Hadrian’s Villa dig uncovers the art of ordinary spaces
|Advanced Program of Ancient and Art History participant removing limestone |
concretions from the surface of a mosaic floor [Credit: F. de Angelis]
De Angelis, who has been leading a dig at the site since 2013 with Marco Maiuro, adjunct history professor and associate fellow of Columbia’s Italian Academy, notes that the villa was continuously occupied well beyond Hadrian’s reign, from 117-138 A.D., at least until the fifth century, which means that much of its history and the people who lived there have never been properly studied.
|This animated gif shows the progress of a Columbia-led excavation of the UNESCO |
World Heritage Site of Hadrian's Villa since 2013 [Credit: Kevin MacNichol]
Hadrian’s Villa is the most important of the dozens of imperial villas built during Rome’s 500 years as an empire, with buildings, baths, gardens and promenades sprawling over 300 acres in Tivoli at the foot of the Apennine Hills. Twice the size of Pompeii, it is renowned for its blend of Roman, Greek and Egyptian architectural and artistic traditions.
|Hadrian's Villa, large baths [Credit: F. de Angelis]|
The other excavation site is the Macchiozzo, an area covered by bushes and trees close to the center of the property. At both sites, the Columbia team is researching the daily life not of an emperor and aristocrats, but of the villa’s continuous inhabitants—the administrators, staff members and slaves who lived there throughout Hadrian’s long absences. Hadrian spent more than half his reign traveling throughout his empire, leaving new structures and cities from Britain to present-day Turkey.
|Advanced Program of Ancient and Art History team members at work preserving |
and restoring wall paintings and marble decoration [Credit: A. Tartaro]
The 2015 dig season yielded a number of unexpected artistic and architectural results, confirming de Angelis and Maiuro’s theories that lower-ranking villa residents performed their religious activities at the Lararium and lived or conducted business at the Macchiozzo.
|A painted wall from the newly excavated building at Hadrian’s Villa |
[Credit: D. Nocera]
The Macchiozzo is a large compound built during Hadrian’s time combining elements of luxury architecture, such as marble-faced walls, with utilitarian structures, such as ramps and water channels. In 2015 archaeologists uncovered a previously unknown residential building with beautifully preserved decoration: floor mosaics with abstract and figural patterns, marble facings, wall paintings with red and yellow panels divided by delicate vegetal motifs, and ceiling frescoes populated by mask-like faces, griffins and sphinxes. Comparisons with similar structures at Hadrian’s Villa and from nearby Ostia, the harbor city of ancient Rome, suggest that the building was used not by the emperor but by a high-ranking staff member. Exploration of the area around the Macchiozzo shows a vast network of similar structures, forming a smaller enclave within the compound.
|Fragment from the ceiling of the newly excavated building, |
with vegetal decoration [Credit: D. Nocera]
“If you look at this campus, it’s interesting to make the connection to Tivoli,” says de Angelis. “McKim went to Rome, made drawings there, was trained in that classical tradition. Since we are working in the firm’s buildings in New York, I think we are subliminally, if not consciously, conditioned by the same architecture, the same forms that exist at Hadrian’s Villa.”
Author: Eve Glasberg | Source: Columbia University [February 26, 2016]