Lecture | Robert Giegengack on Vesuvius

A nice UPenn lecture on the ‘science’ side of Vesuvius and related volcanoes … here’s the blurb:

The Pompeii Lecture Series, presented in conjunction with the Franklin Institute’s new “A Day in Pompeii” exhibition, kicks off with this talk by Dr. Robert Giegengack, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Mount Vesuvius is the most active volcano in Europe and the Mediterranean; its explosive eruption in 79 CE produced a cloud of heated dust and gases that killed about 16,000 people in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the adjacent countryside. In this lecture, Dr. Giegengack discusses the history and science surrounding the eruptions of Vesuvius and other volcanoes in the Calabrian Arc.

Pompeii and Herculaneum ~ The Telegraph Coverage

Last week the Telegraph devoted a major portion of its newspaper to the upcoming Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum … I think I’ve managed to find all the links, all of which have plenty of images and all the Alastair Sooke things have videos. Some familiar names have penned most of these pieces. You can probably kill an hour or so perusing the following:

Another Wall Collapse at Pompeii

Oddly … this doesn’t seem to be getting much press attention. From the English edition of Gazzetta del Sud:

A stone wall collapsed at the Pompeii archaeological site on Friday, probably due to the wave of bad weather that is currently battering Italy. The wall was in an area of the site that had been sealed off from the public for work to make it safe. The collapse involved roughly two cubic meters of the wall, which was part of the Regio VI archeological area uncovered in the 19th century. Frescoes were not reported to be damaged. After recent collapses in the past two years, there has been growing concern about Italy’s ability to protect the 2,000-year-old site from further degradation and the impact of the local mafia, the Camorra. In April this year a wall surrounding an ancient Pompeii villa collapsed just two weeks after the Italian government launched a joint 105-million-euro project with the European Union to save the UNESCO World Heritage site. In February a yard-long piece of plaster fell off the ancient Temple of Jupiter. In late December a pillar collapsed in the garden of the House of Loreius Tiburtinus, famous for its extensive gardens and outdoor ornamentation, in particular its Euripi, fountains that feature many frescoes and statuettes. In November 2010 there was a collapse in the House of the Gladiators which drew criticism from UNESCO and the European Union. It was followed soon after by a collapse at the famed House of the Moralist, spurring further criticism from international conservation groups. In October 2010 there were another three minor cave-ins, including one at the House of Diomedes, after a fresh bout of heavy rain and an outcry when an eight-square-metre section of a wall fell near the Nola Gate. Pompeii was destroyed when a volcanic eruption from nearby Mount Vesuvius buried the city in ash in 79 AD and it now attracts more than two million visitors a year. Polemics about looting, stray dogs, structural decay and poor maintenance have dogged Pompeii in recent years.

I can’t find any photos of the collapse, for some reason. Whatever the case, what’s even more interesting is that just a scant couple of weeks ago, UPI was reporting:

Deterioration at the ancient city of Pompeii has been exaggerated by the media and efforts to protect the site are making progress, Italian officials say.

Recent collapses of structures have resulted in growing concern about Italy’s ability to protect the 2,000-year-old site from further degradation, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported.

“Problems exist at Pompeii but they have been exaggerated by negative journalists,” Teresa Elena Cinquantaquattro, Special Archaeological Superintendent for Naples and Pompeii, told ANSA. [...]

Not sure if this will work, but here’s a ‘search link’ to all the instances of the word ‘collapse’ at rogueclassicism … I’ll let you decide whether we’re ‘exaggerating’ (and I have difficulties wrapping my head around the ideas of a ‘wall collapsing’ and the concept of ‘exaggeration’ … sorry).

Solomon, Socrates, and Aristotle in Pompeii?

