, Italy — Destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, Pompeii survived excavation starting in the 18th century and has stoically borne the wear and tear of millions of modern-day tourists.
But now, its deep-hued frescoes, brick walls and elegant tile mosaics appear to be at risk from an even greater threat: the bureaucracy of the Italian state.
In recent years, collapses at the site have alarmed conservationists, who warn that this ancient Roman city is dangerously exposed to the elements — and is poorly served by the red tape, the lack of strategic planning and the limited personnel of the site’s troubled management.
The site’s decline has captured the attention of the European Union, which began a $137 million effort in February that aims to balance preservation with accessibility to tourists. Read more.
More than 2,500 years after tiny infant bones were scattered, perhaps offhandedly, amid animal remains on the floor of an Etruscan workshop, recently-discovered fragments of those bones are causing a stir far beyond Italy’s Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project.
University of Massachusetts Amherst archaeologist Anthony Tuck recently told an Archaeological Institute America annual meeting in Seattle that the bones discovered in the ancient Etruscan town of Poggio Civitate were “simply either left on the floor of the workshop or ended up in an area with a heavy concentration of other discarded remains of butchered animals.”
It is an image that has, in ensuing weeks, resonated powerfully, if not always accurately, in the international press as everyone from religious fundamentalists to luridly invasive tabloids has scrambled to assemble narratives for the baby bones that might be either more or less appalling to modern sensibilities – narratives, notes Tuck, that tell us more about ourselves than they do about perinatal death in ancient Italy. Read more.
POMPEII, Italy — Conservation workers at the long-neglected Roman city of Pompeii began a 105-million euro ($142-million) makeover partly funded by the EU on Wednesday, a day after former site managers were put under investigation for corruption.
The project, which is being funded to the tune of 41.8 million euros from the European Union and is to be completed by 2015, is seen as crucial for the survival of Pompeii after a series of collapses at the 44-hectare site in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.
The giant erupting volcano devastated Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago in 79 AD but the ash and rock helped preserve many buildings almost in their original state, as well as forming eery shapes around the curled-up corpses of victims of the disaster. Read more.
When archaeologists announced the discovery of the tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus in Rome in 2008, the find was heralded as the most important in decades. Built in the shape of a temple, with tall fluted columns and an intricately carved sarcophagus, it was the final resting place for the Roman general who served as inspiration for Russell Crowe‘s character in the movie Gladiator, unearthed a the site of a planned housing project some 1,800 years after its construction.
In contrast, the December 2012 announcement regarding the tomb was much more muted. Italy’s cash-strapped ministry of culture declared it was unable to find the several million euros that would be required to protect the ruins and turn them into a tourist attraction. Instead, the Gladiator’s Tomb, as the site has come to be known, would likely have to be buried once again. Read more.
The site got attention when a farmer’s plough churned up an armless, headless marble statue of the Roman god Venus, an unexpected find in an area largely agricultural. It was found in an area that had been little explored by archaeologists, making the find all the more exciting for scholars looking for virgin territory to conduct research in a country wherein the vestiges of ancient history have been comparatively picked over for centuries.
Located near the slopes of the instinct volcano Monte Vulture in the Basilicata region of south-central Italy, the archaeological site of Torre Degli Embrici and its environs (referred to as the “Vulture or Rionero/Atella zone”) are the focus of new investigations by a team of archaeologists from various universities, including the University of Alberta, Canada and the University of Sydney, Australia. Read more.
TOLEDO — The Toledo Museum of art has handed over a rare jug to the Italian government that was illegally dug up in the country.
The US government was there as the museum gave the ancient jug back to the Italians on Tuesday.
It had been on display at the Toledo Museum since 1982 when it was purchased from an antiquities dealer out of Switzerland.
Authorities believe the artifact was probably illegally excavated in Italy, smuggled to Switzerland and given a forged record of ownership. Read more.
Medicinal tablets retrieved from a 2000-year-old shipwreck suggest that classical Mediterranean civilizations had sophisticated drugs.
Around 130 B.C.E., a merchant ship sank just off the coast of Italy’s Tuscany region. The wreck was spotted in 1974 and dubbed the Relitto del Pozzino after the beach near where it was found. Archaeological excavations in 1989 and 1990 yielded glass bowls, amphoras for carrying wine, lamps, and tin and bronze vessels all likely to have come from the eastern Mediterranean.
There were also artifacts presumably contained in a wooden chest that had rotted away: wooden vials, a cup possibly used for blood-letting, and other objects likely to have been found in an ancient physician’s medical bag. Read more.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Over the summer, a team of faculty and students from the University of Kentucky discovered evidence of not just one lost community, but two in northern Italy. Using their archaeological expertise and modern technology, data was collected indicating the existence of a Roman settlement and below that, a possible prehistoric site.
Many years ago, archaeologist and art historian Paolo Visonà, a native of northern Italy and adjunct associate professor of art history in the UK School of Art and Visual Studies at the UK College of Fine Arts, first learned of a possible ancient settlement from a farmer in Valbruna, near the village of Tezze di Arzignano. While working his family’s land, Battista Carlotto had discovered artifacts that looked to Visonà like ceramics, mosaic, and glass of the Roman Empire. Read more.