This talk was organized by the St. Stephen’s Lyceum, our Institute of Roman Culture which organizes guided tours of cultural sights led by current faculty and lectures given by visiting scholars.
The talk was entitled, “An Archaeology for the Five Senses: Sniffing Around the Ruins of Pompeii, Ostia, and Rome.” Professor Kolosky-Ostrow’s research on this topic is part of her forthcoming publication, Making Sense of Pompeii and Herculaneum: Daily Life and the Sensorium of the Roman City (Cambridge University Press.)
Through her research, Professor Kolosky-Ostrow has discovered that excavating the smells of the Ancient World can tell us a lot about how Roman cities functioned and what it was like to live in cities such as Rome, Ostia, Pompeii, and Herculaneum. The talk was full of surprises. For example, we know that the Romans embedded finely constructed sewer systems in many of their cities and we, modern people, might assume that these sewers were used for sanitation. The archaeological evidence, however, tells a different story. The sewers’ primary function was to drain water from low lying areas of the city when the rivers flooded (which happened frequently in Rome), providing protection from flooding.