Yesterday my mailbox metaphorically ‘dinged’ and what was in it was an item from a couple of years ago which was in one of the 2008 issues of Biblical Archaeology Review. It claims that a wall painting in the House of the Physician at Pompeii depicts Solomon, Socrates, and Aristotle sitting in judgement, yadda yadda, yadda … you can read it here for yourself:

… and, of course, it is being touted (again) as the earliest depiction of a scene from the Bible. When one looks at the thing up close, however, it is a pretty sketchy claim and Dorothy King more-than-adequately shot this one down a year or so ago:

That recent papyrus thing (Another Papyrus ~ Implications for the Ancient Novel?) might also somehow be an influence here …

Some Pompeii Stuff

We’ll start with a video  from the BBC and with a focus on what the people died from:

… and then remind folks of a Scientific American blog on the subject (which includes another one of our fave videos):

… and now that you’re interested (as if you weren’t), we’ll remind folks of the Ancient World Open Bibliography on the subject:

… and in case you didn’t see it in the Scientific American thing up there:

ED: Vesuvian Archaeology Courses

I’ve seen this one in various places (this particular text is via the Classicists list):

New courses for university students: Discover the ancient Romans in the shadow of Vesuvius!

The Herculaneum Centre www.herculaneumcentre.org  is very pleased to announce the launch of a new series of university-level courses related to Vesuvian archaeology that will take place in September 2012 and March 2013, with learning mostly taking place at the sites themselves.

The Vesuvian Archaeology Study Programme has been specifically designed to meet the needs of university students. The programme content is suitable for students of Roman history, archaeology, architecture, history of art and material culture. Students of heritage management and conservation will find the programme offers stimulating case studies that explore the role archaeological sites play in the modern world and the challenges of conserving them.

Participants will visit Pompeii, Herculaneum and Oplontis, lesser known sites such as Villa Sora, as well as exploring the Vesuvius National Park and the National Archaeology Museum in Naples. This rich programme will be led by Dr Joanne Berry, scholar and author of The Complete Pompeii (Thames and Hudson, 2007) and founder of Blogging Pompeii, with input from a range of other scholars and practitioners active in the field.

We bring together the best of our three partners: the Comune di Ercolano (the town council) offers us a network of local partners and resources, the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei (the local heritage authority) ties us to the archaeological site which is used as an open-air classroom, and the British School at Rome offers connections to international and research communities.

Details of the courses can be found at www.herculaneumcentre.org, and a leaflet and application form are available to be downloaded on the British School at Rome website http://www.bsr.ac.uk/courses-for-university-students-shadow-of-vesuvius.

Please forward this information to your students!

Another Wall Collapse at Pompeii

Not sure whether this will make it out of the Italian press … the La Repubblica coverage briefly mentions the collapse of an interior wall of a house without one of those fancy schmancy names in Regio V … the area wasn’t open to the public:

Ancora un crollo all’interno degli Scavi di Pompei. L’ennesimo cedimento nel sito archeologico più grande del mondo è avvenuto ieri pomeriggio. Ha riguardato una parte non estesa di un muro di cinta all’interno di una domus senza nome della Regio V. L’area era stata già interdetta al pubblico.

La Soprintendenza Archeologica Speciale di Napoli e Pompei ha confermato il cedimento del muro – di età romana, intonacato. L’area in cui il muro è crollato sarà oggetto di bandi per il restauro. «Stiamo lavorando per la messa in sicurezza anche in questa zona», dice la soprintendente archeologa di Napoli e Pompei, Teresa Elena Cinquantaquattro, che ha redatto un’informativa sul cedimento. Una relazione è stata inviata anche ai carabinieri.

