The nature of Sources - Archeological evidence

  • Created by: Alice
  • Created on: 07-04-13 10:05

Archeological evidence

Sources aren't evidence - they don't prove anything

  • the historian must prove it to lead to a certain conclusion
  • objects don't speak for themselves
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Archeological sources

Make you feel 'in touch' with Pompeii

Types of sources include:

  • Inscriptions
  • remains of houses and building structures
  • plant remains
  • wall writings
  • furniture remains
  • painting
  • mosaics
  • wax tablets
  • objects of everyday life

Wallace - Hadrill says that much evidence doesn't correlate to what they believe to be a typical roman house

Mauri suggest mix of residential and commercial units evidents that pompeii was in decline

  • Hadrill disagrees
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Formal Inscriptions: civic charters and regubtious, dedications by wealthy citizens - e.g. funery inscriptions

Formal inscriptions provide evidence for

  • gates of construction
  • prominant families
  • structure of government + political players
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Wall Writings

There were two types of wall writings: Graffeti and Public Notices

Public Notices

  • Professional - done by scriptors
  • white washed with lime then electoral notices written at night (clear streets)
  • PROGRAMMATA - electorial manifesto/slogans\
  • Edicata munerum - programs announcing shows
  • coming to ampitheatre


  • lots of variety
  • shared thoughts (feelings, love, contempt, remembering dates, advertising services/fees, amateur poems, angry outbursts, ****
  • An individual source of information
  • Wallace Hadrill: Ancient graffiti can reveal vitality of everyday lives
  • gives an informal voice to people usually heard
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Other Archeological information

Wax Tablets + Papyri: Information about business + legal documents

Decorative Arts: Frescoes, paintings, mosaics, sculptures, furnishings and patterned floors

Frescoes: provide information of greek infleunce and development of Romant art and changes in society

Decorative Gardens and household furnishings

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Skeletons of Herculaneum

Preserved in good condition due to the thick layer of debris

Sarah Bisel- Biochemical analysis of bones + measurement

There are problems using Yoricle as evidence

  • Hard to dignose signs + symptoms
  • diseases not present on bones
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Casts from Pompeii

Estelle Lazor: Studied skeletal remains of 300 individuals

Badly worn teeth: staple food info (pumice in bread ground teeth)

Studied found in pompeii was in good health and was very well nourished

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Plant Remains

Welhelmina Jashemski: carried out studies into soil contours, root cavaties, carbonised plant remains and pollen

  • supplemented these with evidence from: Paintings
  • Archeologists gained a clearer picture of product + garden

Rekationship between town and countryside

  • discovery of vineyards and olive gardens
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Literary Sources

Pliny the younger - letters to Tacitus (records what was believed at the time)


  • geographical clues used by volcanologists + first hand account of personal reactions


  • Tacitus requested response 25 years later, reliability?
  • purpose?
  • omissions?
  • Strabo
  • Vitruvious of architecture (appearances of houses and activities inside rooms)
  • Seneccaa
  • Pliny the Elder

*supplement these with graffeti and cicero and livy of the events of the eruption

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Dating Objects

  • Stratigraphy
  • Stylistic Sequences
  • Using paintings (related to August Mav's Style)
  • Absolute and relative dating
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Gaps in Evidence

  • Using hypothesis + testing
  • looking for evidence to support - however hard to do (due to insufficient evidence)
  • Incomplete excavations
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