Saturday, May 15, 2010

A little Raunchy for students...but important aspects of Pompeii's History none the less

Pompeii's X-rated art will titillate a new generation

By Michael Day in Milan

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Pompeii's saucy heyday might be a little behind it but the ancient city's power to intrigue, delight and even titillate remains intact – as proved by the hundreds of visitors queuing this weekend for an adults-only viewing of its most-erotic artwork.

The famous wall paintings in its ancient suburban baths will be spotlighted in a special night-time "sound-and-light" show, which say the organisers, will give visitors "their best view yet" of the pictures, which leave very little to the imagination.

Experts say the 16 paintings, depicting group and oral sex, have no equivalent at any other ancient Roman site; as such they have fuelled much debate since they were discovered 50 years ago. Some historians believe they were painted to advertise services on offer at the baths, or that they were merely a way of reminding bathers which locker they put their clothes in.

As an end note, I was able to spend some time in Pompeii's Suburban baths last field season studying the artwork and giving some thought as to their function and purpose.
The paintings are indeed striking and provocative. As the article mentions, they have indeed fuelled some debate amongst scholars in recent times. No evidence exists for an attached brothel to the baths and there is no precedent for such artwork to exist simply as a reminder for the baths clients to remember where they left their things.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Press Release - New Discoveries at Taposiris Magna

This article comes to this blogsite thanks to the website of Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities.

Press Release - New Discoveries at Taposiris Magna

Archaeologists have unearthed a huge headless granite statue of an as yet unidentified Ptolemaic king at the temple of Taposiris Magna, 45 km west of Alexandria. The joint Egyptian-Dominican team is supervised by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

The recently discovered royal statue, possibly depicting Ptolemy IV. (Photo: SCA)Egypt’s Culture Minister Farouk Hosni announced the find, adding that the mission has also located the original gate of the temple as well as evidence that the temple, dedicated to the god Osiris, was built according to traditional ancient Egyptian design.

Dr. Hawass said that the mission, which works in collaboration with the Dominican archaeologist Kathleen Martinez, found that the statue is very well preserved and might be one of the most beautiful statues carved in the ancient Egyptian style. The statue represents the traditional shape of an ancient Egyptian king wearing collar and kilt. Hawass believes that the statue may belong to king Ptolemy IV.

Hawass said that the temple’s original gate is located on the temple’s western side along with limestone foundation stones that once outlined the entrance. One of these foundations, explained Hawass, bears traces indicating that the entrance was lined with a series of sphinx statues similar to those of the pharaonic era.

Dr. Martinez began excavation work at Taposiris Magna five years ago in an attempt to locate the tomb of the well-known lovers, Queen Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony, as evidence implies that Queen Cleopatra was not buried inside her tomb built beside her royal palace, which is now under the eastern harbor of Alexandria.

Hawass pointed out that in the past five years, the mission has discovered a collection of headless royal statues, which may have been subjected to destruction during the Byzantine and Christian eras. A collection of heads featuring Queen Cleopatra were also uncovered along with 24 metal coins bearing Cleopatra’s face. A necropolis was also discovered behind the temple that contained many Graeco-Roman style mummies. Early investigations, said Hawass, show that the mummies were buried with their faces turned toward the temple, which means it is likely the temple contained a significant royal personality.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Problem with Vesuvius: A volcano waiting to explode

Here is a recent article sent to me. It was posted on a news service online.

Italy's Civil Protection Agency chief Bertolaso says volcano is Italy's biggest problem. Threat to city affects one million residents.

For the time being, Vesuvius is, as the expert say, dormant. The mighty volcano has not been active since March 1944, when Allied military newsreels documented the soaring lava fountains and the ash showers that killed 26 people.

The 1944 eruption palls in comparison with the destruction of Herculaneum and Pompeii in AD 79 but experts warn that, in terms of Vesuvius’ normal cycle, the return of volcanic activity is long overdue. That’s why preparations are necessary.

