From Fullonicae to Gualchiera.
The “punching down” process consisted of beating the cloth to make the fabric
more robust and waterproof. The fabric was also degreased during this phase and
then cleaned by the dirt residue that accumulated during the spinning, weaving
work and, also by animal fat residues.
Short excursus on Stephanus’ Fullonica.
Among the ruins of Pompeii you can visit the remains of a famous fullonica: The
fullonica of Stephanus , whose excavations date back to 1912-1913.
It is not yet clear whether Stephanus was the owner or manager of this building;
the fact is that after the excavations, following the eruption of 79 AD, a skeleton
(that is thought to be Stephanus) was found near the entrance, carrying
a pile of coins worth 1089.5 sesterces ( just over 10,000 euros).
The building is a two floor structure: the lower floor intended for work; the upper
floor which, in addition to being inhabited, provided a terrace, where the clothes
could be hung and dried.
The tanks found here were used for washing and beating the clothes. There are
steps that allowed launderers, or fullones, to go up there.
Almost all slaves who owned by Stephanus were made to step on fabric and
clothes for hours in water and soda (soap did not yet exist). The liquid had to be
alkaline, therefore animal and human urine was put in the mixture.