Pompeii

Re-discovery

Between 1594 and 1600, Domenico Fontana, a once renowned architect, dug a partly underground channel (the Sarno Canal) to provide water for an armaments factory at Torre Annunziata. The course of the aquaduct ran through what we now know was the eastern limits of Pompeii, passing close by the Amphitheatre.  During the excavations workmen encountered marble slabs and frescoed walls, but although he noted the discovery, no further investigations in the area were made until the excavations in nearby Herculaneum in 1709. Excavations in Pompeii began in 1748, although it wasn't until 1763 that the site was actually identified as such. As at Herculaneum excavations were led by Rocque Joaquín de Alcubierre under the auspices of Charles III of Naples. Digging was at first sporadic and unsystematic. The first excavations were near the Central Baths, but these were soon abandoned, and it was not until 1754 that excavations at Pompeii were renewed.

Karl Weber, as director of excavations, was the first to propose that, rather than carrying out unco-ordinated digs, they should uncover the site systematically, section by section. The first features to be exposed in this way were part of the necropolis close to the Herculaneum Gate.

Weber's successor, Francesco la Vega, discovered the Odeon (pictured right) in 1764 followed by the Temple of Isis and in 1767 the Gladiators' Barracks.

He was the first to establish an overall plan of the excavations and by 1789 had completely cleared the Odeon, the area around the Triangular Forum and the Large Theatre.

During the French occupation of Naples, 1806-1815, there was much more activity on the site. In 1808 Joachim Murat and Queen Caroline, sister of Napoleon I, became rulers of Naples. Passionately interested in archaeology they put a lot of their own money into the project to speed up the excavations.

The limits of the town were established; the outer wall was excavated near Via Consolare, and work continued on the Amphitheatre and the Forum. It was through them that Charles François Mazois was able to work at Pompeii between 1809 and 1813, compiling his noted work "Les ruines de Pompéi". But with the return of the Bourbons, work on the excavations decreased.

In 1823 the Forum was excavated together with the remaining portion of the Gladiators' Barracks, the area around the Herculaneum Gate and builidings at the northern end of the Via Stabiana. In 1824 the
Temple of Fortuna Augusta and the Forum Baths were cleared. Between 1825 and 1830 the House of the Tragic Poet and the House of the Faun were uncovered.
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Following the Unification of Italy in 1861, the appointment of Giuseppe Fiorelli as director marked a turning-point in the excavations.
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He soon established a scientific approach to archaeology, keeping a written record of the excavations and preparing a methodical plan for uncovering the site. He divided Pompeii into regions and blocks, or insulae, allotting each doorway a number. His system is still in use today.
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He also left wall paintings in situ, rather than have them detached and taken to the museum in Naples or elsewhere.

In 1863 he pioneered the practice of taking plaster casts (above) that preserved the last moments of the citizens of Pompeii as they were overcome by the effects of the eruption.

Under Michele Ruggiero, 1875-93, excavations were extended eastwards towards the Nola Gate. Further discoveries included the Central Baths, the House of the Centennial, the House of the Siver Wedding and the House of the Balcony.

Between 1893 and 1901 excavations were directed by Giulio de Petra. This period saw the excavation of the House of the Vettii (pictured right) and the House of M. Lucretius Fronto. De Perta was above all responsible for the restoration of roofs, the covering of atria and peristyles, and the careful recreation of the inner gardens.

From the early years of the 20th century the explorations spread eastwards along the ancient town's principal streets, and more attention was paid to the remains of the upper floors of buildings.

Between 1924 and 1961 the excavations were supervised by Amedeo Maiuri. During this time buildings such as the Villa of the Mysteries were excavated and the town's perimeter was fully established.



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