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House of the Opus Craticium

Description of the House (Ins III, 13-15)

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To construct the walls, squared timber uprights or arrectaria (8 -12 cm thick) were combined with horizontal transversaria (6 - 8 cm) to form panels measuring between 50 and 80 cm. These were then infilled with concrete and rubble. To provide stability the main structure of the house was also supported by piers of brick and blockwork. Other than economic reasons, the use of timber framing was probably motivated by the amount of space which could be saved by using thin partition walls.
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Opening off the west side of the courtyard (shown opposite) were two dimly lit rooms (f) and (g), the latter being reached by way of a short corridor. The rooms were undecorated and are currently in a fairly poor state of repair.
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However, it is the presence of furniture that makes these rooms all the more remarkable - two beds and a cupboard in one room and a bed (pictured right) and a cupboard in the other. The wooden cupboards were full of objects including bronze statuettes of Jupiter (pictured below), Fortuna, Aesclepius, Diana, MInerva and a pair of Lares with opposite hands held aloft holding drinking horns. Besides the statuary were more mundane objects including a bronze weight, glass and pottery plates and several glass paste beads.
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The builder integrated the balcony by moving the entrances to the outer rooms onto the exterior of the house as shown in the photographs opposite. As a result, the occupiers of the apartment had access to a small cenatio and a diaeta.

In this apartment, like the one to the rear, some fourth style decoration has survived as well as a few articles of furniture. There are the remains of two beds of which one is a child's. There is also the wooden pediment of a third cupboard, although this time it is devoid of any contents. Among the other finds were a marble statue base and the lower half of of a marble oscillum, a half moon plaque carved on both sides, designed to rotate in the wind. Examples of oscilla can be seen in the atrium of the House of the Relief of Telephus.
The House of the Opus Craticium lies on the west side of Cardo IV and was excavated by Amedeo Maiuri between 1927 and 1933. The house is interesting because of its timber frame construction, referred to by Maiuri as opus craticium.

This term is rather misleading, however, as opus craticium literally means partitioning made of reeds much like the traditional English 'wattle and daub'. One wall in the house does show traces of reeds but they did not form part of the construction and were simply used as a key for the plaster finishing.
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Numerous surviving examples of timber frame construction have also been found at Pompeii, but the practice seems to have been particularly favoured at Herculaneum.
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The house was divided into at least three (perhaps four) small apartments. These units are better preserved under the layers of mud than the upper storeys of Pompeii, which collapsed under the weight of the volcanic fallout. The house's position in Insula III reveals that in its original form it was probably a small atrium house.

The entrance to the house (in the middle of the picture above) opened onto a passageway (a) leading to a central courtyard (d). On the right of the passageway a doorway (pictured left) gave access to a small room (c) under the stairs to one of the first floor apartments.

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A taberna (b), the entrance to which is pictured lower left, sat to the left side of the passageway and incorporated several back rooms. Because of the use of timber framing it was relatively easy to divide up the ground-floor area in this manner.
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The central courtyard (pictured above and lower left) acted as a light well and contained an impluvium to catch rain water. A wooden windlass (pictured below) was found nearby giving a rare illustration of how water was drawn from the underground cistern beneath the impluvium.
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A flight of wooden stairs (e) (pictured opposite and below) led to an apartment on the first floor. Of this small flat, two rooms, lit by windows overlooking the courtyard, retain quite elaborate fourth style decoration.
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A second apartment was accessed directly from the street by way of a flight of stairs on the north side of the entrance. This apartment was larger than the first, consisting of five rooms; the rooms to the rear were rather dimly lit, only gaining light from windows that overlooked the atrium of the adjoining House of the Bronze Herma.
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