Research

The Villa of Diomedes is one of the most famous monuments in Pompeii but, paradoxically, it has never been the subject of an archaeological study. The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to use innovative methodologies from both humanities and “hard” sciences to explore this important building, focussing on its exceptional characteristics.

First, the villa was one of the first buildings to be excavated in Pompeii (1771-1774), and thus the most frequently described and depicted in archives of architects and travellers throughout the 19th century.
Second, it is the largest private building site in Pompeii, erected on three levels just outside the urban perimeter, covering a very large area of about 3500 m2.
Third, its state of conservation is particularly interesting, with several rooms on the lowest floor still preserving the original painted ceilings.
But there is a degree of urgency to record this data, because the villa has been subjected to much natural damage since its discovery, for more than 240 years, and it is not included in the project of preservation “Major Project Pompeii” supported by the Italian Culture Ministry and the European Community.

 

Presentation Video of the Villa Diomede Project :

 

 Methods

A photogrammetric 3D model

Aerial view of the villa by drone (Iconem)
Aerial view of the villa by drone (Iconem)
Photogrammetric 3D model
Photogrammetric 3D model

Photogrammetric 3D model based on three phases of work: (1) photogrammetric model (2) Gross model without photographic texture; (3) projection in the model of an archive dating back to about 1810, with a plan by architect François Mazois.
The starting point for this analysis is a new methodology, developed by a group of computer scientists backed by the joint INRIA – Microsoft Research laboratory, in collaboration with the society ICONEM, which allows the automated construction of a photogrammetric 3D model and its alignment with archival pictures. Two exploratory campaigns on the villa conducted in April 2012 and March 2013 has already made it possible to cover all of the building, by the innovatory use of a drone flying over the villa and its surroundings.

 

Integration of ancient graphical and photographical archives in the 3D model

The same wall, in 2012 and 1810 (drawing by F. Mazois)
The same wall, in 2012 and 1810 (drawing by F. Mazois)

As one of the first buildings excavated in Pompeii, the villa is the most frequently depicted in the archives of architects and travellers throughout the 19th century. To date, some 350 documents have been collected from various library and private collections. These documents show painted decorations which are today very deteriorated, when they don’t have not entirely disappear. Along with the 3D model, they will make possible a virtual visit of the villa at the moment of its discovery, and materialise its gradual evolution, revealing the effects of damage and episodes of restoration.
This method has already proved its worth in the reconstruction of the Casa di Championnet in Pompeii, carried out by the team (2007-2012).

 

Archaeology of the building site of the villa

Conservation status of one of the walls of the villa in the 1790s
Conservation status of one of the walls of the villa in the 1790s

A detailed study of all of walls of the villa will provide a relative chronology for the villa, in association with an analysis of the wall paintings and accompanying mosaics. Once the
rebuilt portions have been highlighted, it will be possible to understand the villa’s history, identify each stage of its construction, and visualise this in 3D modelling. The interest of such a study is the ability to analyze for the first time a private building in Pompeii, as only major public building sites, linked to temples (Tempio di Venere, Tempio della Fortuna Augusta) have been studied.

 

Building material characterisation and structural analysis

Stone masonry tuffs
Stone masonry tuffs

Stone masonry tuffs . Portion probably rebuilt following a seismic episode wall.
One of the particularities of the villa is that is was partially rebuilt after a violent earthquake that destroyed much of Pompeii 17 years before the final eruption in 79 AD. The collaboration with geologists and earthquake structural engineers will permit to assess the laboratory to explore building skills and techniques in the light of earthquake risk, a field of study little covered in the history of Roman architecture.
 

 A different history of the “Grand Tour” and tourism in Pompeii

Example of graffiti left by travelers on the walls of the villa.
Example of graffiti left by travelers on the walls of the villa.

Famous travellers, such as François-René de Chateaubriand or Théophile Gautier, have described the villa in their texts. We can study, in the villa itself, this textual and uncovered memory: many graffiti, produced by travellers since the end of the 18th century, are present on the walls of the most beautiful rooms.

Visit of the garden by Caroline Bonaparte and Joachim Murat
Visit of the garden by Caroline Bonaparte and Joachim Murat

This evidence will allow us to recognize important figures of the Grand Tour (for ex. Jean Abraham André II Poupart de Neuflize and Nicolas Suchelet, or the Count of Cavour) and to reconstitute with precision the “touristic flows” from the various represented countries along the 19th century.

