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Gathering information is a tricky business. Studying the past may not always be easy as surfing the web or reading a book. Looking at an object or going to a place in person is the best way to interpret it for yourself. The ancient city of Pompeii is a classic example of this phenomenon. Reading about and looking at maps of Pompeii does not do the it justice, while leaving the observer little room for imagination about what life was like in the city. When flights to Italy are too expensive and time is limited during the semester for the average college student, google maps street view takes the place of reality. Google street view allows users to take a tour of ancient sites as if they were there in person. A tour through Pompeii is ultimately going to deliver more creative information about life in the ancient city than a map or text ever could.
Deciding where to start the journey through Pompeii was a difficult decision. The roads may be interpreted differently on the map than they would be in person. A walk through the city would be able to give much more information than lines on a piece of paper. This is especially true when observing entrances and exits to the city. Pompeii has a series of seven gates; out of these, which one was the most popular and most used? Seeing the city, the ruins, in person or in pictures tells a completely different story. One can imagine walking down the road instead of guessing which direction travelers came from based on cities in the surrounding area.
Looking closer and perhaps with archeological techniques, researchers might be able to actually understand which gate was most used based on ancient wear and tear or the types of structures surrounding the gates. The types of buildings surrounding the gates and the roads could give more information about what kind of activities happened in those areas. The number of buildings per area, especially if they resemble homes, can help determine population density. Why did so many people settle in one area of Pompeii and not another? The tour of Pompeii is beginning to produce more questions then answers, it seems.
Similarity exists between the Nola and Herculaneum gate entrances and paths. Both seemed to have similar architecture which can be seen in screenshots A (Herculaneum Gate) and B (Nola Gate). Traveling through the city, there seems to be a pattern in the architecture that has been unearthed. The gates and roads running along the northern end of the city resemble each other more closely than the southern portion of the city. This could be a misinterpretation since the assumption is only going off of pictures with no dating or further evidence. There is also the issue that the architecture is in various states of decay and destruction which may severely interfere with the perception of space and design of the structures. These are all important factors to consider.
Despite the possible problems with interpreting architectural space, with further research, the tour through Pompeii could ultimately reveal how and when the city developed. This can lead to more information about Pompeii’s past inhabitants by rationalizing how they expanded the city. If similarities and patterns in architecture are drawn between certain areas, it could help determine where the city expanded first. For example, if there is an abundance of similar architecture is found in regions VII and VIII and a few examples of similar architecture in regions VI and I but not in the other regions, one could draw that the inhabitants expanded at a later time from regions VII and VIII into regions VI and I. This rationale could help understand the relationship between the altstadt and neustadt.
Theorizing about city development and figuring out when Pompeii possibly became the city it ceased to be in AD 79 is nice, but it is also important to pay attention to the structures and spaces themselves. The type and layout of the buildings can tell stories about life in Pompeii. While traveling along the Via Abbondanza, the road is quite narrow. The buildings along this road are jammed right against the edge of the path. The structures all seem to have multiple, very large openings. Larger openings like these do not seem typical of houses, since normally the goal within residential spaces is privacy. Storefronts would benefit from an opening seen along the Via Abbondanza, suggesting that this section of Pompeii might have been more commercial than residential. It’s possible that it was both, and merchants were the primary residents along this particular road.
North of the Via Abbondanza, the wideness and openness of the Via Della Fortuna contrasts the Via Abbondanza. Some of the structures along the Via Della Fortuna appear to have smaller entranceways. Even though the walls are missing in some of the structures, they are unlike the structures on the Via Abbondanza in that they do not have large display-like openings. The larger opening here seem to be more organic in nature and might have once been solid walls. This could signal a more private street, more likely to be residential in nature. As with any information gathered sight-on-seen, it would have to be complemented by intense research before confirmed. A tour through Pompeii could help researchers to form preliminary ideas about life in Pompeii in which they can then branch off of and further explore.
While there are many factors to take into account, the pictures and virtual tour through Pompeii breathes life into what would otherwise only be lines on paper. Being able to see the city through pictures or in person allows the observer to come to their own conclusions. These ideas could be completely wrong, but with the correct preliminary thinking, research and testing, an answer can be reached. A thought that might seem ridiculous at first could spark research into the next big discovery about life in ancient Pompeii.
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