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Herculaneum V.15. Casa del Bicentenario or House of the Bicentenary.

Excavated 1937-38.

 

Plan of upper and lower floors

 

This house owes its modern name to the fact that its excavation was started in 1938, which was two hundred years after the beginning of excavations in Herculaneum in 1738. It occupies a wide area of the northern section of the insula. The entrance at number 15 on the south side of Decumanus Maximus was in a privileged position in respect to the public zone of the city, with another large house (still unexcavated) on its northern side, nearly opposite.

While bearing the signs of the transformations suffered over time, it has retained as a whole the appearance of a stately residence of considerable proportions.

See Pesando, F. and Guidobaldi, M.P. (2006). Pompei, Oplontis, Ercolano, Stabiae. Editori Laterza, (p.352)

 

Originally, this house had been the noblest and richest dwelling in this insula.

However, in its last years it underwent the same transformation that has been seen in many other private houses.

The whole ground floor still preserved the traditional plan of a grand roman house, whereas the dwelling quarters on the upper floor of the portico appear very humble.

In the last years of the city, it is thought that they were no longer reserved for the families of servants but had become rented lodgings.

When the ground floor was deprived of its fittings and abandoned by its rich owners, there was no longer a need for servants and their families.

These rooms on the upper floor could have been divided into several apartments and rented to modest artisans or merchants.

See Maiuri, Amedeo, (1977). Herculaneum. 7th English ed, of Guide books to the Museums Galleries and Monuments of Italy, No.53 (p.46-7).

 

Decumanus Maximus, Herculaneum, June 2012. Looking west between Ins. V, on left, and north side of Decumanus Maximus, on right.  Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

Decumanus Maximus, Herculaneum, June 2012. Looking west between Ins. V, on left, and north side of Decumanus Maximus, on right.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

V.15 Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking west from Decumanus Maximus towards insula, with V.15 the doorway in the centre. Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

V.15 Herculaneum, August 2013.

Looking south-west from Decumanus Maximus towards insula, with V.15 the doorway in the centre.

Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

 

Decumanus Maximus, Herculaneum, October 2012. Looking west between Ins. V, on left, and north side of Decumanus Maximus, on right. The large House of the Bicentenary can be seen on the left, and nearly opposite under the portico is another large house, which is still unexcavated. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

Decumanus Maximus, Herculaneum, October 2012. Looking west between Ins. V, on left, and north side of Decumanus Maximus, on right.

The large House of the Bicentenary can be seen on the left, and nearly opposite under the portico is another large house, which is still unexcavated.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

Decumanus Maximus, south side, Herculaneum, June 2011. Looking east along north side of Insula V.
The doorway to V.15 is the taller one in the centre of the photo.  Photo courtesy of Sera Baker.

Decumanus Maximus, south side, Herculaneum, June 2011. Looking east along north side of Insula V.

The doorway to V.15 is the taller one in the centre of the photo.  Photo courtesy of Sera Baker.

 

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V 17, 16 and 15, on right, Herculaneum, May 2006. Entrance doorway to House of the Bicentenary, on right.

 

Ins. V 15 and 14, Herculaneum, September 2015. Entrance doorways.

V 15 and 14, Herculaneum, September 2015. Entrance doorway, on left.

 

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking towards “open” entrance doorway for the Herculaneum Society visit. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016.

Looking towards “open” entrance doorway for the Herculaneum Society visit.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

Ins. V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. Entrance doorway.

V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. Entrance doorway.

 

Ins. V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. Information noticeboard.

V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. Information noticeboard.

“We’re sorry that you can’t enter the House of the Bicentenary but leaking roof, drainage problems and rising damp have made the house unsafe for visitors.

Major conservation works are needed to save the building and its decorations.

We look forward to welcoming you back when this house re-opens !

(The conservator in the house suggested – perhaps in 10 years !!!)

 

Ins. V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. Information noticeboard.

V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. Information noticeboard.

 

V.15 Herculaneum, August 2013. Notice displayed on entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

V.15 Herculaneum, August 2013. Notice displayed on entrance doorway.

Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

 

V.15 Herculaneum, June 2012. Looking towards entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

V.15 Herculaneum, June 2012. Looking towards entrance doorway.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

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V, 15, Herculaneum, May 2010. House of Bicentenary entrance doorway.

