Anthropology •  Archaeology and Classics

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Pompeian Households: An Analysis of the Material Culture

Penelope M. Allison

Studies of Pompeian material culture have traditionally been dominated by art-historical approaches, but recently there has been a renewed and burgeoning interest in Pompeian houses for studies of Roman domestic behavior. This book is concerned with contextualized Pompeian household artifacts and their role in deepening our understanding of household behavior at Pompeii. It consists of a study of the contents of thirty so-called atrium houses in Pompeii to investigate the spatial distribution of household activities, both within each architectural room type and across the house. It also uses this material to investigate the state of occupancy of these houses at the time of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD 79. It thus examines artifact assemblages within their spatial and decorative contexts for a more material cultural approach to these remains and for the information which they provide on living conditions in Pompeii during the last decades. In this it takes a critical perspective the textual nomenclature which is traditionally applied to Pompeian room types.


Penelope M. Allison is an Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Fellow at the Australian National University.


"Penelope Allison's study of artefact assemblages in thirty of the larger houses from Pompeii is a welcome addition to published work available to students of this ancient city. ... Her book has updated and made available a reconstructed data-set that is unique and needs to be better known by those studying Roman Houses and Domestic Space."

- Ray Laurence, Journal of Roman Studies 95 (2005):317-318


“…a must read for everyone dealing with artefacts in a Roman residential context. It perfectly demonstrates the possibilities and impossibilities of artefact analysis in a prime site of Roman archaeology, making it a useful example of research elsewhere.”

- Stephan T.A.M. Mols, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.07.29


“This is a very interesting and important book. It is valuable for all archaeologists because it explains in good detail how complex the site of Pompeii is and because it demonstrates the kinds of information that we can derive from detailed analysis of rooms and their contents. For anyone concerned with Roman urban society, it presents a wealth of information about houses, rooms, and material culture of the latter half of the first century AD...This book is a welcome addition to the scholarly literature about Pompeii, and it has much to teach any archaeologist or historian concerned with understanding past domestic material culture and behavior.”

- Peter S. Wells, Professor of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, Society for Archaeological Sciences Bulletin 2005 (28:3): 13-14


Published By The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press

8.5 x 11 in. 272 pages 115 figures, 74 tables