 

 

 Objectives

This proposal will have an important scientific and patrimonial impact in the site of Pompeii, one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world, with 2 million visitors per year. For the first time in the history of Pompeii, we shall produce a virtual 3D model of the successive phases of a building construction and of its final state of conservation prior to the eruption of Vesuvius, in 79 A.D..

Integration of H. Wilkins’ view (1819) in the 3D model
Integration of H. Wilkins’ view (1819) in the 3D model

The project will thus emphasize, at the same time, different patrimonial objects: the standing remains and the archives collections, disseminated in various places (Naples museum, Archivio di Stato, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Royal Institute of British Architects…). Beyond the confines of this case study, the project will contribute to the development of new technologies for the study of archaeological heritage, such as the association of archaeology of built remains and computer vision, and it will provide excellent training for students.

 

 Results

Different scales of practical results will be proposed. For the scientific community, we shall publish a collective volume on this exceptional villa, as an exemplary laboratory of study of an aristocratic maritime villa in Pompeii. Every specialist implied in the project will be responsible for a chapter on the corresponding aspects.
For the larger public, we shall disseminate the results on the web and produce a digital and interactive restitution of the villa, as a short video. This is the only way to reconstitute the original aspect of the villa, by the virtual insertion of its paintings and mosaics, now disappeared or moved in other places (Reggia of Portici, Archaeological Museum in Naples, Louvre Museum). A physical model of the villa at the moment of the discovery, obtained from a 3D printer, will also be realized. It could be presented in the villa itself and in all the institutions that have supported this project.

 

 Workplan

2014

  • Field study in the villa (60 days) : stratigraphy of the walls, study of the pavements and wall paintings,
  • study of the pavements of the villa conserved in the Reggia of Portici and in the Naples museum,
  • finalized catalogue of graphical and photographical archives,
  • infrared photographs of the modern graffiti.

2015

  • Field mission in the villa (60 days) : stratigraphy of the walls, study of the pavements and wall paintings,
  • finalized 3D model of the villa integrating the archives.

2016

  • Field mission in the villa (30 days) : stratigraphy of the walls, study of the pavements and wall paintings,
  • finalized 3D model of the villa integrating the archaeological study with the building phases of the villa.

2017

  • Finalization of the collective monograph,
  • finalized 3D virtual model of the villa and dissemination of the results.

 

 Bibliographical References :

  • Hélène Dessales, Jean Ponce, Clothilde Boust, Guilhem Chapelin, Mathilde Carrive, Julien Cavero, Arnaud Coutelas, Rita Deiana, Marco Di Ludovico, Giuseppina De Martino, Julien Dubouloz, Éloïse Letellier-Taillefer, Anne Maigret, Gaetano Manfredi, Frédérique Marchand-Beaulieu, Andrea Milanese, Claudio Modena, Florence Monier, Ambre d’Harcourt-Péron, Alban-Brice Pimpaud, Andrea Prota, Enzo Rizzo, Amedeo Rossi, Alfonso Santoriello, Agnès Tricoche and Maria Rosa Valluzzi, « Pompéi. Villa de Diomède. Campagne d’étude 2015 », Chronique des activités archéologiques de l’École française de Rome, Les cités vésuviennes. To read on the website cefr.revues.org.
  • Hélène Dessales, Jean Ponce, Mathilde Carrive, Julien Cavero, Julien Dubouloz, Éloïse Letellier, Frédérique Marchand- Beaulieu, Florence Monier, Ambre Péron, Agnès Tricoche and Yves Ubelmann, « Pompéi. Villa de Diomède. Campagne d’étude 2014 », Chronique des activités archéologiques de l’École française de Rome, Les cités vésuviennes. To read on the website cefr.revues.org.
  • Hélène Dessales, Jean Ponce, Éloïse Letellier, Frédérique Marchand- Beaulieu, Florence Monier, Ambre Péron and Yves Ubelmann, « Pompéi. Villa de Diomède. Campagne d’étude 2013 », Chronique des activités archéologiques de l’École française de Rome, Les cités vésuviennes. To read on the website cefr.revues.org.
  • Alessandro Mandolesi, Scienze “esatte” per Diomede, Archeo, n°359, gennaio 2015, p. 10-12.
  • Ambre d’Harcourt, «Retour à Pompéi», Histoire, n°405, 2014, p. 28-29.