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HISTORY

Newly restored ruins lure thousands to Pompeii

Newly restored ruins in the ancient city of Pompeii, including a merchant’s luxurious dwelling, have attracted thousands of visitors to the site over the past few days.

Newly restored ruins lure thousands to Pompeii
A picture shows frescoes in the Criptoporticus Domus, one of six restored buildings. Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP

The six buildings were unveiled last Thursday after a restoration process that got underway in 2012.

Over 7,000 people visited the site on Sunday and over 6,000 on Monday.

“There were so many people, but there were no problems whatsoever, everything was civil and orderly,” Massimo Osanna, the site’s superintendent, told Ansa.

The restoration project, which was the result of a partnership between the European Commission and Italian authorities, cost some €3 million.

The six restored ruins include a fabrics business, a thermal baths area and a middle-class home.

Visitors walk inside the Criptoporticus Domus. Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP

“They offer an extraordinary glimpse into how life must have been in the Roman city in the years before the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 buried it with its ashes,” Osanna added.

Over the past few years Pompeii, one of the world’s most famous historical sites, has been hit by a series of labour disputes, while some ruins have collapsed due to severe under-funding.

The culture sector in Italy has suffered from harsh budget cuts since the start of the financial crisis in 2007.

But after the Temple of Venus and walls of a tomb collapsed amid heavy rain in March 2014, the government stepped forward and vowed to spend millions on saving the site.

Unesco also piled on the pressure in late 2013, warning that the site, located near Naples, would be scrapped from the prestigious world heritage list if Italy failed to impose Unesco-enforced measures to upgrade and maintain it.

A jubilant Matteo Renzi, Italy's prime minister, said last week: “We made news with the collapses, now we are making news with restoration.”

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HISTORY

Italian archaeologists uncover slave room at Pompeii in ‘rare’ find

Pompeii archaeologists said Saturday they have unearthed the remains of a "slave room" in an exceptionally rare find at a Roman villa destroyed by Mount Vesuvius' eruption nearly 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologists in Pompeii who discovered a room which likely housed slaves. 
Archaeologists said the newly-discovered room in Pompeii likely housed slaves charged with maintaining chariots.  Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The little room with three beds, a ceramic pot and a wooden chest was discovered during a dig at the Villa of Civita Giuliana, a suburban villa just a few hundred metres from the rest of the ancient city.

An almost intact ornate Roman chariot was discovered here at the start of this year, and archaeologists said Saturday that the room likely housed slaves charged with maintaining and prepping the chariot.

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“This is a window into the precarious reality of people who rarely appear in historical sources, written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite,” said Pompeii’s director general Gabriel Zuchtriegel.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The “unique testimony” into how “the weakest in the ancient society lived… is certainly one of the most exciting discoveries in my life as an archaeologist,” he said in a press release.

Pompeii was buried in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, killing those who hadn’t managed to leave the city in time. They were either crushed by collapsing buildings or killed by thermal shock.

The 16-square metre (170-square feet) room was a cross between a bedroom and a storeroom: as well as three beds – one of which was child sized – there were eight amphorae, stashed in a corner.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The wooden chest held metal and fabric objects that seem to be part of the harnesses of the chariot horses, and a chariot shaft was found resting on one of the beds.

The remains of three horses were found in a stable in a dig earlier this year.

“The room grants us a rare insight into the daily reality of slaves, thanks to the exceptional state of preservation of the room,” the Pompeii archaeological park said.

READ ALSO: Four civilizations in Italy that pre-date the Roman Empire

Image: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

Experts had been able to make plaster casts of the beds and other objects in perishable materials which left their imprint in the cinerite — the rock made of volcanic ash — that covered them, it said.

The beds were made of several roughly worked wooden planks, which could be adjusted according to the height of the person who used them.

The webbed bases of the beds were made of ropes, covered by blankets.

While two were around 1.7 metres long, one measured just 1.4 metres, and may therefore have belonged to a child.

The archaeological park said the three slaves may have been a family.

Archaeologists found several personal objects under the beds, including amphorae for private things, ceramic jugs and what might be a chamber pot.

The room was lit by a small upper window, and there are no traces or wall decorations, just a mark believed to have been left by a lantern hung on a wall.

“This incredible new discovery at Pompeii demonstrates that today the archaeological site has become not only one of the most desirable visitor destinations in the world, but also a place where research is carried out and new and experimental technologies are employed,” said Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.

“Thanks to this important new discovery, our knowledge of the daily life of ancient Pompeians has been enriched, particularly of that element of society about which little is known even today. Pompeii is a model of study that is unique in the world.”

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The excavation is part of a programme launched in 2017 aimed at fighting illegal activity in the area, including tunnel digging to reach artefacts that can be sold on illicit markets.

The Villa of Civita Giuliana had been the target of systematic looting for years. There was evidence some of the “archaeological heritage” in this so-called Slave Room had also been lost to looters, the park said.

Damage by grave robbers in the villa had been estimated so far at almost two million euros ($2.3 million), it added.

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