This talk will address an archaeological event that occurred just outside the city walls of ancient Pompeii in 1886-7. It centres on a discovery that was made in the territory of the ‘New Pompeii’ –that is, the Catholic Shrine that had been founded in 1872 just a few hundred metres east of the Roman amphitheatre, and the urban settlement that was fast growing around it. During the construction of some residential properties in the new central piazza, traces emerged of a Roman building, which was identified by excavators as a fullonica (laundry). The encounter with thisRoman building presented both logistical and conceptual challenges for the founders of the Shrine, who were compelled to integrate the fragmentary remains into the fabric – and the story – of their new Catholic city. Here I will first explore the process of finding, excavating, recording and publicising the 'fullonica' building, touching on this workshop’s themes of preservation, interpretation and manufacturing of replicas. I will then move on to explore more broadly how, in nineteenth-century Pompeii, both ancient history and geological ‘deep time’ were subsumed within a Catholic historical narrative, which drew on archaeological and geological scholarship, religious rituals, and commemorative festivals, monuments and architecture to create a uniquely (New)Pompeian sense of time and place.
Jessica Hughes is Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University. Her research focuses on the cultural and religious history of the southern Italian region of Campania, especially the area around Vesuvius and the Campi Flegrei. She is particularly interested in how the traces of the Greco-Roman past co-exist and intertwine with other elements of local history and geology, including the material culture and practices of vernacular Catholicism. In 2023-24 she has a BritishAcademy/Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship – during this year, she is writing a book about the large Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in the modern town of Pompeii, and its evolving relationship with the neighbouring archaeological site of ancient Pompeii.