roof because of its very steep incline (45%). …