Market's of Trajan

Currently I am writing a chapter on the acoustics of particular buildings in Ostia. Ostia was the port of Rome and commerce was central to the city’s daily rhythm. The main archaeological evidence for commercial spaces are the shops that line the streets. The basic layout of the shops is a single room, sometimes an associated mezzanine room or back room, with a wide front door. The doorway was set with wooden planks held in place by grooves in the lintel and threshold. Those shops with mezzanines have corbels or other evidence for supporting wood flooring.

Despite having similar dimensions and layouts, the acoustics of the shop space has a range of RT60 measures (reverberation time). The range of RT60 values reflects the different sizes, materials and decorations of the shops. While I was in Rome a couple of weeks ago, I went to the Market’s of Trajan and tested the acoustics of several of the shops there. The measures were similar to the measures formulated for the Ostian shops however, one key difference was evident. The shops in the Market’s of Trajan did not have wooden doors in place.

The doors are the most absorptive material evident in the shops of Ostia. If there were goods, people, or other movable objects, like furniture, they would absorb much of the sound energy as well. Unfortunately, much of that evidence was cleared from the site by the early excavators of the site. Without those materials, I only have the basic physical structure of the shops to assess the acoustics. The doors absorb much of the high frequencies that were evident in the Market’s of Trajan.  Shops with mezzanines would have further wooden structures, the mezzanine floors, to absorb more of the high frequency noise.

It seems that with the doors left open, which is assumed for most of the day, these shops would have little absorptive qualities, with the exception of the goods, people and furniture that would be kept inside. This further reinforces the notion that these shops were mainly inhabited by low status, poor residents. By no means were they the poorest in the city but, apart from the shop and goods for sale, these inhabitants had little in the way of keeping out the sounds of their neighbours.

6 thoughts on “Doors

  1. Some really fascinating ideas here, Jeff. I hadn’t thought about the aspects of ancient noise within shop life as such in contrast my thoughts on areas such as lighting, ventilation, thermal regulation. Really enjoy that you were looking at the Markets of Trajan, although I believe that there is a problem with the reconstruction of the doorways being based on a single doorway found at the MoT. Been a bit since I’ve read up on that aspect, however. Concept is very much transferrable though across the now empty shops at Ostia and Pompeii. It would be interesting to known how noise was absorbed by internal furniture and fittings within the shop and mezzanines, on balconies and in courtyards contrasting that on the street. Sounds like you, Sophie Hay and I could spend a bit talking about this and related aspects! Conference? Paper? 🙂

    1. Yeah, the reconstruction of MoT is an issue, same with the reconstruction at Ostia. My project is based on Ostia so, much of the initial work pertains to shops there. I have a forthcoming chapter on the Portico di Pio IX shops along the Cardo Maximus, north of the forum in Ostia. The MoT offered a testable space. I did some preliminary acoustic tests when I was there in May to compare with the Ostia predictions I had run. There is still a lot of work to be done but, the basic architecture is there and can serve as a starting point. I haven’t gotten into furniture, as that is mostly missing from Ostia. You can add the Absorption Coefficients for furniture to measure the amount of sound absorbed. I have done some work with internal courtyards common in Ostia, as well. My next chapter deals with street architecture and noises… Conferences, yes! Paper, definitely. I also manage the Sensory Studies in Antiquity website, which has resources on broader sensory studies in the ancient world.

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