Antiquity and Christian Origins
L. Michael White, Director | 1 University Station C3450 | Austin, Texas 78712 | 512.232.1438 | 512.232.1439 fax


OSMAP Home > Preliminary Results > 2004

Report of the 2004 Study Season

In 2004 the OSMAP team began a study of ceramic, numismatic, faunal, and architectural remains unearthed during the 1961-1963 excavations of IV.17.1-2.  None of this material has been published in any systematic way.  Relevant entries in the Giornali di Scavo were consulted to shed light on the methods employed at the time of the area’s excavation.

A preliminary study reveals the following: None of the 1961-1963 excavations used modern stratigraphic methods.  As a result, it has been proven difficult to analyze the archaeological context of the material stored in the Ostian warehouse.  Written records have provided only minimum supplementary data.  Objects unearthed during excavation were stored in paper bag; handwritten labels document only general details of an object’s findspot (“room G” or “room with the oven”).  Other bags contain paper slips with similar notations.  These labels have been most helpful when they record relative stratigraphic information (“object found under the mosaic” or “under the terra battuta floor on top of the mosaic”). The OSMAP team is in the process of interpreting this system of designation and reconstructing, as best as possible, the history of the excavation at the site.

Significantly, these records have already brought to light evidence of a habitation phase at the synagogue which has never been discussed in any secondary literature.  This evidence comes from an entry in the Giornali di Scavo (1961-1962, p. 18-19) which records the discovery of a Roman coin of Maxentius.  This coin was discovered underneath the mosaic foundation of the room with the oven (IV.17.1.10, “l’ambiente col forno”).  This material provides a secure terminus post quem for the mosaic floor.  Early excavators, however, discounted this evidence because exploration had already identified traces of a terra battuta, or beaten earth, floor on top of this mosaic pavement.  In their view, because of the presence of pottery dating to the second through fourth centuries C.E. in this layer located above the mosaic, it was this higher, lower-quality floor which was the sign of fourth-century occupation.  The coin beneath the mosaic and the presence of a floor level at a higher elevation, however, now leads us to deduce that there was not one but two Late Antique phases in this room.  The first of these dates to the fourth century; the second calls for further investigation in unexcavated areas of the site.

Finally, in preparation for an excavation campaign in 2005, a small probe (T1) was begun in IV.17.2.10; its purpose was to investigate whether a small wall feature on the west side of IV.17.1.18 may have at one point in time extended into the corridor of IV.17.2.10.  Archival photographs from the 1960s excavations reveal several unknown features lying just below the modern topsoil of IV.17.1.18.  None of these, however, has ever been described in any detail.  T1 was positioned to investigate whether these features also extended into the corridor of IV.17.2.10.  Preliminary investigation suggests that they do and that they are worth exploring again at a future time.


Synagogue Area Numbered
Plan of the Buildings at IV.17.1-3 [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Synagogue Top Plan
Plan of the Buildings at IV.17.1-2 [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

SAO Photograph C1981
IV.17.1.10, at the time of its excavation.  Photograph courtsey of Ostia Archives (SAO C1981) and may not be reprinted or used without permission.  [CLICK TO ENLARGE.]


L. Michael White, Susan Gelb, Darius Arya, Douglas Boin, Dora Cirone, Alessio De Cristofaro, Marzia Di Mento, Milton Torres


L. Michael White, Susan Gelb, and Douglas Boin (2004).


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