Wednesday 15 December 2010

Article: Pompeii’s Problems Reflect Longstanding Neglect

An article from this week's New York Times is a bit more sensible than most:
Pompeii’s Problems Reflect Longstanding Neglect
POMPEII, Italy — Is Pompeii crumbling?
So it would seem, judging from the media maelstrom about several recent collapses at the ancient ruins here, including that of the Schola Armaturarum, a spacious hall used by a military association before it was engulfed with the rest of the city by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
A long tract on the north side of the Via dell’Abbondanza — a commercial hub of this formerly prosperous Roman city — is blocked by metal barriers, and some buildings are propped up with scaffolding as a precautionary measure. Rubble sits on the road where the Schola Armaturarum stood, a remnant of the 1947 restoration that shored up the building after it was damaged by Allied bombing during World War II.
The collapses at Pompeii have become a metaphor for Italy’s political instability and its inability to care for its cultural heritage. There have been calls for the resignation of the culture minister, Sandro Bondi, and investigators are beginning to address questions about the management of recent restoration efforts. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco, sent a team of experts this month to examine the damage at Pompeii, a World Heritage site, and the findings are to be presented at a conference in June in Bahrain.
“Pompeii is fragile,” said Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, an archaeologist who supervised the site for the Culture Ministry from 1994 to 2009. “There’s the type of construction, the shock of Vesuvius, the fact that it was buried for centuries in acidy terrain that ate away at the mortar.”
The pounding rains that soaked parts of Italy this fall were also a factor, he said, though far from the only one. “The rain merely drew attention to a state of neglect that has dragged on for years,” Mr. Guzzo said. “Ordinary maintenance and programmed conservation are not carried out at Pompeii. That is the problem.”
Continue reading the article here.

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