Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 397–408 | Cite as

Archaeobotany at Oplontis: woody remains from the Roman Villa of Poppaea (Naples, Italy)

  • Daniela Moser
  • Emilia Allevato
  • John R. Clarke
  • Gaetano Di Pasquale
  • Oliver Nelle
Original Article


The Vesuvius area near Naples, southern Italy, is one of the richest places for archaeological finds from Roman times. The a.d. 79 volcanic eruption also caused the preservation of a huge quantity of archaeobotanical material. In this paper the available wood and charcoal remains from the timber structures as well as from the garden soils of the Villa of Poppea at Oplontis are presented. The analyses provide new evidence of the history of some significant trees of the Mediterranean region, such as Abies alba and Cupressus sempervirens, and allow us to put forward hypotheses about wood use during the Roman period. The identification of the building material confirms that the Romans had a good knowledge of the technological properties of wood and mainly used local resources. There is also evidence of trade in high quality timber, in particular Picea abies. The strong presence of climbing plants and of branches and small size stems of wild trees together with typical ornamental plants in the two gardens of the villa reveals a lack of regular gardening maintenance. This evidence is in agreement with the absence of occupants at the moment of the eruption, since the villa was under restoration after the a.d. 62 earthquake.


Vesuvius area Building timber Villa garden Abies Cupressus sempervirens Smilax aspera 



This research has been funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation)-financed Graduate School “Human Development in Landscapes” at the University of Kiel, by a grant towards Daniela Moser. The authors are grateful to Paul Wilkinson and Ivo van der Graaff for providing documentation and information about the archaeological stratigraphy, to EUFORGEN for providing the information for the distribution maps of Fig. 4 and to Eileen Kücükkaraca for checking the English. Comments and suggestions of two anonymous referees greatly helped to improve the quality of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 648 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniela Moser
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Emilia Allevato
    • 3
  • John R. Clarke
    • 4
  • Gaetano Di Pasquale
    • 3
  • Oliver Nelle
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Graduate School “Human Development in Landscapes”, Christian-Albrechts-University KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Ecosystem Research, Palaeoecology, Christian-Albrechts-University KielKielGermany
  3. 3.Laboratorio di Storia della Vegetazione e Anatomia del Legno-MUSA (Musei delle Scienze Agrarie), Dipartimento di Arboricoltura, Botanica e Patologia vegetaleUniversity of Napoli Federico IIPorticiItaly
  4. 4.Department of Art and Art HistoryThe University of TexasAustinUSA

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