A philosopher on excavation: Dana Zentgraf and the ancient gardens of Pompeii

2022_09_08_ROOTS Website_Dana Zentgraf in Pompeii_Photo
Dana Zentgraf excavating the garden area of the Casa della Regina Carolina. Photo: Yuhan Ji

In July and early August, Dana Zentgraf, PhD candidate of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS at the Department of Philosophy of Kiel University and a member of the “ROOTS Reflective Turn”, participated in the Casa della Regina Carolina Project (CRC) at the Parco Archeologico di Pompei (link). For the trained philosopher, the CRC project was a great opportunity to experience archaeology in action for the first time. In spite of the extreme heat, working in the field turned out to be a great source of additional information to complement her mainly theoretical philosophical work on ancient Roman texts on gardening. Highly inspiring was the possibility to experience the methods of garden archaeology first-hand, which call for detailed documentation, foreseeing sampling, and experiencing texture and colour of the soil while removing each layer. Oscillating between preserving and destroying, this process can only be understood during the work process. Especially in garden archaeology, where features such as trampled soil or sandy remains of planting beds are highly important, an ‘epistemology of destruction’ is necessary.   

Led by Dr. Caitlín Barrett (Cornell University), Dr. Kathryn Gleason (Cornell University) and Dr. Annalisa Marzano (University of Reading), the CRC project started in 2019 and investigates the house of Queen Regina and its garden area. The relationships between domestic material culture, social performance, and historical change are the core research foci of this study. The 2022 excavation season in the garden area of the house revealed new insights into the design of the garden and the activities that were performed inside it as well as its connection to the house itself and to individual architectural features, for example, the garden shrine. The multi-disciplinary approach of the CRC project includes, among other methods, faunal and botanical analysis as well as survey and mapping to reconstruct an image of the garden and its history as complete as possible. 

Further information about the CRC project at: link


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions