The Special Superintendent for Archaeological Heritage of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae reported on 28 October 2014 that dozens of unfired clay pots have been found at Pompeii in the furnaces of the workshop of a potter in the area of the Necropolis of Porta Ercolano. They were discovered during the course of recent research studies conducted by the Superintendency with the collaboration of the Centre Jean Bérard and of the École Française de Rome. A vast program of research, it was initiated over the last 10 years and most recently, has involved an area near the Necropolis of Porta Ercolano, immediately outside the city walls, with specific studies dedicated to the “Organisation, management and transformation of a suburban zone: amongst funeral space and commercial space”.
The objectives of this research are directed at documenting the artisan activities of the ceramicists of the period. The study of a furnace uncovered in 1838 is providing researchers clues as to the type of production and the start date of the activity, and helping them to identify the various spaces and implements of the workshop (potter’s wheel, settling basins).
The discoveries, just a few meters from the furnace, were surprising. A level of lava from 79 A.D had confined and protected a dozen unfired pots – providing direct proof that the workshop was in full activity on that fateful day. There are thin-walled jugs, used for drinking or food containers, decorated with little incisions and engobed; the so-called “pignattini” described by the excavators of the 19th century in the excavation papers of the time.
In the space adjacent to the furnace a work room for the turning of the pots with 4 pot lathes, jars containing the remains of clay, mud pots fallen from a shelf and a set of tools have been identified. Elements until now never documented and fundamental for the knowledge of working with ceramics and the techniques used by the people of the past in the “ars figulina” (of ceramic) during the 1st century A.D.
In a second workshop another two furnaces, also used for the production of thin-walled ceramics were found. One of smaller dimensions, of which remain, above all, the lower levels of the combustion room and where among the ashes, some fragments of pottery were discovered. The other, and so the third in the area, seems to be slightly older and also here they baked jugs and bowls with thin walls.