Nei giorni scorsi il Napoletano è stato flagellato da piogge abbondanti che sono probabilmente tra le concause del cedimento.

via: Pompei, ancora un crollo all’interno degli Scavi (La Repubblica)

More coverage:

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem ix kalendas septembres

A map showing the cities and towns affected by...
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ante diem ix kalendas septembres

  • rites in honour of Luna at the Graecostasis
  • mundus patet — the mundus was a ritual pit which had a sort of vaulted cover on it. Three times a year the Romans removed this cover (August 24, Oct. 5 and November eighth) at which time the gates of the underworld were considered to be opened and the manes (spirits of the dead) were free to walk the streets of Rome.
  • 72 A.D. — martyrdom of Batholomew at Albanopolis
  • 79 A.D. — Vesuvius erupts, burying Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae
  • 410 A.D. — Alaric sacks Rome
  • 1971 — death of Carl Blegen (excavator of Pylos)
  • 1997 — death of Philip Vellacott

Pompeiian Pigments

Potentially of interest to someone … here’s the abstract (the article itself is payfer, of course):

Powdered pigments found in bowls from the Pompeii archaeological site and some wall-painting fragments from the Vesuvian area (conserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples) were investigated by microscopic Raman and FTIR spectroscopies, X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray. Brown, red and yellow pigments are common ochres based on goethite and haematite. The blue pigment is Egyptian blue: the presence of tridymite and cristobalite indicates firing temperatures in the 1000-1100 °C range. Pink pigments were prepared both with purely inorganic materials, by mixing haematite and Egyptian blue (violet hue), or presumably by adding an organic dye to an aluminium-silica matrix. A white powder found in a bowl is composed mainly of the unusual pigment huntite (CaMg3(CO3)4). Celadonite is found in the green samples from the wall paintings, together with Egyptian blue and basic lead carbonate, while the heterogeneous green pigment in a bowl shows malachite mixed with goethite, Egyptian blue, haematite, carbon, cerussite and quartz.

There’s a somewhat longer summary at Volcanic spectroscopy (not sure how that’s affiliated with the journal)

Pompeii Sound and Light Show

I’m not a big fan of these sorts of things (outside, maybe, Disneyland vel simm) and their attendant unreality and light pollution, but perhaps someone amongst our readers likes them … from ANSA:

This year’s sound-and-light tours at Pompeii promise to be the most spectacular yet, organisers said Wednesday.

“There’ll be completely new content and effects,” said the head of the Naples Tourist Board, Dario Scalabrini.

“The show will be even more atmospheric, with a great potential for attracting all kinds of visitors,” he said.

Among the novelties of the night-time event, which has been dubbed Pompeii Moons, will be a visit to the so-called Fugitives Orchard where the most famous plaster casts of people vainly fleeing volcanic ash were made.

Visitors will also enjoy a new computer recreation of the ancient city and meet “a curious character, voiced by actor Luca Ward, who will accompany tourists on their special journey,” Scalabrini said. Pompeii Moons runs from the upcoming weekend, May 7-9, until the last weekend in October, he said.

The shows, Italy’s first-ever ‘son-et-lumiere’ tours, kicked off to immediate acclaim in 2002 and have proved a big hit ever since.

The one-hour tours in Italian, English and Japanese have a special soundtrack synchronised with the light show and mingling ambient noise with a narrative voice illustrating the various highlights.

They climax in the Forum with a dramatic video re-enactment of the catastrophic eruption that buried the city in 79 AD.

Unlike other son-et-lumiere tours in Italy and abroad, the initiative offers visitors not just a simple show but a stroll through the digs that reveals an ”unusual, poetic side” of the ancient city, organisers say.

The tour kicks off at the Terme Suburbane, a once-neglected district that has become a big draw for its frescoes graphically depicting a variety of sex acts – presumed to be an illustration of the services on offer at the local brothel.

It then winds its way up the main road, pointing out the curious cart ruts, craftsmen’s shops and famous villas.

The grand finale comes in the heart of the old city, the forum, when four giant projectors beam a special- effects-laden video reconstruction of the wrath of the volcano Vesuvius, which smothered the city and its lesser-known but equally fascinating neighbour Herculaneum in ash and cinders.

via Sound and light return to Pompeii | ANSA.it.

Later coverage of the ‘light show’ seems to be stressing the X rated side of things: