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The small cornerstones and centralized stones revisited
Van der Meer has suggested that the small cornerstones and centralized stones had a decorative purpose. There are only a few buildings however where this could clearly have been the case, especially the House of the Lararium (I,IX,3) and the Horrea Epagathiana (I,VIII,3). Here many stones can be seen in the interior and exterior. In the former building travertine springers were also used. A candidate for decorative use might also be an apartment, later changed to a domus: the Domus del Pozzo (V,III,3). The apartment had a monumental entrance with travertine. But it is curious that two times three cornerstones are in the jambs of the entrance of a shop that was the northernmost room of the apartment ...
There are many characteristics that contradict Van der Meer's hypothesis:
- Sometimes an entire porticus contains stones, but in many cases the stones were not used systematically, throughout the building. Only a single spot or only a single entrance in a building may contain stones. Only a few of the many exterior staircases in the city have stones. A good example of this restrictive use is the large complex of the Garden Houses (III,IX), where blocks are found only in two vestibules and a single room.
- The majority of the stones is found in buildings with a commercial function, such as store buildings and shops. The apartment mentioned above is the only medianum apartment with stones.
- The stones were sometimes used in very simple buildings or rooms.
- Often the stones have unique features, such as holes in which metal objects were inserted, and vertical grooves in travertine bases below the stones, the grooves being exactly below holes in the stones. Stones inside buildings are very rare. In one of the few cases where they are found in the interior they are combined with four curious and unique holes (House of the Wooden Balcony (I,II,2.6)).
- The centralized stones do not catch the eye. You see them when you know they are there, otherwise they may easily be overlooked.
On the next pages the stones will be described in detail and their possible functions will be investigated. The stones have been numbered, beginning with number 100. I will attack the stones with the following preliminary conclusions and hypotheses:
- There is a significant clustering of buildings with cornerstones and centralized stones.
- Long rows of centralized stones were markers, indicating a route for people arriving at Ostia by ship (apparently to horrea for self-storage).
- Cornerstones with a smooth surface were markers, indicating important buildings for people arriving at Ostia by ship.
- There are meaningful patterns in the height from the street of the cornerstones, such as high-low in left jamb and low in right jamb.
- Many stones have holes and in many of these holes are remains of iron, fastened with a lead plug. Most of the iron has disappeared, but in the Baths of Buticosus (I,XIV,8) two iron hooks have been preserved. Presumably ropes, or perhaps chains, were attached to the hooks.
- When blocks were used for the fastening of ropes, they did not serve as markers, or this was a secondary function only.
- Stones used for the fastening of ropes were relevant for the inhabitants of Ostia and for visitors of the city (coming from Rome or arriving by ship) - contrary to the other stones, that were not relevant for the inhabitants of Ostia.