 

Ins. V 15, Herculaneum, May 2010. Upper floor of House of Bicentenary. The window above the doorway (no.14 on the right of the photo) would have given light into a room in which 150 waxed tablets of Calatoria Themis widow of C. Petronius Stephanus were found in a carbonized wooden box. The contents of the tablets were still readable and recorded the process of “ingenuitas” of Petronius Iusta, a girl born of Petronia Vitalis, a slave who was then freed by Petronius Stephanus.

V 15, Herculaneum, May 2010. Upper floor of House of Bicentenary.

The window above the doorway (no.14 on the right of the photo) would have given light into a room in which the waxed tablets of Calatoria Themis widow of C. Petronius Stephanus were found in a carbonized wooden box.

The contents of the tablets were still readable and recorded the process of “ingenuitas” (proof of being born a freedwoman) of Petronia Iusta, a girl born of Petronia Vitalis, a slave who was then freed by Petronius Stephanus.

 

Plaintiff - Calatoria Themis, widow of Petronius Stephanus

 

Defendant - Petronia Iusta, daughter of Petronia Vitalis

 

The case had been brought to contest whether Iusta’s mother had still been a slave or a freedwoman when she gave birth.

 

Plaintiff’s grounds - that Iusta had been born while Petronia Vitalis (Iusta’s mother) was still a slave, and therefore Iusta was a slave.

 

Defendant’s grounds - that Iusta had been born after the manumission of her mother, and therefore was also a freedwoman and entitled to inherit her mother’s assets.

 

History of the case –

Around the year 62AD, a baby girl named Petronia Iusta was born in the household of Petronius Stephanus, the mother’s name was Vitalis but the father’s name was unknown or at least not recorded.  Vitalis had been bought as a slave by Petronius. His wife was known as Calatoria Themis, herself a freedwoman.

 

Eventually Vitalis became a freedwoman, and as such assumed her master’s name and became Petronia Vitalis, the child Petronia Iusta was brought up in the family home by Petronius Stephanus and his wife Calatoria Themis, but definitely known to be illegitimate and not their own child.

 

After a while Petronia Vitalis decided to leave the household, as she and the wife Calatoria were not getting on. As a freedwoman she was entitled to do this.

She worked hard, was comfortably off and had made a good home for herself, but her master and his wife refused to relinquish Iusta.

As the child had been brought up like a daughter, she was regarded as an asset to the household.

 

Because of this, Petronia Vitalis started a court-case against Petronius Stephanus, as she wanted her daughter back.

This earlier court-case was resolved by Iusta being returned to her mother providing that her mother made a payment to Petronius Stephanus for all the food and costs that he had spent on the child during her childhood and teenage years.

Petronia immediately made the payment and Iusta was returned to her.

 

This would have been the end of the matter but all too soon Petronia died, and so did Petronius Stephanus.

His widow then brought another court-case to recover Iusta, as well as the considerable assets that she had inherited from her mother.

The case was brought on the grounds that Iusta had been born while Petronia Vitalis was still a slave, and therefore Iusta was a slave.

As slaves had no property rights, if Iusta was judged to be a slave, then all that she owned would have been returned to her mistress.

 

The case was brought before the local Herculaneum magistrates, who decided they lacked jurisdiction over the matter, and the case would be transferred to Rome.

Even in Rome the case became bogged down, until a new witness was called. He was Telesforus, who had served Petronius for many years.

He said he had handled the negotiations for the return of Iusta to her mother, and it was acknowledged then that Iusta had been born after the manumission of her mother.  He said the Roman court should now make the same acknowledgement.

However, the Roman court were not prepared to reach a hurried decision.

 

The depositions to Rome had begun in AD 75 and AD 76, and it seems that by AD 79 when Vesuvius erupted and buried the tablets, a decision had still not been taken and nothing further has been found as to the outcome. Was Iusta declared free, or once again returned to slavery?

 

Perhaps they were lucky enough to be in Rome contesting their court-case in AD 79, or perhaps the tablets belonged to someone found as a skeleton in the seafront boatsheds. We shall never know.

 

See Deiss, Joseph Jey, 1968: Herculaneum, a city returns to the sun. London, The History Book Shop, (p.71), who mentioned 18 wax tablets.

See Guidobaldi, M.P, 2009: Ercolano, guida agli scavi. Naples, Electa Napoli, (p.90) in which 150 wax tablets are mentioned.

See Maiuri, Amedeo, 2008: Cronache degli scavi di Ercolano, 1927-1961. Sorrento, Italy: Franco di Mauro Editore, (p.91-98), mentions 18.

