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House I 7,19

Form of house

This house has one entrance from the east side of the street, between Insulae I 7 and I 6, which runs southwards from the Via dell'Abbondanza. It might once also have had another entranceway to the street between Insulae I 7 and I 8. It has a ground-floor area of c. 350 m2, thus belonging to Wallace-Hadrill's Quartile 4 (1994:81). The house conforms to a relatively standard front-hall/garden plan except that the two sections, west and east, are not aligned with each other and the front hall has no side rooms.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc A,VI,6 (May 1912﹣March 1929):383﹣445 (intermittent), 522﹣23.

Published: Maiuri 1929:354﹣79.

Excavation recording

This house was excavated mainly between September 1925 and October 1926, but the garden area was not completely cleared until September 1927. The excavation commenced from the garden of the Casa di Paquius Proculus with the latter's cryptoporticus, this house and House I 7,18 excavated concurrently (GdSc A,VI,6:393). From 0.4 m below the modern level and for a depth of 3 m, the excavators encountered disturbed volcanic deposit. Rooms b and n were reported to have been disturbed down to 2 m above the floor (GdSc A,VI,6:386). The recording of these excavations is generally comparable to that of the previous house.

Interpretation of whole house

Much of this house seems to have been undisturbed, particularly the west part. Only room e has evidence of near ground-level, post-eruption intrusion. The excavators noted that the decoration was in a bad state of preservation (GdSc A,VI,6:386). Many of the rooms show evidence of incomplete renovation. However, other evidence, such as that in room a, room r, and the statuary in the niche in the garden, suggests that someone may also have been living here, if only provisionally, either during renovations or after they had been interrupted. The lack of evidence in room m and the apparent evidence for food preparation in room i further suggest that any occupation had been disrupted. The comparatively large number of skeletons (eight in all) seems too many for a house in such apparent disarray. Probably, as Maiuri suggested, at least some of these individuals came from nearby houses, particularly the Casa di Paquius Proculus and the Casa dell'Efebo.

Thus, this house might have been at least partially abandoned for renovations before the final eruption, but in room e, and possibly in room c, those renovations seem also to have been abandoned. The evidence in rooms a, r, and i suggests that the house had been reoccupied provisionally. Studies of the decoration of this house cannot agree on their Third- or Fourth-Style classifications. Hence, this house may serve to demonstrate that such classification systems should be reconsidered.

Relationship with the Casa dell'Efebo

Steps leading from the garden of the Casa dell'Efebo to the garden area of this house, and the evidence that the water supply to the latter had come from the former, indicated to Maiuri (1929:354﹣56) that the two buildings were not independent. However, Maiuri also noted (1929:356) that this water system seemed to have been provisional because it had broken pre-existing pavements. He assumed that the owner of the Casa dell'Efebo had acquired this house in the final phase of city and that it was still undergoing transformation at time of eruption, witnessed by the quantity of building material found there. This argument does not explain, however, why makeshift bedding, shrine furniture, and possibly cooking apparatus were present in the less complete lower house when the refurbishing had practically been finished in the upper house.

The installation of a provisional water supply for restoration seems logical if the whole area were undergoing complete renovation and the old pavements were to be replaced later. The renovation evidence in room e, however, indicates that only the structurally damaged north wall had been consolidated and the former decoration on the side walls had been left. The concern seems to have been to restore the wall and to redecorate the other side for the garden of the Casa dell'Efebo, rather than refurbish room e. This implies that there had been little intention to treat this house as the upper house and to completely redecorate it in the Fourth Style. Despite the restoration activity in the lower house, it had been necessary to continue to occupy or to reoccupy it and to provide water for that occupancy. This might indeed suggest that the restoration program itself had been altered or abandoned (for example, the undecorated north wall of room e and the material waiting to be used) and the house reoccupied in a provisional manner. But no evidence (such as partially plastered walls) shows that the restoration had been abruptly halted. The evidence from room e suggests this house had been abandoned after the garden in the Casa dell'Efebo had been decorated in the Fourth Style and the fountain installed.

Thus it is conceivable that both houses suffered damage (possibly during the AD 62 earthquake). The refurbishing of the Casa dell'Efebo was apparently all or nearly completed in the Fourth Style, but the newly refurbished areas (rooms 11, 15, 17, and the garden) had been used for building and salvaged material. This suggests that, despite the elaborate redecoration, further disruption had prohibited the occupants from using the entertainment areas as designed. By contrast, the only apparently complete repair in House I 7,19 is the rebuilding of the north wall of room e, which must predate the Fourth-Style decoration on the south wall of the garden in the Casa dell'Efebo. Ample evidence of building material suggests that the intention had been to restore the whole house but that this was never carried out. On the contrary, this house was apparently reoccupied on a provisional basis and possibly after some of the restoration had been started and then stopped. This suggests interim disruption or changes of plan between AD 62 and AD 79.