DIY was all the rage in Pompeii

IF ROME wasn't built in a day, the residents of Pompeii were even more methodical about their city's construction. New excavations of the ruins of the southern Italian city, destroyed by volcano in AD79, suggest that Pompeii man was the original DIY enthusiast.

Far from indulging in wine, women and song, it appears that the average resident of Pompeii was, in fact, a house-proud, toga-clad version of New Man. Devoted to pouring his hard-earned savings into his house, he would expand his kitchen, build that loft extension - and even buy up the house next door. Remains uncovered recently suggest that home improvements were in progress right up to the point when Mount Vesuvius blew its top.

The findings, established by a team of Anglo-American archaeologists from several universities, are based on excavations at a property known as the House of Vestals. The owner is believed to have been a wealthy politician or merchant. A major earthquake several years earlier, which had damaged many buildings in the port, had not deterred him - presumably it was easier to get buildings and contents insurance in those days.

The archaeologists found six major phases of building work at the house, with several minor alterations in between. According to Fiona Robertson, a PhD student at Bradford University who took part in the excavations, the owner was clearly a DIY enthusiast who, if alive today, would happily spend his weekends driving between the garden centre and B&Q or Homebase. "A Roman ramp, which was uncovered at the back of the house, looks just like the sort of thing used to push wheelbarrows up nowadays," she said. "Rooms at the back of the house were clearly in the process of being renovated."

In an all-too-familiar tale, the owner had to replace and improve DIY attempts made by his predecessors up to 180 years before. "Around 100BC the house was expanded into neighbouring properties and early in the first century AD more money was poured in to carry out home improvements," she said. "They converted a kitchen into a living room or play room, added an extension, did some re-pointing and built a swimming pool in the garden - much the sort of thing people do today."

And did Pompeii man live amid the dust and debris or move out during the building work, giving free rein to the builders, only to blow his top, Vesuvius style, when the revised bill was wildly over the original estimate? The answer lies in the remains of snails in the house.

Snails are sensitive to small changes in temperature and preferred the open, damp conditions when the builders were in to the warmer atmosphere created when the family was at home. "As you go down different levels of excavations if you find no more than a few snails, it's reasonable to assume the family was living in the house at the time," Miss Robertson said. "But if you find a healthy population, there's a strong possibility the family had moved out while the builders were in." Romans were scrupulous with their house cleaning, explained Miss Robertson. "If they had lived in the house during the excavations they would have been cleaning up and sweeping away fungus and damp - the snails wouldn't have liked that."

The citizens of Pompeii were keen on DIY because houses were great status symbols. "Open space was at a premium," she said. "The Romans used their houses to do their entertaining. They would have fountains and mosaics in them depicting gardens to make them look bigger than they were. "This particular family had clearly come into a lot of money. They were building a swimming pool and other extensive work at the same time."

Experts think the people of Pompeii were so keen on DIY because the changing role of the port led to new roles for the buildings. "Pompeii was originally a sea-side resort and then became an important frontier town," said Miss Robertson. "As the empire expanded the frontier went further south and Pompeii became a far more attractive place to live as wealthy merchants funded lots of development."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall