Cities of Vesuvius - Pompeii and Herculaneum

- Syllabus Content -

A new article critical of the way Pompeii is care for:
The Wrong Way for Pompeii, Ingrid D Rowland

pompeii_viva_logo.jpgIssues of conservation and reconstruction

Building collapses in Pompeii
On 6 November 2010 the Schola Armaturarum Iuventutis Pompeianae (III.3.6) collapsed. This building is commonly called the School of the Gladiators or incorrectly the House of the Gladiators (which is V.5.3). Below is a photo of Via dell'Abbondanza in 2008 showing the Schola on the right. Next to it is a media photo after the collapse of the building.

Interview with Andrew Wallace-Hadrill on Vatican Radio, 3 December 2010.
The Problems Relating to the Management & Excavations of the Archaeological Ruins of Herculaneum / Pompeii as Reported in Foreign Press: The New York Times, The Times (London) & The Washington Post (1904-2002)

Italian and international contributions and responsibilities

See text pp. 190-196 “The second death of Pompeii and Herculaneum”; “Preservation, Restoration and Conservation”

The care of Pompeii, and the custodianship of the body responsible for its care, was put in the spotlight at the end of 2010 with the collapse of some buildings in Pompeii.

The main body responsible for the Vesuvian sites is the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei. A significant project is the Herculaneum Conservation Project.

The Soprintendenza

The Soprintendenza Archeologica has two websites: the first is old website outlining the sites and some work being done on them. The second is the new PompeiViva website, which outlines the projects which are part of this new initiative.
The first site is:

The Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei is a decentralised organ of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali with responsibilities for the safeguarding and enhancement of the cultural heritage. Since 1998... it has been autonomous in all financial, administrative, organizational and scientific matters.
The Soprintendenza has responsibility for a territory made up of 23 Comunes in the Vesuvian area and runs four archaeological sites (Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae, Oplontis) and a museum (Boscoreale) all open to the public.

If you got there and click on “Work in Progress”, you will see that the site has not been updated since August 2008. There are some projects listed:
• The visual fortune of Pompeii (Archives of texts and images between the 18th and the 19th century)
• Restorations
• Architectonical Survey of the Foro Civile of Pompeii with 3D Laser-Scanner Technology
• The mosaic of Alexander
• The Statue of Marcus Nonius Balbus comes back to its original position at Herculaneum
• Pompeii - A Different Perspective

In the restorations section, there are very limited examples of restoration work and nothing covering the whole site. There are: House of the Painters - the restoration of the two stolen frescoes; Restoration of the paintings of some shops in via dell'Abbondanza in Pompeii; The Lupanare; and a restoration on line.

The second site is:

This seems to be the new official site, and contains all the information of the old site, plus newer updates. The name of the site, and the recent developments in Pompeii, reflects the new focus of the organisation: to attract more visitors and to provide an “experience” for the visitor. Go to the “Exhibitions and Events” and make some notes on the “Domus di Giulio Polibio” and the “Site-event of the Casti Amanti”.

The Herculaneum Conservation Project

One of the important roles of the Soprintendenza is to coordinate international projects of research and/or conservation. One of the most high-profile of these is the Herculaneum Conservation Project.

Go to the HCP website and make some notes on the aims and objectives of the project and some examples of its conservation work.

Herculaneum Conservation Project

ABC Radio National: Artworks - "This past European summer Julie Copeland travelled to the site of Herculaneum for Artworks, where she was shown around by the director, Andrew Wallace Hadrill."
See Candice Hughes' article: "Chances to see Pompeii dwindling..."
Conservation issues at Pompeii and Herculaneum, at
A good summary of conservation issues from Camden High School
Article by Henri de Saint-Blanquat (at your own Vico wiki site)
Number of visitors to the sites in 2007.

Impact of tourism


The Second Death of Pompeii and Herculaneum

"To dig is to destroy".
"... an abrupt change in the environment which causes a series of devastating changes in structures and objects." (E. Pye, Caring for the Past, p 23)
"[mortar] crumbles aesily... and can be eroded by the wind... it encourages rising damp, which damages the painted murals." (H. de Saint-Blanquat, in R. Etienne, The Day a City Died, pp 202-3)
Damage caused by rising damp

Long term neglect: 1957 inventory of murals (Karl Schefold) - one third faded completely. By late 1970s, half of those remaining had been lost.
Failed restoration and conservation: softwood lintels over doors; iron armatures in concrete; frescoes damaged by use of modern materials.
Vandalism and theft: 1977 - 14 frescoes cut from walls of the House of the Gladiators
Allied bombing in 1943
Earthquake in 1980
Weather: light causes fading of frescoes; acid rain; winter rain
Growth of weeds, algae and lichen
Bird droppings
Impact of tourists
Crime syndicates

Many of these points are made in an article by Henri de Saint-Blanquat in Sciences et Avenir, no.469, March 1986. Pamela Bradley uses this article extensively. I have put the whole article on a separate page for you to read. Click here.
Overgrown peristyle in Vicolo dei Vettii

Weeds growing from the top of a wall

weeds growing into a wall - Vivolo Storto

Herculaneum Conservation Project

The HCP is a project of the Packard Humanities Institute in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei and the British School at Rome. The BSR was founded in 1901 - it receives financial support from the British government through the British Academy, sponsorship and bequests.

Notes from a lecture by Andrew Wallace-Hadrill

“The Herculaneum Conservation Project”
Director of British School at Rome.
Herculaneum - in many places there are remains of three levels across the site.
What survives uniquely at Herculaneum and not at Pompeii:
  • upper stories
  • organic material preserved at Herculaneum. eg wooden shrines, wooden clothes chest, bread (with bronze stamps with which the baker put his name on the bread), papyri, wooden tablets from at least eight houses - legal and business documents.
Only about 1000 citizens in the town and there are fragments which provide the names of 500 of them)
History of Excavation.
Began in 1738 (the longest running dig anywhere) under Charles (1734 - missed the date). earliest excavation was digging tunnels and visitors went in with torches.
Villa of Papyri, Theatre and Basilica were tunnelled in the 18th C.
Later Herculaneum was neglected until Amadeo Maiuri from 1921. The excavations we see today were mostly done under him (using the techniques of the time). As they excavated, they reconstructed missing parts, eg tops of columns and roofs. It was the only way to preserve at the time.
Should further rexcavation take place? Not unless you can preserve what you find - frescoes have fallen apart, wooden parts crumbled. Not unless you keep out the pigeons.
The work of the Herculaneum Conservation Project is Packard Humanities + Soprintendenza + British School at Rome.
There has been much neglect of Herculaneum. Ordinary maintenance: cleaning drains, temporary roofing solutions.
Do we need new excavations to make important new discoveries? Used the example of work that had already been done but incomplete and forgotten - finding how the drains worked in ancient times. Found a drain running the length of Insula Orientalis - excavated it - found much Roman waste including pots and bits of pottery. Specific sewer pipes related to specific latrines in houses. The remains don’t flow away so you can relate specific waste to specific houses.