See Cooley, A.E. and Cooley, M.G. 2014. Pompeii and Herculaneum; a sourcebook. U.K. Abingdon, Routledge, 2nd ed.  (p.215-218, G5-11 in which 18 writing tablets are mentioned found in a chest).

 

Wallace-Hadrill wrote – “The story has been told many times, but we still await the new edition by Giuseppe Camodeca, which, to judge by his patient and skilful re-readings of so many other documents, may put an entirely new complexion on the story”.

See Wallace-Hadrill, A. (2011). Herculaneum, Past and Future. London, Frances Lincoln Ltd., (p.144).

 

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking towards north-east side of atrium, and entrance corridor, on left. Herculaneum Society visit. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking towards north-east side of atrium, and entrance corridor, on left.

Herculaneum Society visit. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking north-east across impluvium in atrium.
Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking north-east across impluvium in atrium.

Herculaneum Society visit. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking across atrium towards entrance corridor. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking north across atrium towards entrance corridor.

Herculaneum Society visit. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

V.15, Herculaneum, September 2016. Atrium, painted decoration from west end of north wall.  Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

V.15, Herculaneum, September 2016. Atrium, painted decoration from west end of north wall.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

Ins. V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 2005. Looking across atrium towards entrance doorway.  Photo courtesy of Andrew Wallace-Hadrill.
According to Maiuri, 
“The vestibule and entrance fauces lead into a wide square atrium with compluviate roof (the main beams have been put back into the original place again);
the beautiful pavement in mosaic with simple white tesserae on the black ground preserves around the marble impluvium, a band with the motive of tresses; the walls are painted a beautiful red-porphyry.”
See Maiuri, Amedeo, Herculaneum. 7th English ed, of Guide books to the Museums Galleries and Monuments of Italy, No.53 (p.46)

V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 2005. Looking across atrium towards entrance doorway. 

Photo courtesy of Andrew Wallace-Hadrill.

According to Maiuri,

“The vestibule and entrance fauces lead into a wide square atrium with compluviate roof (the main beams have been put back into the original place again);

the beautiful pavement in mosaic with simple white tesserae on the black ground preserves around the marble impluvium, a band with the motive of tresses; the walls are painted a beautiful red-porphyry.”

See Maiuri, Amedeo, (1977). Herculaneum. 7th English ed, of Guide books to the Museums Galleries and Monuments of Italy, No.53 (p.46).

 

Ins. V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 1964. Looking across atrium towards entrance doorway.  Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.
Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details. J64f1160

V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 1964.

Looking across atrium towards entrance doorway.  Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.

Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details.

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Ins. V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 1964. Painted wall decoration. 
Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.
Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details. J64f1161

V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 1964. Painted wall decoration.

Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.

Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details.

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V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking towards north-west corner of atrium.
Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking towards north-west corner of atrium.

Herculaneum Society visit. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking towards west side of atrium. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking towards west side of atrium.

Herculaneum Society visit. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking towards south-west corner of atrium, with entrance to tablinum, on left. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.
According to Maiuri,
“In the background of the atrium, on the sides of the tablinum, open the two alae: 
the one on the right, closed by a wooden gate was probably the shrine of the Lares, or, perhaps, as the family was a patrician one, the shrine for the worship of the imagines maiorum. The tablinum preserves a rich, sparkling marble pavement, like a polychrome carpet, and on the walls, paintings, medallions, and a frieze; 
in the panels are represented the myths of Daedalus and Pasifae and of Venus and Mars;  in the medallions are busts of Satyrs, Sileni and Maenads. On the upper part of the walls runs a frieze with cupids. From the tablinum, we reach the little portico with the garden and the rustic rooms of the ground floor”.
See Maiuri, Amedeo, Herculaneum. 7th English ed, of Guide books to the Museums Galleries and Monuments of Italy, No.53 (p.46).
According to Camardo and Notomista, an extraordinary carbonized wooden sliding gate was found in the right ala dividing it from the atrium, it was restored and left in situ, The gate was surmounted by a wooden cornice with a frieze in relief. On page 228 is a photo of the gate with detail of the wooden cornice with frieze.  The photo was taken in the 1960’s and shows that the right hand side of the screen was reconstructed with modern wood after the damage reported from the bombing in April 1943.
See Camardo, D, and Notomista, M, eds. (2017). Ercolano: 1927-1961. L’impresa archeologico di Amedeo Maiuri e l’esperimento della citta museo. Rome, L’Erma di Bretschneider, (p.227-8, Scheda 24)

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016.

