Researchers at Pompeii, the city buried under a thick carpet of volcanic ash when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, have found that huge mounds of refuse apparently dumped outside the city walls were in fact “staging grounds for cycles of use and reuse”.
Professor Allison Emmerson, an American academic who is part of a large team working at Pompeii, said rubbish was piled up along almost the entire external wall on the city’s northern side, among other sites. Some of the mounds were several metres high and included bits of ceramic and plaster, which could be repurposed as construction materials.
With fellow archaeologists Steven Ellis and Kevin Dicus, who worked on the University of Cincinnati’s excavations, Emmerson has studied how the ancient city was constructed. “We found that part of the city was built out of trash. The piles outside the walls weren’t material that’s been dumped to get rid of it. They’re outside the walls being collected and sorted to be resold inside the walls.”