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House of Wooden Partition in Herculeanum

University of Bologna Team Leader: F. Ubertini.

University of Bologna Research Group: F. Ubertini, G. Pascale, C. Colla, S. de Miranda, L. Molari, G. Castellazzi

Partner/Collaborations: Sopraintendenza Archeologica di Pompei, ATS-Advanced Technical System s.r.l., IDS-Ingegneria dei Sistemi s.p.a. (PI), Consorzio CETMA (BR), LARM (Unibo).

Context and objectives

Within the archaeological site of Herculaneum, the facade of the House of the Wooden Partition (Insula III, 11) constitutes an element of great visual impact (extends for several meters in length and is about 8 meters high) and structural interest (Fig.1).

The façade is a masonry wall built mainly in volcanic stone, highly inhomogeneous in terms of visible masonry patterns (opus reticulatum, latericium, vittatum mixtum, and quadratum).

The plaster covers great part of the external side of the wall, thus hindering sight of the masonry. The plaster layer is irregular, very thick (from 4 to 10-12 cm in thickness) and is characterized by large detachments from the masonry.

Characteristics of interest are its dimensions, surface deformations in the form of convexities and evident out of plane, together with the an evident crack pattern. Moreover, it presents a very variegated scenario in terms of building materials, masonry construction techniques and health state.

Methodologies and equipment

The research approach to this construction has been focused on three main streams.
On one hand various types of surveys have been conducted on site, at different levels of detail. These have included the geometric survey, the material and masonry pattern survey (Fig.2), the decay surveys, and crack pattern survey.
Then, in order to scan below the material surface, investigate the quality of masonry and map defects and inhomogeneities, several NDT techniques have been applied on site in the present case study. These were ground-penetrating radar, sonics, impact-echo and thermography.
Finally, a Finite element modelling has been carried out, a first initial 2D model of the facede has been developed but the out of plane claims a 3D model of the façade.


The employed NDT techniques based on different physical principles have shown to be well suited for a combined and comparative use of outcome results for the aims of the structural diagnostic, enhancing the degree of information that could be obtained by using separately the different techniques Some figures are reported as example of the identification of the different masonry patterns and the identifications of hidden metal anchors (Fig. 3).

The results of 3D model taking into account the dead loads have shown a crack pattern quite close to the actual one (Fig. 4). The model has allowed to simulate the behaviour of the construction in particular events like hearthquake.