Looking towards south-west corner of atrium, with entrance to tablinum, on left, and right ala, centre behind scaffolding.

Herculaneum Society visit. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

According to Maiuri,

“In the background of the atrium, on the sides of the tablinum, open the two alae: the one on the right, closed by a wooden gate was probably the shrine of the Lares, or, perhaps, as the family was a patrician one, the shrine for the worship of the imagines maiorum.

The tablinum preserves a rich, sparkling marble pavement, like a polychrome carpet, and on the walls, paintings, medallions, and a frieze;

in the panels are represented the myths of Daedalus and Pasiphae and of Venus and Mars;

in the medallions are busts of Satyrs, Sileni and Maenads. On the upper part of the walls runs a frieze with cupids.

From the tablinum, we reach the little portico with the garden and the rustic rooms of the ground floor”.

See Maiuri, Amedeo, Herculaneum. 7th English ed, of Guide books to the Museums Galleries and Monuments of Italy, No.53 (p.46).

 

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Detail of wooden sliding gate, separating the right (west) ala from the atrium.  Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.
According to Camardo and Notomista, an extraordinary carbonized wooden sliding gate was found in the right ala dividing it from the atrium, it was restored and left in situ. The gate was surmounted by a wooden cornice with a frieze in relief. On page 228 is a photo of the gate with detail of the wooden cornice with frieze. 
The photo was taken in the 1960’s and shows that the right-hand side of the screen was reconstructed with modern wood after the damage reported from the bombing in April 1943.
See Camardo, D, and Notomista, M, eds. (2017). Ercolano: 1927-1961. L’impresa archeologico di Amedeo Maiuri e l’esperimento della citta museo. Rome, L’Erma di Bretschneider, (p.227-8, Scheda 24).

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Detail of wooden sliding gate, separating the right (west) ala from the atrium.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

According to Camardo and Notomista, an extraordinary carbonized wooden sliding gate was found in the right ala dividing it from the atrium, it was restored and left in situ. The gate was surmounted by a wooden cornice with a frieze in relief. On page 228 is a photo of the gate with detail of the wooden cornice with frieze.

The photo was taken in the 1960’s and shows that the right-hand side of the screen was reconstructed with modern wood after the damage reported from the bombing in April 1943.

See Camardo, D, and Notomista, M, eds. (2017). Ercolano: 1927-1961. L’impresa archeologico di Amedeo Maiuri e l’esperimento della citta museo. Rome, L’Erma di Bretschneider, (p.227-8, Scheda 24).

 

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking towards south-east corner of atrium, and entrance to tablinum, on right. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

V.15 Herculaneum, September 2016.

Looking towards south-east corner of atrium, and entrance to tablinum, on right.

Herculaneum Society visit. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

V.15 Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking south along entrance corridor towards atrium and across to tablinum. Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

V.15 Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking south along entrance corridor towards atrium and across to tablinum.

Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

 

Ins. V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. West side of entrance corridor, looking towards atrium.

V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. West side of entrance corridor, looking towards atrium.

 

Ins. V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. West wall of entrance corridor.

V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. West wall of entrance corridor.

 

V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. East side of entrance corridor, looking towards atrium.  The figure is standing on the south side of the atrium/or in the tablinum, with her back to the east wall. According to Guidobaldi and Esposito, the painting of Mars and Venus is to be seen on the east wall, and not the west wall (as below).
Therefore, the painting of Daedalus and Pasiphae is from the west wall.
See Guidobaldi, M.P. and Esposito, D. (2013). Herculaneum: Art of the Buried City. U.S.A, Abbeville Press, (p.247).
According to Esposito, in the middle of the west wall of the tablinum was a painting of Mars and Venus. In the middle of the east wall of the tablinum was a painting of Daedalus and Pasiphae. The photo below shows the detail of the border that was around the central painting from the east wall.
See Esposito, D. (2014). La Pittura di Ercolano.  Rome, “L’Erma” di Bretschneider, (Tav. 106) – No. 33 Studi della Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei.

V 15, Herculaneum, September 2015. East side of entrance corridor, looking towards atrium.

The figure is standing on the south side of the atrium/or in the tablinum, with her back to the east wall.

According to Guidobaldi and Esposito, the painting of Mars and Venus is to be seen on the east wall, and not the west wall (as below).

Therefore, the painting of Daedalus and Pasiphae is from the west wall.

See Guidobaldi, M.P. and Esposito, D. (2013). Herculaneum: Art of the Buried City. U.S.A, Abbeville Press, (p.247).

