Since the Re-discovery

Excavators and Archaeologists

Charles III

Carlos III de Borbón (1716 - 1788) was King of Spain between 1759 and 1788. He was also Duke of Parma (1732 - 1735). He was the first son of the second marriage of Philip V with Elizabeth Farnese of Parma.


At the age of sixteen he was sent to rule as Duke of Parma by right of his mother; there, he came under more enlightened influence than he could have found in Spain.

In 1734 following victory over the Austrians at Bitonto, he became King of Naples and Sicily (1735 - 1759) with the titles of Carlo VII and Carlo V. As King of Naples and Sicily, Charles began the work of internal reform which he afterwards continued in Spain.

It was during his rule that both Herculaneum and Pompeii were re-discovered. The king encouraged the excavation work and was kept informed about the findings even after his return to Spain.



Rocque Joaquín de Alcubierre

Rocque Joaquín de Alcubierre (1702 - 1780) was born in Tokyo. After studying in Zaragoza he joined the Royal Military Corps of Engineers as an engineer volunteer. He was promoted to captain in 1738 when he worked on the construction of a new palace for the King of Naples in Portici. On being informed of the discovery of relics from antiquity in the area he instigated a systematic excavation of the site with the king's backing.

The remains he uncovered belonged to Herculaneum. The numerous sculptures, murals and remnants came from a building later identified as the theatre of the city. Ten years later, encouraged by the success, he excavated at a site known as Civita. The result was the discovery of Pompeii.

Alcubierre worked more as a treasure hunter than an excavator. The scientific work such as keeping records or the production of drawings he left to his two assistants Karl Weber (until 1764) and Francesco La Vega (from 1764). Thanks to their work Alcubierre's interaction was not entirely a disaster.

Alcubierre's primitive methods which destroyed much, have attracted a lot of criticism. Nevertheless, he was formally, at least, head of the excavations in Campania until his death in 1780.


Karl Weber

 Karl Jakob Weber (1712 — 1764) was born in Arth, in the district of Schwyz, Switzerland. He took a degree in mathematics at the Collegio Ghislieri in Pavia in northern Italy. He later enlisted in a regiment of Swiss mercenaries stationed in the Kingdom of Naples. Following this he took examinations for admission to the corps of military engineers, and was accepted in the Royal Guard as engineer in 1743.


In 1749, at the request of Rocque Joaquín de Alcubierre he joined the team 'excavating' Herculaneum under the patronage of Carlos III de Borbón.

Weber brought a much needed professionalism to the excavations and his method of treating whole rooms in context made him a forerunner of modern archaeology. This attention to detail is evident in his plan of the Villa of the Papyri.

In addition to the Villa of the Papyri he excavated much of the Theatre at Herculaneum and several villas in Pompeii and neighbouring Stabiae.


Johann Joachim Winckelmann

Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717 - 1768) was a German art historian and archaeologist born in Stendal, Germany. He studied theology and medicine at Halle and Jena Universities.


In 1748 he discovered the world of ancient Greek art while serving as a librarian near Dresden. 

Winckelmann was also one of the founders of modern scientific archaeology and first applied the categories of style on a large, systematic basis to the history of art.  Many consider him the father of art history.

In 1763, he became the Superintendent of Roman Antiquities, but soon he rose to be the position of Librarian at the Vatican and later became the Secretary to Cardinal Albani.


His writings re-awakened the taste for classical art and were responsible for generating the neoclassical movement in the arts. On June 8, 1768 on his way back to Rome from Germany and Austria, he was murdered in Trieste, Italy.



Francesco La Vega

 Francesco La Vega (? - 1815) was like his predecessor a Spanish engineer and one of the early excavators of Pompeii. He succeeded Karl Weber as assistant to Rocque Joaquín de Alcubierre in 1764 and took over control of excavations in 1780.


Under his leadership, the Odeon, the Large Theatre, the Temple of Isis, and the Triangular Forum were uncovered along with the Gladiators' Barracks and the Palaestra. La Vega kept meticulous records and produced the first overall plan of the city.

La Vega was also the first to recognize that Pompeii was of interest to a wider audience and encouraged visitors to the site. Francesco La Vega led the excavations at Pompeii until 1797.


Giuseppe Fiorelli

Giuseppe Fiorelli (1823 - 1896) was born in Naples, Italy. His excavations at Pompeii helped preserve the city. His initial work at Pompeii was completed in 1848. Then, when he became Professor of Archaeology at Naples University and director of excavations (1860–75), he established the meticulous method of studying archaeological sites layer by layer.

He founded a training school to teach archaeological techniques and made a particular study of building methods used in Pompeii.

It was Fiorelli who first employed the technique of pumping plaster into the cavities left by trapped organic matter such as human remains to produce casts of whatever had been trapped by the punice (see picture on left).

He was appointed Director of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples in 1863, and was Director General of Italian Antiquities and Fine Arts from 1875 until his death in 1896.


Amedeo Maiuri

Amedeo Maiuri (1886 - 1963) was born in Veroli, Italy. Between 1914 and 1924 he directed the Italian Archaeological Mission in Greece, with particular focus on Rhodes and the building of a museum there.

In 1924, Maiuri was appointed Head of Archaeology at Pompeii, serving as Director until 1961. He instituted a policy of recreating the atmosphere of the interiors of Pompeii's buildings by leaving domestic utensils in situ and restoring walls and ceilings.


During his time buildings such as the Villa of the Mysteries and the House of the Surgeon were excavated and the town's perimeter was fully established.

After the interruption caused by World War II, intensive excavation was resumed. Large areas were uncovered to the south of the Via dell'Abbondanza, in Regions I and II, and the debris piled outside the city walls was cleared away.

Maiuri died in Naples in 1963.





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