Recent excavations at the building complex of Insula I 14, 1/11-14 in Pompeii have revealed evidence of a mat-making workshop. The team of the Pompeii I.14 Project, a collaboration between Tulane University and the Parco Archeologico di Pompei, has been systematically excavating this area since 2022, uncovering the different phases of development of this sector of the ancient city.

The most notable findings come from Zones D and E of the complex, where well-preserved remains of reed mats have been found, as well as facilities related to their production, such as a large shallow vat and a drainage system.

These discoveries suggest that, in the years leading up to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, part of this building was dedicated to mat-making, probably in connection with a known mat-making workshop in the adjacent building, Insula I 14, 2.

Remnants of olives, figs, poultry bones and a collection of small round cakes baked with poppy seeds
Remnants of olives, figs, poultry bones and a collection of small round cakes baked with poppy seeds. Credit: Parco archeologico di Pompei

In addition to these findings, the excavations have allowed researchers to reconstruct the evolution of this sector of Pompeii over time. The origins of the area date back to the Italian Bronze Age, with evidence of human activity prior to the urbanization of the area in the 2nd century BC.

By the mid-1st century BC, much of Insula I 14, 1/11-14 was dedicated to commerce, including a restaurant with dining spaces in the style of the elites.

Researchers believe that mat production may have taken place alongside the commercial and dining activities documented in the complex.

The material was laminated, with at least three layers present, arranged at right angles to each other. Immediately above the organic deposit, the underside of the lower mortar layer retained molds of interwoven stems in a herringbone pattern in the center of the room and in linear bands along the edges, indicating a woven mat or mats.
The material was laminated, with at least three layers present, arranged at right angles to each other. Immediately above the organic deposit, the underside of the lower mortar layer retained molds of interwoven stems in a herringbone pattern in the center of the room and in linear bands along the edges, indicating a woven mat or mats. Credit: Parco archeologico di Pompei

However, it is still unknown whether these enterprises were conducted simultaneously or seasonally, or even in completely separate historical phases.

What does seem clear is the close relationship between this building and the known mat-making workshop in Insula I 14, 2.

These findings, still under study, promise to shed new light on the diversity of economic and artisanal activities that took place in Pompeii just before its tragic end.



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