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Chapter 8: The Villa at Site 11 - Description and Function of the Industrial Rooms or Areas

See "Site 11: Villa - Plans and Reconstructions" section of this report for room designations by number. The rooms of Period 1 are designated by Roman numerals rather than the Arabic numerals of Period 2.

In Period 1 only two rooms (Room III and Room V) can be identified with certainty as industrial. Room III had a large red tufa platform with a shallow groove for drainage cut along its edges.This platform could have served for pressing olives or even for treading grapes. If such practice seems primitive, it should be remembered that the platform facility would date at the latest to the middle of the 3rd century B.C. Running under this platform and through the defining western wall of Room III was a channel composed of thin red tufa slabs. The original source of the channel is unclear, as is its purpose, but apparently it drained into a small cistern below the western wall of Room V.79 Room V contained the well-head discussed in Chapter 7.

Room IV, a room with gray tufa flags, may have been nothing more than a large vestibule leading into the long east-west room of the residential part of the farmhouse/villa. In this capacity one is hard put to consider it industrial. Yet the same is not true for rooms VIII, IX, X, and XI. These rooms comprise the arms of the "U" and define the open courtyard of the early farmhouse. All seem to be farm related, perhaps for crop storage, in Phase IB; so too, rooms XIV, XV, XVI, and XVII of the western flank in Phase IC.80 Room XII represents a porch along the courtyard side of the eastern arm; wood supports would have carried a simple lean-to roof.81 The massive foundation blocks of Room XI, as stated in Chapter 7, could allow for a tower of several stories.

As said in Chapter 7, the ground floor of the newly transformed villa (Period 2) seems to have been residential throughout. The southern part of Room 28 may have served as a kitchen with Room 29 providing a cooking platform (later a treading basin?).82 Two ovens were inserted in this same area in Phase 2B/C.83 The question raised by the ovens is whether they were domestic or industrial and whether this whole space (Room 43) should be assigned to farm industry in this last phase in the life of the villa.

However, in Phase 2B/C major changes do occur. These can be dated to the time of Trajan on the evidence obtained from pottery and stamped roof tiles (see Joann Freed "Site 11 Pottery Summary" and James Anderson "Brick Stamps"). The rooms on the east and north of the long east-west room (rooms 22, 23, and 24) are consolidated into one space (Room 42) for the production of olive oil. Four tanks or basins, each with an opus spicatum floor covered by a light coat of concrete and with quarter-round moldings, are created along the northern perimeter wall of this new area. The two center basins had a drain to a lower, small tank immediately to the south. The purpose of the basins would have been to wash and store the olives and then to bruise them in the somewhat larger basin on the east; this last basin had a spicatum channel drain across the floor of the walled space containing the emplacement for a mechanical press. Another channel drain defined the round ara for the press; its travertine arbores, in situ, was aligned with the eastern perimeter wall of the villa. The oil from bruising and pressing the olives would have flowed, again by means of a spicatum channel, into an adjacent deep tank, concrete lined and with two steps in one corner (see "Site 11: Villa - Plans and Reconstructions").84

To have had all of this preserved in tact is truly extraordinary when one sonsiders centuries of ploughing. But it leaves no doubt that the villa in Phase 2B/C becomes a villa rustica in every sense.85 Yet, one important question remains unanswered. Is the production of olive oil found here a cooperative venture (see "Speculations")?

All text and images copyright © 2002 by Walter Widrig and Rice University. Last updated May 2007 by