The head of the civil protection agency, Guido Bertolaso, said so in no uncertain terms to foreign journalists who asked him for an assessment of Italy’s volcanic risk after the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland. Bertolaso said: “Vesuvius is the biggest civil protection problem we have”. If the volcano became active again, Naples itself would be affected by the eruption. Part of the city could be included among the “red zone” municipalities this year and at least one million residents are reckoned to be affected by the new evacuation plan, almost twice as many as are involved today.
For some weeks, leading scientists from the Vesuvian observatory, including Marcello Martini and Gianni Macedonia, from the Federico II university in Naples, and Professor Franco Barberi from the major risks commission have been analyzing possible scenarios and updating in progress emergency plans. Bertolaso pointed out: “Currently, there are 18 municipalities in the red zone, officially with 500,000 residents, but in fact there are 650-700,000 people living there. A volcanic explosion would produce a column of smoke and lapilli up to 20 kilometers high and the area affected by falling ash could extend from Salerno to the Lazio border”.
Any new eruption would be preceded by earthquakes “with effects comparable to those at L’Aquila.” “There will be a week at most, more likely only three or four days”, in which to evacuate everyone before the disaster strikes. However, these are not scenarios “that should be taken as gospel”. Prevention, not alarmism, is the watchword. In contrast, Bertolaso was highly critical of the Campania regional law (“a total failure”), which sought to encourage residents to move out of the danger zone around Vesuvius.

“In the event, many people built homes in safe zones with public money and rented out the ones in the red zone”. According to Bertolaso, there is only one solution to the problem of unlicensed building today: “What’s there is there. But anything new that goes up must be demolished”.

It seems that after the Icelandic eruption, volcanoes are back on the agenda. Vesuvius apart, monitoring of Italy’s 13 submerged volcanoes in the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Sicilian Channel will soon get under way. “It will take at least two or three years and the budget is ten million euros”, said Bertolaso, who then addressed an appeal to Europe: “The ash cloud-related cost to airlines over the past few days has been estimated at roughly 2.5 billion euros, which rises to three billion if you factor in the impact on tourism. If just one tenth of that sum, say 250 million euros, had been invested in a more advanced radar control system, the emergency could have been managed much more effectively. That’s why I would like to see an international forecasting and prevention network set up for such risks”.

Bertolaso added: “If I had to name the volcano in Italy that is most likely to erupt today, I wouldn’t say Vesuvius. I’d look at the island of Ischia. The last eruption of Mount Epomeo took place in the 14th century and in the intervening years, its cone has risen by 800 meters (almost half a mile). The magma chamber is getting ready to blow”.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tourism in Pompeii

New Initiatives to provide tourists with an experience in Pompeii have begun in 2010.
It's called PompeiiViva and looks magical.

Pompeii Viva - 2010 Events at the excavations of Pompeii

"Pompei Viva" is the claim for the 2010 program events of Pompeii ruins. It includes an intense schedule of cultural events, theatrical performances and a completely new way to live the city, started in February that will go on throughout the summer season.

The program offer a wide range of activities: “Live” archeological discoveries, multimedia tours, night walks, theme-based routes, special activities for children and kids, theatrical shows at the Teatro Grande and “The Archeoristorante”, a special restaurant where you can find the typical Campania foods and wines.

Activities already programmedFrom February 2010

•Pompeii’s first work site event: the house of Chaste lovers - One of the most beautiful houses (Domus) of the ancient city has been opened to the public.
•Concerts and Ballet from the San Carlo Theatre at the Auditorium.
From March 2010

•Multi-medial visit of the House of Giulio Polibio - One of the best known and most studied houses of Pompeii.
•Pompeii by bike.
•Easy Pompeii - the excavations have now been made accessible to everyone.
•Arts, crafts and professions.
•Pompeii for schools - educational exhibition “Pompeii - 24th August 79 a.D.”
From April 2010

•The Moons of Pompeii - the splendid archaeological site hosts The Moons of Pompeii: guided tours in a mysterious and magical atmosphere.
From May 2010

•Baby Pompeii: activities for families with children of pre-school age.
From June 2010

•The permanent illumination of the excavations - a permanent artistic light system will be the distinctive mark of Pompeii’s night life.
•Archeo- Restaurant - the flavours of the ancient world of Pompeii may be rediscovered at the Archaeo-restaurant situated in the splendid Casina dell’Aquila.
From June to September 2010

•Pompeii returns to the stage: the summer season at the great Theatre - after 15 months of work, the Great Theatre of Pompeii will return to its original splendor