According to Esposito, in the middle of the west wall of the tablinum was a painting of Mars and Venus.

In the middle of the east wall of the tablinum was a painting of Daedalus and Pasiphae.

The photo below shows the detail of the border that was around the central painting from the east wall.

See Esposito, D. (2014). La Pittura di Ercolano.  Rome, “L’Erma” di Bretschneider, (Tav. 106) – No. 33 Studi della Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei.

 

Ins. V 15, Herculaneum, 1978. Detail from the east wall of the tablinum.
Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.   
Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details.
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V 15, Herculaneum, 1978. Detail from the east wall of the tablinum.

Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.  

Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details.

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V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary. Painting of Mars and Venus, with cupids.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Wallace-Hadrill.

V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary. Painting of Mars and Venus, with cupids, from east wall.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Wallace-Hadrill.

 

V.15 Herculaneum. Tablinum, medallion showing satyr and maenad, from north end of east wall. Photo by kind permission of Prof. Andrew Wallace-Hadrill.
See Wallace-Hadrill, A. (2011). Herculaneum, Past and Future. London, Frances Lincoln Ltd., p. 316.

V.15 Herculaneum. Tablinum, medallion showing satyr and maenad, from north end of east wall.

Photo by kind permission of Prof. Andrew Wallace-Hadrill.

See Wallace-Hadrill, A. (2011). Herculaneum, Past and Future. London, Frances Lincoln Ltd., p. 316.

 

Ins. V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 1964. Looking west along the north portico, and doorway into the windowed portico. Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.
Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details. J64f1159
This photo shows a portion of the upper floor, according to Deiss, the small doorway, centre top right, was the entrance to the room with the so-called “Christian oratory”.
See Deiss, J.J. (1968). Herculaneum, a city returns to the sun. UK, The History Book Club, (photograph following on from page 64).

V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 1964.

Looking west along the north portico, and doorway into the windowed portico.

Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.

Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details.

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This photo shows a portion of the upper floor, according to Deiss, the small doorway, centre top right, was the entrance to the room with the so-called “Christian oratory”.

See Deiss, J.J. (1968). Herculaneum, a city returns to the sun. UK, The History Book Club, (photograph following on from page 64).

 

Ins. V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 1964. Upper floor wall with outline of a “cross”.   Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.
Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details. J64f1158
According to Deiss, “the mark of the cross is inset in a panel of white plaster, distinctly different from the wall”.
See Deiss, J.J. (1968). Herculaneum, a city returns to the sun. UK, The History Book Club, (p. 64, and photograph following, and p. 69).  On page 36, he says – “Was it actually a cross – or a cross-shaped shelf.” 
According to the Herculaneum guidebook –  “they found a wooden cupboard near to stucco painted in a cruciform shape, on the wall.  For a long time this was wrongly regarded as a Christian symbol, whereas today, more correctly, it is recognised as the collection of the wooden elements of a cupboard or wall-mounted shelving”.
See Guidobaldi, M.P. (2009). Ercolano, guida agli scavi. Electa Napoli, (p.93).

V.15 Herculaneum, House of Bicentenary, 1964. Upper floor, plastered wall with outline of a “cross”.  

Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.

Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details.

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According to Deiss, “the mark of the cross is inset in a panel of white plaster, distinctly different from the wall”.

See Deiss, J.J. (1968). Herculaneum, a city returns to the sun. UK, The History Book Club, (p. 64, and photograph following, and p. 69).

On page 36, he says – “Was it actually a cross – or a cross-shaped shelf.”

According to the Herculaneum guidebook –

 “they found a wooden cupboard near to stucco painted in a cruciform shape, on the wall.

For a long time, this was wrongly regarded as a Christian symbol, whereas today, more correctly, it is recognised as the collection of the wooden elements of a cupboard or wall-mounted shelving”.

See Guidobaldi, M.P. (2009). Ercolano, guida agli scavi. Electa Napoli, (p.93).

 

V.15, House of Bicentenary, Herculaneum. Photo by A. D. Passmore. 
Supposed Christian altar in an upper storey room.
Used with the permission of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. File name Passmorebx7im005a Resource ID 36516.

V.15, House of Bicentenary, Herculaneum. Photo by A. D. Passmore.

Supposed Christian altar in an upper storey room.

Used with the permission of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. File name Passmorebx7im005a Resource ID 36516.

See photo on University of Oxford HEIR database

 

 

Plan of upper and lower floors