Historic Buildings

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The goal of the project was for a team of two people to use digital technology to completely survey, photograph and create photomosaics of the property facades along the entire length of via dell’Abbondanza on both sides of the street.  The fieldwork would be accomplished during summer seasons in Pompeii with survey and image processing during the winters.  The magnitude of the project required written plans to define what would be accomplished, and how and when the work would be done.

Preliminary reconnaissance – Via dell’Abbondanza was visually examined during the summer of 2004.  Beginning at the forum, the street extends east-northeast across via Stabiana and continues to the city wall at the Sarno Gate (Porta di Sarno).  It is comprised of 32 city blocks (insulae) with a length of about 900 meters.  The shortest blocks are about 35 meters in length; several are about 70 meters long with the longest measuring over 100 meters.  The street has its highest elevation at the forum, drops steadily by about nine meters to via Stabiana, rises several meters in about the next 100 and then gradually slopes downward toward the Sarno Gate.  The total elevation differential is approximately 15 meters. All observations were recorded on a map of Pompeii and several horizontal and vertical test photos were made.

Photomosaic presentation strategy – Although the project goal was to document via dell’Abbondanza, it had not been determined if this would be accomplished with one photomosaic of the entire street, sections of the street, city blocks or individual buildings.  The substantial length and significant differential in elevations made a single image infeasible. Photomosaics of individual buildings would lack cohesiveness.  It was decided that separate city blocks would be a logical structural unit and allow reproduction at a reasonable scale.  One exception was made to this strategy.  Insula VIII, 5 is very long and is split in the middle by an internal street.  It was divided, therefore, at this street into two photomosaics – VIII, 5 East and VIII, 5 West.  The plan would be to create 33 photomosaics of the 32 insulae along via dell’Abbondanza.  The previously developed methodology specified that the images would be produced at a scale of 1:25 at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch.


Key working documents – Two resources were created in order to enable the project scope to be further developed and estimates to be made.  A map of via dell’Abbondanza was created with VectorWorks software from the digital map of the city published by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei.[1] The lengths of the city blocks and widths of the street were determined and delineated on the map.  Microsoft Excel spreadsheets were then created of the north and south sides of the street listing each city block in order, starting at the forum.  The current Regio and Insula numbers were included as well as block lengths, cross street data and any historic Regio and Insula numbers.


Project plan – The project had been discussed with the then Soprintendente Archeologica di Pompei, Prof. Pietro Giovanni Guzzo.  A written plan was developed for formal approval based upon this discussion, the preliminary reconnaissance findings and the photomosaic methodology that had been developed.  The plan contained:

  • Project rationale
  • Objectives
  • Summary of the methodology
  • Required research
  • Proposed deliverable images and reports
  • Schedule
  • Via dell’Abbondanza map
  • Sample photomosaic images

    The final project plan was submitted and approved by Soprintendente Guzzo in 2004.

    Detailed reconnaissance – The project fieldwork was started during the summer of 2005.  A work log was first created to record surveying and photographic progress. It was desired that all complete photomosaics capture as much detail as possible.  Experiments on site showed that photographs taken in full sunlight not only showed better detail, but also had a crispness that was lacking in shaded photos.  The sun angles were studied and recorded at different times of the day.  The orientation of via dell’Abbondanza dictated that photography be accomplished in the mid-morning to document structures on the north side of the street, and in the mid-to-late afternoon for those on the south.  It became quickly apparent that the large number of visitors walking along via dell’Abbondanza would present major surveying and photographic challenges.

    Data security – It was decided that field photography and survey data would be not only downloaded to a laptop computer for processing, but also immediately backed up to data CD’s or an external hard drive.

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    [1] Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei, Digital Map of Pompeii, Scale 1:1000,  A World Monuments Fund Project, financed by American Express, based upon the 1984 RICA Maps of Pompeii, digitized by Studio di Architettura.