By Mark Church:
The uncertain future of Pompeii’s extraordinary ruins
6 March 2012
Pompeii, south of Naples, is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, offering a unique glimpse of ancient Roman life. Along with neighbouring locations, the entire town was buried in AD 79 under metres of ash and rock from the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, creating a virtual time capsule. Lost for centuries, Pompeii was discovered and excavated from 1749, opening up a new understanding of the Roman world. However, the future of the site has been placed in great danger. Years of under-funding and over-exploitation have begun to take their toll, leading to widespread degradation and even the collapse of parts of the ruins.
The Pompeii site covers the remains of a town with a population that possibly reached 20,000. It is 163 acres in size, with 109 acres excavated and another third of the town still buried. The level of preservation is unparalleled. Artworks, sculptures and even carbonised papyri scrolls are intact. The layout is complete, allowing archaeologists and visitors to explore the virtually untouched ruins of a 2,000-year-old town. Pompeii has left behind a vast cultural and historical legacy, influencing modern art and film as well as cultural depictions of the Romans. In 1997, the site was placed on the World Heritage List due to its exceptional preservation of the ancient world.
Yet, despite its historical and cultural importance, the town has been allowed to slowly decay. Efforts to protect the site have often been limited in their scope and lacking in adequate funds. Above all, the problem stems from the desire of successive Italian governments and local administrations to exploit Pompeii as a source of revenue. Bureaucratic red tape, poor archaeological methods, improper restoration techniques and natural erosion have been identified as other major concerns. The main danger, however, is the over-exploitation of the town for commercial purposes.
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- Italian Bureaucracy Threatens Pompeii (nytimes.com)
- The mafia left Naples in ruins. Can they do the same to Pompeii? (independent.co.uk)
- Review of the Roman Finds Group Conference, Spring 2013 (findsandfeatures.wordpress.com)
- Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum – review (guardian.co.uk)
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- ‘City’s Roman remains rival Pompeii’: Experts marvel at treasures found in excavations for new office block (standard.co.uk)